If you really want to take the pulse of a city, the best place to go is its main marketplace. These traditional retail spaces have been serving local populations in urban centers for centuries. Though supermarkets and specialty grocers are now found in virtually every country on earth, local street markets and traditional markets still remain popular for a variety of reasons. Some are great places to find deals on virtually any type of item. Others are known for their delicious food stalls, while some simply have the freshest produce and best cuts of meat in the city. If you want to see what people in a given city are eating, talking about, and buying, head to the local market. If you want a truly memorable experience while on your next vacation, put one of these amazing markets on your itinerary:
Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market
This massive emporium of seafood is one of the most unique sightseeing spots in Tokyo, the world’s largest metropolis. Japan is the world’s seafood capital and its beating heart is found along the aisles of Tsukiji. This is primarily a wholesale market, with restaurant owners and grocers arriving very early in the morning to seek out the freshest seafood for their customers. You’ll see hundreds of different types of marine edibles here, some of which are not often consumed outside of Japan. The noisy, high-energy tuna auction is an especially popular sight for visitors (though it gets going very very early in the morning). You probably won’t make any purchases at Tsukiji, but you can enjoy amazingly fresh seafood at the small restaurants that surround the market.
Barcelona’s La Boqueria
Barcelona’s food-lover’s palace is called La Boqueria. This expansive marketplace is a haven for fresh food lovers and chefs (both the professional and home kitchen varieties). Yes, produce and fresh meats and seafood are the stars of this historic retail space, but some of the artisanal foods, found only in this region of Spain, will definitely be of interest to foodies. Boqueria has an onsite cooking school, so visitors can leave with some new culinary skills in addition to the delicious sausages, fruit, candies or baked goods that were just too good to pass up.
Padua’s Central Market
Padua, a small Italian city near Venice, has what is arguably Europe’s most picturesque marketplace. This is a rather sprawling affair, with two sections: the herb and vegetable piazza (Piazza delle Erbe) and a fruit plaza ( Piazza della Frutta). These sit at either side of centuries’ old central square that offers the quintessential history-infused Italian ambiance. Today, these market areas do not only sell their namesake fruits and herbs, but a variety of goods, including local specialties like artisan cheeses and meat (the local specialty is horse meat). The area also boasts cafes and wine bars.
Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market
Bangkok’s massive Chatuchak Market is open every weekend and draws hundreds of thousands of shoppers. Yes, it is crowded, but there is a lot to see. You can buy virtually everything, from kitchen sinks to live animals to underwear to antiques. There is an undeniable buzz at this market thanks to the mass of humanity and the sheer number of sights and smells. There is so much here that you could literally spend an entire weekend exploring the market and still not see every aisle. As anyone who has been here wil tell you, Chatuchak is an essential part of any vacation in Bangkok.
Taipei’s Night Markets
Taipei is a bustling city that has been growing rapidly over the past 60 years. It is now home to millions of people and some of the world’s most modern buildings. Nonetheless, the most popular evening pastime is to head to one of the many traditional night markets that are found in the city. These markets are best known for their food vendors. Places like the Shilin Night Market have loyal customers who have been coming for decades to eat their meals at the same food stalls. According to local food-lovers, the best meals in Taipei can be found at Shilin and other places like it around the city. Many night markets are surrounded by bars, restaurants and karaoke parlors, so people can literally spend an entire night on the town in one area, eating, drinking and partying their way through the market and the surrounding neighborhood.