8 Food Markets In Europe & the Middle East
Markets are concentrated spaces of cooks and delicacies that provide as much information as a guidebook. Some of these markets are a thousand years old, and are still frequented by locals today. Here's a ranking of my favorite markets in the world.
1) Mercat de la Boqueria, Barcelona
By far my favorite food haven in Western Europe. This market is a colorful cornucopia of all things I love about the Spanish culture. Fresh seafood and fruit juice stands are tightly packed among crowded tapas bars and steaming platters of paella. Giant Iberico hams hang among a variety of dried peppers and spices. The energy in this market is like nothing I have ever experienced, and even without any music, I felt the urge to dance among the busy stalls. As a tip, steer clear from the items sold in the stalls near the entrance, as you can find cheaper prices for the same thing deeper in the market.
2) Grand Central Market, Budapest
The Grand Central Market is the oldest and largest indoor market in the area, boasting three levels that range from seafood on the bottom to produce on the ground floor, and prepared hot food on the top level. While this tends to be considered a bit more of a kitschy tourist spot, there are a few stalls that serve very good langos, goulasch, and sausages. It's centrally located, so if you have a chance I would suggest stopping in for lunch on the way to your next landmark.
3) Spice Bazaar, Istanbul
This hub for spices, delicacies, and a variety of Turkish Delights is one of the shopping centers in the world. The market was built in 1660, and holds an incredible amount of vendors who have been selling their goods for many decades. This is a place of history and a place of good smells. Taking it in is overwhelming, but the tradition is not to be overlooked.
4) Sapa, Prague
What may be considered a twilight-zone-esq looking compound is actually my favorite place to visit outside the center of Prague. Sapa is not a typical tourist attraction, but is an absolute must for any adventurous foodie. The Vietnamese population is the largest minority in the Czech Republic (due to cultural similarities that emerged during Communism) and they have established themselves quite well throughout the country. Sapa is the main distributing center for all Vietnamese goods that are sold to businesses all around the region. Meant to resemble the traditional market in Sapa, Vietnam, the area is a collection of food stalls and shops that are peppered among a flea market that takes up the center of the complex. Here, you can find everything from two dollar pho, to fresh bahn mi, Vietnamese spices in bulk, to fresh pigs feet (really big ones).
5) Foodhallen, Amsterdam
If you need a break from the greasy munchie food and overpriced Argentine steak houses, ride your bike to an area where the true Amsterdamians often graze. Artisanal hot dogs, oysters on the half shell, and homemade curry lines the hall of what seems to be a refurbished art space warehouse.
6) Markthalle Neun, Berlin
This modern food hall highlights some of the best German and non-German dishes. Everything from smoked BBQ sandwiches to fresh pasta to traditional currywurst. After a night out in Kreuzberg, this is my favorite hangover cure. On Thursdays they often hold a street food event that is pretty spectacular.
7) Borough Market, London
Perhaps the most upscale of all of my food market discoveries, the thousand-year-old market has come a long way since being a simple fish and vegetables trader. The market now includes some of the hottest vendors, including fine wines and even hard to find game like kangaroo burgers and zebra burgers. And as always in London, don’t forget your umbrella.
8) Mahane Yehuda Market (aka, The Shuk), Jerusalem
The Shuk in Jerusalem holds a special place in my heart because it was the first food market I visited outside of Los Angeles. There is nothing better than a fresh rugelach from Marzipan Bakery as you stroll through the busy halls on a Friday before Shabbat. With over 250 vendors, you could visit the market every day during your trip and never eat the same delicious treat twice.
*A note to solo female travelers: Do not walk through the Athens meat market alone, unless you want to feel like a piece of meat.