One of the best ways to gain insight into the culture of a country is through its gastronomy, which is best done by visiting a local farmers’ market. This is especially enjoyable if you’re staying in an apartment or villa rental, where you can savor your delicious wares back at your home away from home. From the South of France to the peaks of the Swiss Alps and from the Greek islands to the British Isles, here’s our pick of some of the top markets across Europe.
Marché Saxe-Breteuil – Paris, France
Shopping at the market is still very much a custom in France and the capital city is no exception. With more than 80 outdoor markets across Paris on any given day (except Mondays) you’ll find a market in almost every neighborhood. Not all markets are the same, however, and that which pops up every Thursday and Saturday morning along Avenue de Saxe, in the chic 7th arrondissement, stands out for both its excellent stalls and its exceptional views of the Eiffel Tower and the Invalides. On display is a wide array of France’s finest produce, cheeses, charcuterie and other gastronomic products which extol l’art de vivre à la francaise.
Where to stay in Paris.
Marché d’Apt – Provence, France
Many of the towns of Provence feature lovely markets, and you’ll experience one of the most authentic in the picturesque medieval town of Apt. Labeled as a “marché d’exception,” it’s one of the top markets in all of France as well as one of the oldest, dating back to at least the 12th century. Every Saturday morning the main square and the surrounding cobblestone streets fill with up to 350 stalls abundant in provencal olives, fragrant lavender, juicy peaches, local handicrafts and much more.
Where to stay in the South of France.
Mercado Central – Valencia, Spain
The Boqueria in Barcelona and San Miguel in Madrid generally steal the spotlight when talking about Spanish markets, However, Valencia’s Mercado Central brings together the best of the country’s gastronomy without throngs of tourists. Upon entering the building, you’ll be struck with awe at the shimmering structure of iron and glass completed in 1914. Enjoy the sights and sounds as you stroll amidst towers of fresh and dried fruits, pots of piping hot paella, hanging Iberian hams and a careful selection of the freshest catches of the day caught right off the city’s coast.
Where to stay in Spain.
Mercato Testaccio – Rome, Italy
Most visitors to Rome browse the stalls of the popular Campo dei Fiori, however, for a genuine market experience in Rome, make your way to the Mercato Testaccio. Found close to Piramide subway station south of the Colosseum, the local market may now be found in a newly constructed building, but it still remains a true neighborhood market. Here you’ll find grandmothers picking out fresh ingredients for that day’s meals, see fresh pasta being made before your eyes, oggle the variety of seasonal artichokes or tomatoes, and hopefully leave with some delicious snacks for a picnic lunch down on the nearby Tiber river.
Where to stay in Rome.
Mercato della Pignasecca – Naples, Italy
Naples is all about food, so it isn’t surprising that the city has over 60 markets. The oldest is along via della Pignasecca and offers the best window into a true Napoletana mercato. Located just north of the Toledo subway station, this daily farmers’ market is popular with locals. Walk the crowded lanes to take in the colorful sights of seasonal fruits, bins upon bins of fresh fish (Naples is a port city after all), small production buffalo mozzarella and more varieties of tomatoes than you could ever imagine.
Where to stay in Naples and the Amalfi Coast.
Laiki Rhodes Town – Rhodes, Greece
Most towns across mainland Greece and the surrounding islands have a weekly or bi-weekly laiki; genuine farmers’ markets. These were first established in 1929 in an effort by the government to protect farmers, eliminating the middleman so they could sell directly to customers. If you’re holidaying in the Dodecanese or visiting the archaeological sites on Rhodes, you can find some delicious local food – and escape the crowds – at the laiki in Rhodes Town. Held every Wednesday and Saturday, you’ll be tempted by the boisterous vendors hawking homemade dolmades, straight off the boat seafood, bunches of gorgeous grapes and blocks of fabulous feta.
Where to stay in Greece.
Schrannenmarkt – Salzburg, Austria
The charming city of Salzburg hosts one of the country’s liveliest markets, the Schrannenmarkt, showcasing the finest in Austrian fresh produce, culinary specialties and traditional handicrafts. Located in the Old Town opposite St. Andräkirche church, this weekly market has been held every Thursday from 5:00am to 1:00pm since 1906 (or on Wednesday if Thursday is a holiday). As you amble through the 190 stalls, be sure to sample goods like brezen (pretzels), Bauernkrapfen, a round local pastry often topped with apricot preserves, handmade sausages and potent cheese.
Where to stay in Austria.
Farmers’ Market – Brig, Switzerland
The quaint Swiss town of Brig, nestled high in the Alps in the Canton Valais, is abuzz on Saturday mornings with its weekly farmers’ market. Take a break from skiing or hiking in the mountains to rub shoulders with the townsfolk as they shop for organic seasonal vegetables, sausage and meats and, of course, swiss cheese. If your timing is right, you may be lucky enough to also take in the annual mid-August Swiss Food Festival held in neighboring Zermatt. The resort is a food lover’s paradise with fabulous restaurants including two Michelin stars, Zermatt and 238 points in the Gault Millau guide, making it the top food destination of the Alps.
Where to stay in the Swiss Alps.
Broadway Market – London, England
Taste your way around the world at the cosmopolitan Broadway Market which takes place on Saturdays in Hackney, a beautiful and vibrant part of East London. Reach it by meandering along the lovely Regent’s Canal, minding bikes and buggies, and looking out for ducklings and terrapins as you go. Arriving at the market, pick up a coffee from the Climpson & Son’s stand to accompany your stroll and search. Bop along to the second-hand vinyl and buskers, appreciate the aromas wafting from the food stalls cooking up global cuisine, nibble on the free samples, rummage through vintage clothes, treat yourself to handcrafted jewelry from indie designers, peruse book stalls and try out organic toiletries. Once you’ve tasted the olive oils, hummus and pesto, gnocchi and sweet treats, make the tough decision on what to choose for your breakfast or lunch. Take your picnic to London Fields and devour, along with some of the best people watching you will find in the capital.
Where to stay in London.
Farmers’ Market in Castle Terrace – Edinburgh, Scotland
Few markets have such a pretty setting as the Edinburgh Farmers’ Market found on Saturdays in Castle Terrace with the impressive backdrop of the emblematic Edinburgh Castle. Opened in 2000, the market has flourished to become one of the best in the UK and is the holder of numerous accolades. It has over 50 stalls, most of which are run by farmers who produce what they sell. Tantalize your tastebuds with some artisanal chutneys, organic tayberries, craft beer or perhaps some haggis!
Where to stay in Scotland.
Milk Market – Limerick, Ireland
The bounty of the green fields of Ireland are honored at the 150+ farmers’ markets across the country. If you’re staying in the countryside you’ll probably stumble upon your village’s weekly market, or make your way to the historic city of Limerick, home to the fabulous Milk Market. Fortunately, there’s much more on offer here than dairy products as its name implies! Founded in 1852 and restored in the early 1990s, the Friday to Sunday market has exceptionally high quality products from sausages to seaweed and soda bread to shortbread cookies, and yes, there is some excellent fresh milk, cheese and creamy butter.
Where to stay in Ireland.