Open Street Markets, Mercados and Les Halles, we love them all
One of the things Gary and I love to do when we visit a town, city or village, is to seek out their local food market. The markets always have a bustling atmosphere, you’re mixing with the residents, young and old, and the produce is so fresh. You can almost smell the ocean waves lapping around the seafood stalls.
A stall full of Saucissons on the market, Annecy, France
We love just mooching around seeking out the local produce and also discovering the traditional dishes of the region. This is one of the reasons we love travelling, we are the “when in Rome” types. So, will always try to hunt down a regional restaurant, bistro or brasserie.
Fresh Fruit at the market, Nice, France
What is also incredibly valuable for me is to make a note of the non-English names. Either the fish, seafood, cuts of meat or the fruit and vegetables. So that when we peruse through restaurant menus it helps me with my translation.
I may look a bit of a weirdo writing them down, but if it assists me in avoiding choosing tripe again, I’m willing to take the risk.
Not everyone likes to have their photo taken, especially if they are trying to make a living. If you buy some of their produce, they are certainly more open to an action snap.
French open street markets
I have to admit upfront, some of the most amazing food markets we’ve visited have been in France.
The Cours Saleya market in the Old Town of Nice in the South of France is so charming. At one end of the market, stalls overflowing with scorchingly bright scented flowers.
Then as you stroll through the vibrant fruit and vegetable stalls, they too are tempting you. With their juicy sweet strawberries, large golden nectarines or their sharp eye-squinting plums.
Vibrant fresh Grapes at Cours Saleya market in Nice, France
Some market-traders have their produce set out so meticulously, that you don’t want to ruin their displays. While other vendors appear to trade with a degree of organised chaos. They are all delightful.
Though, whilst the healthy fruit is incredibly mouthwatering, it’s the honey fragranced marbled nutty nougat that’s enticing me in, I struggle to resist it. In the southeast of France at Annecy, the food market along Rue Sainte-Claire is a feast for the eyes and the taste buds.
Nougat ont the market stall, Annecy, France
Macaroons on the market, St Remy-de-Provence, France
During the summer months in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, they occasionally have evening street markets. They wind their way through the Provencal cobbled streets, and if the nougat doesn’t get you here, then I’m sure the macarons will.
Fresh bread on the market, Caen, France
Cured hams on a stall in, Lyons-la-Forêt, France
A helpful guide
I love nothing more than planning a trip through France and so often I use the DK Eyewitness books. I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.
We used a previous version of this book to plan our French road trips, now you can grab the revised copy.
Italian open street markets
The Rialto food market in Venice takes some beating, even if it’s just for the location. Positioned by the side of the Grand Canal with the Rialto Bridge as your backdrop. It certainly puts a different perspective on your daily food shop.
If it’s the fish and seafood stalls you’re after, these are open Tuesday to Saturday.
Strolling through the Mercato di Rialto, Venice, Italy
Spanish open street markets
Quite a few of Spain’s markets are indoor, which are Mercado’s, a couple are mentioned below.
However, we awoke one morning when we were in the city of León, in northern Spain, to this wonderful market. In the heart of Plaza Mayor, I couldn’t wait to head down there.
The view of the market from our hotel room, León, Spain
This time I did buy fruit, some delicious nectarines.
A helpful guide
There are so many incredible places to discover in Spain and I love planning road trips. I often use the DK Eyewitness books, I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into searching for more.
We used a previous version of this book to plan our Spanish road trips, now you can grab the revised copy.
Mercado and Mercato
Mercado or Mercato, well, it depends if you are in Spain or Italy, and these markets are usually covered.
We’ve strolled around quite a few indoor markets in Spain, the Mercado de la Ribera in the northern Basque city of Bilbao is amazing, It’s the largest in Europe and stands on the bank of the Nervion River.
In the Mercado de la Ribera not only does it sell fresh produce, but it also has a variety of delicious tapas bars.
A cured meat stall in the Mercado de la Ribera, Bilbao, Spain
The Mercado Central in Valencia is a built-in Valencian Art Nouveau style and is really eye-catching. Take a wander inside and mind your backs, as this is a busy market with traders scurrying everywhere.
Also, don’t forget to ask permission if you want to take a photo, the fishmongers, do have sharp knives, you know.
A walk through the Mercado Central, Valencia, Spain
Off to Seville
We visited a couple of indoor markets while we were in Seville, the first was Mercado de Triana, which is just across the river from Old Town Seville. It is located in the district of Triana, which is famous for its ceramic tiling.
This is another colourful and vibrant market, and to experience a little bit of the local life, take a seat at one of the bars inside. It’s great to sit and watch the world go by, you’ll feel like a fly on the wall.
Exploring the Mercado de Triana, Seville, Spain
A little further north of Seville Old Town is Mercado de Feria. This market doesn’t seem to attract many tourists, which I think the locals enjoy. It’s a little more rustic than Mercado de Triana; however, that is what I found was its appeal.
The walkways between the stalls were narrower, and it felt a little more intimate. We didn’t feel worried at all, although a local lady did warn us to keep an eye on our camera.
A fruit and vegetable stall outside the Mercado de Feria in Seville, Spain
Mercato in Florence
The Mercato Centrale in Florence is located in a vast building in the heart of the city, and it is just as busy inside as it is out. As the surrounding streets are also full of markets stalls selling nonfood items.
Inside the Mercato, it sells a wide selection of produce. Cured hams, cheeses, spices, mushrooms, fruit and vegetables, yes, I could go on.
This is a great place to visit if you enjoy the market experience.
Good to know!
Not all food markets are open on a Monday, particularly if they sell fish. As the fisherman don’t head out for their catch on a Sunday.
Also, they often close by mid-afternoon, so it’s best to arrive early.
Yes, we are back in France, home of Les Halles. The buildings that the French markets are housed in throughout France are so recognisable. You’ll easily spot them strolling around the towns and cities.
One of the liveliest and brightest indoor markets in France is Les Halles de Narbonne.
The produce here is just bursting with colour and flavours.
Row after row of earthy shaded spices assembled like pyramids in hessian bags.
A spice stall in Les Halles de Narbonne, France
A fish stall in Les Halles d'Avignon, France
Poissonnerie des Halles, Rouen, France
There are so many other covered markets in France that we’ve visited. All with a different regional feel, tempting you with the traditional dishes. Lyon’s Les Halles as you can imagine was lively, as this city is also known as the “Belly of France”.
However, one market that we particularly enjoyed was in Saint-Jean-de-Luz. This town is located in the southeast region of France and is part of the Basque country. So, there were so many exciting colours and flavours. The town renowned for Espelette pepper is close by and really worth a visit.
The Cremerie Des Halles in Les Halles de Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France
Then we come to the food halls. My favourite has to be in Rotterdam, this Market Hall is fantastic. Not only can you grab your Dutch delicacies to take home, but you can also enjoy them in the lively surroundings.
The fresh artwork that is emblazoned on the ceiling of the market hall is impressive. Huge pictures of fruit and veg tumbling across the roof, scattered with flowers, insects and fish. What more could you want while enjoying a glass of Amstel?
Inside the Market Hall, Rotterdam, Netherlands
The Time Out market hall is a great place to socialise, from lunchtime through to the evening. Here you can grab some delicious seafood, freshly baked bread, luxurious ice-cream or the crème-de-la-crème a Pastel de Nata, those moreish custard tarts.
The TimeOut Market, Lisbon, Portugal
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