The smells, tastes, colours and sounds. I love visiting food markets, sampling new flavours and collecting never-before-seen ingredients. But I’ve only been to a very small fraction of the world’s wonderful markets. I’ve whole continents yet to explore. So, wondering what I was missing out on, I asked my favourite food loving travel bloggers which markets they had the fondest memories of plus I couldn’t resist adding in one or two of my own. The result is a tantalising teaser that will have your taste buds screaming to be satisfied although, on occasion, your noise may wrinkle in disgust.
Care to join me on an edible journey around the globe? But be warned, this post will make you very, very hungry.
Travel Bloggers’ Favourite Food Markets
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
First stop, Canada. I’m visiting British Columbia myself soon, including Vancouver, so I was eager to learn about the market on Granville Island from a local who just happens to be a fabulous food and travel blogger, Johanna Read from Travel Eater.
Granville Island Market
“Vancouver’s Granville Island is my ‘home’ market. But because I spend much of the year travelling, I don’t get to go home to it as often as I’d like. Popular with both tourists and residents, Granville Island isn’t really an island, but it does have almost every food item you can imagine. My favorite are the berries piled in beautiful towers. Mind you, everything here is displayed beautifully.
I always check at South China Seas Trading Co to see what exotic fruit or vegetable they’ve brought in. The flavourful makrut limes (they used to be known as kaffir limes, but did you know that word is a racial slur?) are my favorite for making Thai dishes. Benton Brothers has the best cheese (they stock many of my top 10 cheeses to eat before you die) and Oyama is world-famous for sausages and meats. Edible Canada has foods from across the country, including, Noble, the best maple syrup you can possibly imagine. Meet you there?” Johanna
Berries at Granville Island’s Market by Johanna Read.
Love this photo. I feel I could reach into it, pluck out a raspberry and pop it in my mouth, Kat.
Read more about Johanna’s Vancouver food recommendations in her article Appetite inducing Vancouver.
San Francisco, California, USA
Noel Morata is based in Hawaii and San Francisco (nice!) and writes a great blog Travel Photo Discovery. Here he shares his love for the latter’s most famous market.
Ferry Plaza Market
“One of my all time favorite food markets in the world has to be San Francisco, a food focused city. The Embarcadero is home to the famous Ferry Plaza Market which occurs on Wednesdays and Saturdays outside the Ferry Terminal. As well as the outdoor markets, the inside also boasts a cornucopia of specialty food purveyors, markets, bars and eateries carrying locally made and regionally grown food and specialty products. It is a very popular area to visit and a must see place to enjoy while visiting San Francisco.” Noel
by Noel Morata
Read more about this fabulous market in Noel’s post Ferry Farmers’ Market.
Travel Eater, Johanna Read, who we met earlier in Canada, is always in search of the very best things to eat around the globe. Here she shares an insight into three of her favourite food markets in South America.
Santa Cruz, Galàpagos, Ecuador
Puerto Ayora Fish Market
“Two thirds of this market’s customers come for the incredibly fresh fish and seafood. The other third come to take photos of the first third. If there is fresh catch on the concrete tables, then there are sea lions and pelicans hoping to grab a bite. The ladies cutting the fish for paying customers don’t seem to mind. Stepping nimbly around the sea lions, they keep their elbows up to guard the catch from the pelicans’ thrusting beaks. When the catch is all gone for the day, a sleeping sea lion or two usually sticks around to rest after a tough day’s fishing.”
Puerto Ayora Fish Market by Johanna Read
“If you’re staying at a place with a kitchen or barbecue (such as Torre Mar Vacation Rentals), you’ll want to pick up some fresh lobster. If you’re on a Galàpagos cruise with Haugan Cruises, they’ll cook up your purchase for dinner.” Johanna
Mercado Central de San Pedro
“If you’ve never been to a market in a developing country before, Cuzco’s central market might be a bit overwhelming. Well, even if you have, the plate of smiling llama and goat heads is still a little alarming. I loved this market for the souvenir shopping (hand knit socks, olive wood kitchen utensils, Peruvian chocolate…). Locals love it for flowers and flour, flat rounds of bread, cheese, fresh and dried coca leaves (for altitude, not for the other kind of high), and for fresh meat, often pork and sometimes guinea pig (it tastes like chicken). I love watching the older local ladies balance tall white hats upon their heads, and marvel at their thick black braids. Everyone stops at the juice ladies who will blend you up a mixture of your choice of ripe fruits. Me, I’m passionate for passionfruit (maniacal for maracuya!).” Johanna
Llama and goats and some much more familiar fruit on sale in
Mercado Central de San Pedro, Cuzco, Peru by Johanna Read
Mercado Municipal de San Isidro
“I love wandering through any market in the foodie capital of Lima. Limeños take their freshness seriously, as one must if your national dish is made of raw fish, chili, lime and little else. My favorite market in Lima is a small one in the San Isidro neighborhood, introduced to me by a Brazilian fruit expert (have you ever tried avocado sprinkled with sugar? He’s right, it’s delicious!). Chefs bring their cooking classes here to show them the incredible variety of Peruvian fruits and the market vendors offer tastes of cacao, cumbe, tree tomato, as well as some fruits that are a bit more easily recognizable. Everything here is sold at its peak of perfection, though you’ll find lower prices in other markets. Of course you can get fresh fish and seafood here too — care to make your own ceviché?” Johanna
Mercado Municipal de San Isidro by Johanna Read
Heading north-east our next stop is Europe and my home, England.
Having recently visited this market myself (and seriously fallen for the scallops from Shell Seekers – it’s worth visiting the market just to try these) I was very interested to read about by Meagan Collins’, from Five Dollar Traveller, take on London’s most famous food market.
Scallops with bacon and bean sprouts from Shell Seekers at Borough Market
“It was while wandering the back streets of London, in search of the Globe theatre that we came across the most delicious discovery – the Borough Markets. We had no idea that it existed, but it turns out that this market has been in this area for over 1000 years and is one of London’s most renowned food markets.
Upon entering, you can’t help but be entranced by the sights and smells that surround you. There are vendors cooking up ready to eat meals. Everything from locally made sausages to paella or goat’s milk ice-cream cones. There are also smaller vendors selling a variety of cheeses, including a rather interesting beer cheese stall. Cured meats, sweets and artisans breads are just a small portion of what’s on offer. You can also pick up your fresh fruit and veg direct from the person who grew it.”
Borough Market by Meagan Collins
“The London Borough Market is known for its diversity of food and its quality of both locally made and international products. In their own words the organisers state: “The Market is a place where people come to connect, to share food and to awaken their senses.” And with food like this on offer, your senses will certainly be awakened. And your drool glands will be in full swing. We personally recommend trying the goat’s milk ice-cream – it’s delish.” Megan
Catania, Sicily, Italy
I love Italian cuisine and have enjoyed exploring a number of food markets there so I was interested in seeing how they compared to this one on the island of Sicily from friend and fellow food enthusiast, Suzanne Jones, The Travelbunny.
“If you want to get an authentic taste of Sicilian life then visit Catania market. Step behind the Fontana dell’Amenano in Piazza del Duomo and you’ll find a terrace which overlooks the main arena of the Mercato della Pescheria – the fish market. The Pescheria is an explosion of sights, sounds and smells. It’s bustling, chaotic and alive with atmosphere which instantly awakens all the senses – especially the appetite! The fishmongers gesticulate and shout trying to negotiate with customers and out-sell each other with their selection of tuna, eels, swordfish, sardine, lobster and more types of fish than I could ever put names to.”
Fruit at Catania Market, Sicily by Suzanne Jones
“In the adjoining meat market loops of sausages festoon the shop windows next to carcasses of lamb, huge joints of meat, salamis and cures. Street stalls laden with wheels of pale yellow cheese, mozzarella, Pecorino and Provola. Alleyways are lined with stalls stacked with vegetables; baskets of artichokes, gleaming aubergines, lush red tomatoes and knots of garlic. Fruit stalls beckon with a cacophony of colour. Catania market is crammed-full, chaotic and crowded; it’s authentic, the food is seasonal and it’s been like this for decades. Let’s hope it never changes.” Suzanne
Read more about this famous market in Suzanne’s post Catania Market and Pescheria.
Tanji, The Gambia
Tanji Fish Market
One of my favourite markets to photograph is Tanji Fish market in The Gambia, West Africa.
All along this part of the coastline colourful pirogues, the local fishing boats, come to the shore loaded with fish. Men and women wade out into the water returning with bowls of fish balanced on their heads. Often there’ll be some children running behind, as if a fish is dropped the one who catches it can sell it for themselves.
Unloading the freshly caught fish at Tanji’s fish market
Some of the fish is packed into freezers, some is smoked and the rest is laid out for locals to buy. I’ve visited a number of times but the most interesting was at 4 o’clock in the afternoon when the beach is heaving with people, many running frantically to unload the fish. It’s a colourful, seemingly chaotic and exciting sight to see and photograph.
Read more about Tanji Fish market in my post A feast for the senses at Tanji fish market.
Earlier this year I visited Dubai’s food festival and had a wonderful and very interesting time there. I’d love to visit more of the Emirates and other nearby countries. Dubai was a very tasty introduction to the Middle East.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The Spice Souks of Dubai
With the smell of burning Frankincense and the aroma of a myriad of herbs and spices filling the air, a walk through Old Town ‘s spice souks awakens all your senses. Spice after spice after spice fills the displays and while many look familiar, many more are unknown to me. Some are medicinal, others culinary and many are both.
Spices in the souks of Dubai
Read more about my visit to the souks, as well as Dubai’s fish market, in my post about a fabulous food tour in Dubai.
Moving on Travel Eater‘s Johanna takes us further east to Laos. She does get around!
Luang Prabang, Laos
This beautiful and exciting country’s cuisine is described by Lonely Planet as offering a kaleidoscope of flavours. Intrigued? Read on…
Luang Prabang Street Market
“Luang Prabang might be my favorite food city in the world. Lao food has flavours and ingredients that I’ve never tasted anywhere else. I love wandering through the street market here to see their original form before the ingredients are concocted into magic on my dinner plate. Occasionally the market ladies (yes, almost always ladies) set up tables, but usually they just arrange what they’re selling that day on a tarp on the ground. There’s Mekong riverweed in raw form and already dried into nori-like sheets with sesame seeds (the perfect utensil for scooping up a delicious dip made of water buffalo skin and chili peppers, which you can eat at The 3 Nagas). You’ll also see buckets of rice, yellow chickens, more varieties of chili peppers than I can count, lemongrass, limes, forest herbs, eggplant (including four varieties grown nowhere else on earth), river fish and a few guinea pigs. Luckily, and unlike at the main town market, you’ll not see squares of gelatinous blood!” Johanna
Luang Prabang Street Market by Johanna Read
Boracay, The Philippines
Last stop (for now at least) we head to the Phillippines with the lovely Jai Yehia from Savoir There, to visit two of her favourite markets.
Boracay Wet Market
“The wet market was the cheapest, most memorable and tastiest place I ate during my time on Boracay island.
The concept here is simple and is known as eating ‘Dampa Style’ – just like restaurants that are BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze) this is BYOF (Bring Your Own Food/Fish) – as ‘Dampa style’ eating means heading to the open air fish market and choosing whichever seafood takes your fancy before simply handing it over to one of the cooking stations which surround the market to cook it up for you.
The great thing about this style of eating is that you know exactly where your fish comes from, you know that it is fresh, but you are able to enjoy it in restaurant style setting, at a very low price.” Jai
Boracay Wet Market by Jai Yehia
Manilla, The Philippines
“Midnight Mercato is a late night street food market in Manila with a difference.
Founders RJ and Vanessa were inspired by their honeymoon travels in Europe and wanted to bring the concept of the central markets of Rome and Florence – and London’s Borough Market – back home to Manila, so set up Midnight Mercato to bring hygienic, innovative artisan street food to the Filipino Capital, and it seems to have worked.
What’s exciting about this market is the crazy range of unique food available – there are around 80 stalls selling everything from Mexican munchies to Durian and beer cheesecake – all set to live music – so it is a great place to grab a snack and soak up the atmosphere.” Jai
Manilla’s Midnight Mercato by Jai Yehia