OK, it’s confession time. I have no shame in saying that one of my favorite things about traveling to Europe is the food. I mean really, who wouldn’t agree, or at least understand, that sentiment? On my travels abroad, I love spending time exploring the incredible food markets. The colors, the aromas, the authentic tastes, the creative ventures, each one is truly a unique reflection of the diverse flavors of cuisine and culture that coexist in that city.
My recommendation is to not just walk through, but to actually eat your way through the incredible flavors filling the rows of these markets. These visits should be well planned, and the markets should be navigated methodically in order to maximize the amount you can indulge in. In anticipation, I highly recommend you eat a small breakfast, explore the city in the morning and plan to visit the food markets for lunch in the early afternoon. These markets are the perfect spots to experience the city with your palette. Here are a few of Europe’s best food markets I’ve enjoyed visiting throughout my travels!
Greenwich Market, London
This market is actually on a World Heritage Site in a very historic area on the bank of London’s Thames River. The history of the market dates back to 1797, and features a wide variety of antiques, collectibles, art and incredible food. The stalls of cuisine highlight food from the UK and around the world. My favorite stands include the Brazilian Churros, M’Lord of the Fries (or chips as the Brits call them) and Planet Pancake. There is something for every taste bud, including many gluten-free and vegan options.
Marche des Enfants Rouges, Paris
First open in the 1600’s, the Marche des Enfants Rouges is the oldest food market in Paris. Originally, the market was predominately for fresh produce, but after a renovation and reopening in the early 2000’s, it is now best known for it’s wide array of ready-to-go food stands. This tasty oasis will have foodies rejoicing with the highly popular Japanese bento boxes, mouth-watering crepes and juicy burgers, among others.
La Boqueria, Barcelona
Located on the popular Las Ramblas, La Boqueria features an interesting mix of cuisine, catering to both the local crowd shopping to fill their kitchens and tourists looking to take photos and feed their grumbling bellies after a morning of exploring. You can buy everything from full pig heads and freshly caught seafood to sizzling hot chili peppers and every kind of dried fruit/nuts. If you love prosciutto, then this is the perfect time to try Spanish jamon iberico. This cured ham (from Iberian pigs) is served at many stands in La Boqueria – and I highly recommend it as a snack as you walk around!
Campo de Fiori, Rome
This outdoor piazza (plaza) market has been an authentic staple in Rome for a few hundred years and is definitely a must-see when visiting Italy’s capital. This bustling square boasts many stands selling vibrant produce, fresh-squeezed juices, Italian olives and cured meats. It’s also a great place to buy more authentic souvenirs to bring home, like homemade limoncello and balsamic vinegars.
Albert Cuypmarkt, Amsterdam
Taking it’s name from the street it inhabits, the Albert Cuypmarkt in Amsterdam has a seemingly endless array of outdoor stands to explore, with more than 200 different vendors taking over both sides of the street. A trip to Amsterdam isn’t complete without spending a few hours wandering amongst the crafts and delicacies (both Dutch and international) being sold. This market truly has a bit of everything – and at a great bargain!
El Mercado San Miguel, Madrid
I saved the best for last as El Mercado San Miguel is my favorite market in Europe. The quality of food and level of culinary excellence found at this centrally located dining destination is simply amazing. My favorite stands are the fresh whipped cheeses with toppings like figs and pesto, the Paella station (the meat & seafood paellas are a must), the raw meat station that will cook up a fresh burger or curate a delectable beef tartare on the spot and the jamon counter with a variety of cured meats one tastier than the next. No meal in Spain is complete without a nice glass of wine, and there are actually vendors who walk around tray serving wine to market goers. (Can someone follow me around with a glass of wine in my everyday life, please?)
Each time I travel, I always seek out the local food markets, and I highly recommend you do too. (Your stomach can thank me later.) The best piece of advice I can give you whenever you embark on a venture to one of these is to go hungry! Have you visited any other amazing markets in Europe? Please share in the comments below!