No matter which tourist destination you choose for your next trip, chances are one of the best attractions will be the local market. These traditional retail spaces always offer a wonderful sensory experience, and they also give insight into the the local culture and, especially, local cuisine. Some markets are so large and offer such a unique array of products that they are destinations in and of themselves.
Where can you find these amazing and colorful retail spaces?
Brazil is filled with exotic things, from its cuisine to its culture and landscapes. One of the best places to come in direct contact with the most unusual foods in the nation is at the Ver-o Peso Market in Belem, the city that sits at the mouth of the famous Amazon River. Fishers, farmers and traders from the Amazon region bring their products to this market. Some very unusual plant and animal species are for sale here, with many fruits and fish species not seen anywhere else in the world. If you are looking for a purely exotic experience, Ver-o Peso has got to be number one on your list.
Santiago, Chile’s Mercado Central is a historic place. Built in 1872, the market still retains its art nouveau flair, thanks to its well-preserved wrought iron roof and bustling, timeless atmosphere. Mainly a fish market, this place is not quite as exotic as Vero Peso, but it certainly has its share of unusual edibles. Aside from its sights (and smells) and awesome atmosphere, Mercado Central’s best feature is its onsite kitchens, which prepare impossibly fresh seafood dishes for shoppers and sightseers.
La Boqueria is a huge market located in the Ciutat Vella section of Barcelona. The market has a nearly 800 year history. Today, it retains its classic vibe and features vendors that sell some of the best food products in all of Spain. A vast array of very fresh edibles, from vegetables and fruits to Spain’s famous cured meats, are on display, making this one fo the best attractions in the entire world for food-lovers. La Boqueria does even more to cater to gastronomes, offering regular cooking classes at the onsite Boqueria Food School.
The Cours Saleya Market in Nice, France, offers the quintessential French Mediterranean vibe. This market is probably best known for its colorful flowers, though meats, produce and artisanal edibles are also on the menu. Cours Saleya is a morning market, and it is best to arrive early to avoid the crowds (yes, the “quintessential experience” mentioned above can include being elbowed by elderly Frenchwomen trying to get to the front of the line). After the market slows down the nearby cafes and restaurants, many of whom get their daily ingredients from Cours Saleya in the early morning, become places for afternoon and evening socializing.
Chatuchak Weekend Market, a mammoth market in the Thai capital, Bangkok, quite literally has everything. From knock-offs of brand name socks and underwear to exotic tropical pets and only-in-Thailand edibles, (and even kitchen sinks), Chatuchak has enough to keep shoppers entertained for the entire day, or even the whole weekend. Things can get crowded and hot here, but plenty of vendors sell refreshments and, with so much to see and do, visitors might be too distracted to notice any discomfort.
Any sushi-lover will tell you that Japan has the world’s best seafood-based cuisine. The capital of the Land of the Rising Sun, Tokyo is home to the heart of the seafood industry. Tsukiji Fish Market is, quite literally, heaven for seafood fiends. This is a wholesale market, so most of the customers are buyers for restaurants, grocers and other businesses. However, it is worthwhile to see the amazing seafood sights of Tsukiji before heading to a local restaurant to try some of the impossibly-fresh marine edibles for yourself). Tsukiji visitors will find everything from seaweed, sardines and squid to monster-sized tuna fish and mammoth cod.
In many parts of the world, supermarkets are replacing traditional markets. This is also true in the Southeast Asian nation of Vietnam. However, the country’s economic heart, Ho Chi Minh City (often called by its former name, Saigon) is home to some amazing traditional markets. Ben Thanh Market, located adjacent to the city’s downtown area, is a popular spot for both tourists and locals. The stalls inside this indoor market sell food, clothing, and even electronics and toiletries. The side streets near Ben Thanh are filled with bakeries, restaurants and fruit vendors. At night, the streets around the market are closed off to vehicle traffic and food vendors crowd the area, offering everything from quick snacks to full sit-down meals.