25 of the World's Best Food Markets
Historic or futuristic, pristine or chaotic, rural or urban, the markets here are a food lover's fantasy—as much for the spectacle as for the shopping.
FERRY PLAZA FARMERS MARKET
With its outstanding variety of organic fruits and vegetables, the country's best farmers' market (now expanded and relocated to an 1899 warehouse) could be a lesson in sustainable agriculture. Everyone has a favorite product: juicy Frog Hollow Farm peaches, June Taylor conserves (in flavors like rhubarb, greengage plum and blueberry), Recchiuti Confections' rose geranium chocolates and Acme Bakery's olive-packed bread (Market St. at the Embarcadero).
DON'T MISS: The extraordinary shucked-to-order oysters at the Hog Island Oyster Co. (415-391-7117).
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Cold-pressed Riesling grapeseed oil, grits from a small South Carolina mill, the store's homemade cream cheese—it all shows up inside this quirky orange-brick building. The connoisseurship of co-owner Ari Weinzweig makes this one of America's most singular food shops (422 Detroit St.; 734-663-3354).
DON'T MISS: The Tellicherry-spiced pastrami sandwiches.
MERCADO DE LA MERCED
Dazzlingly colorful, La Merced occupies four whole blocks and brings together food from all over Mexico. Dozens of zany piñatas dangle above the stalls as shoppers jostle past stacks of chiles, nopales (cactus paddles), blocks of queso blanco (white cheese), rainbow-colored blankets and sweet-smelling guavas (Cerrada del Rosario at Calle General Anaya).
DON'T MISS: The fragrant Mexican vanilla.
Castries, St. Lucia
Bright parasols shade this raucous, century-old market offering big green breadfruit, giant avocados and the island's famous spices: star anise, nutmeg, vanilla. In case you're not interested in bois bandé (a bark used for aphrodisiac tea), there's also banana chutney, hot sauce and nifty brooms made from palm fronds (Jeremie St. and Peynier St.).
DON'T MISS: The sweet potato pudding and cow heel soup from the makeshift kitchens at the end of the market.
ST. LAWRENCE MARKET
Inside former City Hall offices, merchants sell every kind and cut of meat, artisanal sausages and cheeses. The farmers' market takes place on Saturdays, when Ontario growers offer sweet Niagara peaches and tart blueberry-like Saskatoon berries (Jarvis St. and Front St.; 416-392-7120).
DON'T MISS: The hefty $3 Canadian-bacon sandwiches at Carousel Bakery.
SELFRIDGES FOOD HALL
White resin floors and exposed ductwork give the new Selfridges a futuristic look. The food—Spanish Pata Negra jamón (ham), marbled Japanese Wagyu beef, the best Scottish kippers, truffled foie gras—makes it a 21st-century shopping mecca (Upper Mall East, Bullring; 011-44-8708-377-377).
DON'T MISS: Simon Malin's Modern-British cuisine at the white-on-white Gallery restaurant.
Under the grand vaulted ceiling of this 400-year-old market, Moroccan spice blends sit next to Irish favorites like sheep's tripe boiled in milk, and drisheens (blood sausages). It's worth a trip just for the remarkable Irish farmhouse cheeses (Grand Parade between St. Patrick's St. and Oliver Plunkett St.).
DON'T MISS: The nearby Jacobs on the Mall, whose chef, Mercy Fenton, is Ireland's Alice Waters (30A South Mall; 011-353-21-425-1530).
The name is short for BoulangÉpicier (a combination of bakery and grocery store). Alain Ducasse's tiny new shop in the 8th arrondissemont showcases the chef's favorite staples: late-harvest vin jaune vinegar, sea-salt caramels and miraculous breads from überbaker and co-owner Eric Kayser (73 blvd. de Courcelles; 011-33-1-46-22-20-20).
DON'T MISS: The olive oil tastings—BE is possibly the first Parisian food store to offer free samples, of anything.
MERCAT DE LA BOQUERIA
Early in the morning, Barcelona's top chefs gather at Spain's most Mediterranean market to pick up glistening shellfish, colorful game birds, pencil-thin asparagus and coveted mushrooms from the Petras stall. Boqueria even has a cooking school (Rambla at Carrer de la Petxina).
DON'T MISS: The sautéed baby squid and cava at the El Quim de la Boqueria stall (011-34-93-301-98-10).
In business since 1883, this Italian empire is comprised of a main building with a restaurant and specialty stores down the street. The cheese counters at Casa del Formaggio are vast, Bottega del Maiale's cured meats could feed a small nation-state, and the wine cellar stocks around 1,700 labels (9 Via Spadari; 011-39-02-860-842).
DON'T MISS: Cracco-Peck's creative tasting menu (4 Via Victor Hugo; 011-39-02-876-774).
There are larger markets in Italy, but this is the most picture-postcard-perfect. You'll find gorgeous peaches and figs, artful displays of fresh egg pasta and—this being Modena—the world's best aged balsamic vinegars (13 Via Albinelli).
DON'T MISS: The impeccable panini with Lambrusco at Schiavoni, a tiny market snack shop (011-39-059-243-073).
With 34,000 kinds of global food products—1,200 wursts and smoked meats; 1,300 types of cheeses; 400 types of bread; 2,400 wines—the vast food hall in Berlin's glitziest department store awes with sheer statistics and variety, like ostrich eggs and exotic fruit you've never seen before (Tauentzienstr. 21—24; 011-49-30-2121-0).
DON'T MISS: The incredible selection of German Rieslings in the Weine section.
A recent $3 million makeover has returned this landmark 1901 emporium to its original czarist splendor, with crystal chandeliers and Art Nouveau stained glass. There are dozens of different caviars, imported Cognacs and prepared delicacies like Siberian meat dumplings and Georgian cheese pies (14 Tverskaya Ulitsa).
DON'T MISS: The traditional jam-filled gingerbread from the city of Tula.
Bright piles of cloudberries and lingonberries, iridescent-green peas and baskets of potatoes that seem far too pretty to eat line this harborside market. In the summer, competing scents include those of innumerable lilacs, roasted meat pies and cinnamon buns (east end of Esplanadi).
DON'T MISS: The smoked-reindeer sandwiches from one of the indoor market stalls.
Imagine an 1882 wrought-iron replica of Paris's vanished Les Halles market in an eco-tourist Amazonian town. Vendors scale giant fish and hawk tropical fruit and potions for use in macumba, an Afro-Brazilian religion (Rua dos Barés 46; 011-55-92-233-0469).
DON'T MISS: The indigenous beige-and-black straw baskets.
Chile's 2,600-mile Pacific coastline yields spectacular seafood, much of which is on display at the wrought-iron Mercado. Regulars bargain for sparkling sea bass, abalone, picorocos (giant barnacles), sea urchin and huge conger eels that hang from the ceiling (Ismael Valdés Vergara between Puente and 21 de Mayo).
DON'T MISS: The bracing caldillo de congrio—conger eel soup—made at several of the fish restaurants.
PISAC SUNDAY MARKET
Each Sunday, in this highland Andean town, villagers in native dress drink chicha (corn beer) and haggle for brightly dyed alpaca and countless varieties of beans and potatoes while a brass band plays in the background. Trading is carried out as it has been for centuries: Lake Titicaca's Aymara Indians barter corn for freeze-dried potatoes with Central Valley Quechua- speakers (held in the main square).
DON'T MISS: The sweet rocoto chiles.
Old Delhi, India
It's easy to be overwhelmed by northern India's largest and most frenetic outdoor bazaar, with its rickshaws, oxcarts and the deafening sounds of commerce. There's an encyclopedic assortment of masalas and dried and candied fruit, huge tubs of paneer (fresh cheese), pyramids of mangoes and countless varieties of legumes (opposite the Red Fort).
DON'T MISS: The oval mortars for grinding spices.
Everything you'd expect in a grand bazaar is here, somewhere, in this 14th-century souk in the old Islamic quarter: saffron and dried mint, syrup-soaked sweets, copperware, pyramids of melons, ful (mashed brown fava beans). There's also gold, silver and the inevitable bootleg electronics (Sharia al-Muski at Sharia al-Muizz).
DON'T MISS: The mint tea at 200-year-old El-Fishawi café (off Midan Hussein, behind the El-Hussein hotel; 011-20-2-590-67-55).
QUEEN VICTORIA MARKET
An enormous sprawl of enclosed food halls and open sheds, "Queen Vic" has Greek cheeses, Italian sausages, Tasmanian seafood, whole sides of lamb, and lychees and rambutans sold by Asian vendors with Aussie accents. There's a wine market on Sundays, plus cooking classes (513 Elizabeth St.; 011-61-39-320-5822).
DON'T MISS: The sausage rolls from the Bratwurst Shop.
KRETA AYER WET MARKET A cacophonous hall is the backdrop for a wide variety of Asian greens, curry blends and pharmaceuticals made from sundry dried animal parts. Fearless customers prod the live snakes, turtles and black-skinned chickens that they'll have for dinner (Chinatown, at Kreta Ayer Rd. and Keong Saik Rd.).
DON'T MISS: The spicy rice-noodle soup at the food center above the market.
KASHGAR SUNDAY MARKET
For centuries this 2,000-year-old Silk Road trading center has held an immense weekly market. Arriving by donkey and oxcart, thousands of villagers in traditional headgear bring bolts of silk and dowry chests, as well as grapes, figs, almonds and spices (near Aizilaiti Lu, east of the Tuman River).
DON'T MISS: The Uighur flat breads and lamb kebabs.
TSUKIJI FISH MARKET
This frenetic warehouse complex is the global seafood exchange: Over 2,500 tons of some 450 varieties of fish and shellfish change hands daily. At 5:30 a.m., you can see the spectacle of the tuna auction, where bluefin can go for $100 a pound (at Shin Ohashi-Dori and the Sumida River).
DON'T MISS: The astoundingly fresh sushi (with sake, for breakfast) at the tiny Daiwa-Sushi nearby (5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku; 011-81-03-3547-6807).
COURS SALEYA, NICE, FRANCE
The market showcases the best of Southern France—lavender honey, violet-tipped artichokes and bright marzipan fruit—on a promenade by the sea.
BALIK PAZARI, ISTANBUL
Set in a building fashioned after 19th-century Parisian arcades, this market features open sacks of spices and henna, briny grape leaves and tubs of silvery Black Sea mackerel (Istikâl Caddesi at Sahne Sokak, Beyoglu).
Anya von Bremzen wrote The Greatest Dishes! Around the World in 80 Recipes.