Public Markets with Big Local Flavor

Even more than restaurants, local farmers’ markets offer the truest taste of a place. In just one visit, you can sample everything from local produce to regional specialties, getting a sense of the city in the process. Try the below for some real local flavor.

Highlights
Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Who knew grocery shopping could be so photogenic? In summer, you’ll be tempted to photograph the piles of tomatoes; in winter, the tangles of greens. Wander around to get a sense of what is in season and what you will find on local menus at lunch and dinner. Rows of stalls sell meat, salami, fresh fish, pasta, cheese, and bread. If all that food makes you hungry, look for the Trattoria del Rocco inside the market, a diner that serves lunch created from produce sold on-site. The early bird gets the worm here: Everything is swept up and closed down by early afternoon.
85 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
Walk, cycle or people-watch along the shores of Elliott Bay, a downtown stretch known for its circusy flair and spectacular vistas. You can ride the Great Wheel or visit the beloved Seattle Aquarium, home to wolf eels, sea otters, and the world’s largest octopuses. Refuel with chowder from local favorite Ivar’s Acres of Clams, then hit the market’s 200 owner-operated shops, ranging from a radical book collection to the Northwest’s oldest magic store. Just don’t turn your back on the famous salmon-slinging fishmongers: They’ve been known to wallop selfie-photographers with a plastic decoy for yucks!
5757 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85013, USA
Open every Wednesday and Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon, the Uptown Farmers Market is part market and part community gathering. Residents come from all over the Valley of the Sun to shop 160 vendors, whose goods include everything from Arizona-grown produce and microgreens to local eggs, dairy, ice cream, and even small-batch cocktail mixers. It’s a good market to hit up if you’re renting a room or a house and want to cook some of your own meals with local flavors, but snacking on items you buy as you browse the stands can count as a standing picnic! Depending on the season, the market sometimes hosts live music and other special activities.
51 N 12th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA
This historic market has been in operation since 1892, and is beloved by locals as a destination for lunch, grocery shopping, or buying regional gifts at the Pennsylvania General Store. More than 70 businesses sell fresh wares here, including ice cream, cookies, meat, seafood, produce, Mexican cuisine, and artisanal grilled-cheese sandwiches—just to name a few. Philadelphians line up daily for just-baked goods from the Amish-owned Beiler’s Bakery, which also runs a separate doughnut stand in the Pennsylvania Dutch section of the market. The market’s location, across the street from the Pennsylvania Convention Center, can mean throngs of visitors on convention days; try to get to the market as early as possible to avoid the crowds.
55 John Compton Hwy, Castries, St Lucia
Built in 1891, St. Lucia’s most colorful and largest open-air market sits in the heart of its capital. It’s a one-stop-shopping favorite for fruits, vegetables, spices, handmade arts and crafts, and even handwoven beachwear. The produce is definitely the highlight. The stall tables are beautifully set and decorated, while the fragrance of herbs and condiments fills the air, turning it into a multisensory island experience. The market is open daily, 7 a.m.–1 p.m., but the most active morning is Saturday. After shopping, grab a seat at the adjacent annex to sample some local foods—a breakfast bowl of cow-foot soup (the perfect hangover cure) or a Creole fish lunch.
Rüstem Paşa Mahallesi, Erzak Ambarı Sok. No:92, 34116 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar may be a global tourist trap, but isn’t nearly as rage-inducing as the squawking group tours inside the Grand Bazaar. Here, a remnant of authenticity lives on in this 17th century building, created by commission for Sultana Turhan Hatice. Visually-arresting piles of spices and Turkish delight, and rows of pushy men, make for a wild afternoon of souvenir shopping and colorful conversation. Inside the Ucuzcular stall the sellers are friendly and happy to let you browse. A bag of “love tea” ensures romance in a pot. In that vein, on my way through the bazaar, a man trotted up to me and said, “Excuse me. I think you dropped something...” I looked puzzled. He smiled and theatrically clutched his chest, "...my heart.” He probably does that for all the Westerners, but I pretended it was as real as the magic in the spices.
Piazza Campo de' Fiori, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
Like all outdoor markets in Rome, Campo de’ Fiori is a bustling social center where locals push past throngs of tourists to complete their errands. Every morning you can find nonni shopping for produce with their grandchildren, feisty butchers running the day’s orders, and barmen hand-delivering trays of espresso to the vendors. By late afternoon, the market quiets down as vendors head home for the evening, and slowly buskers and musicians make their way to the square. By sunset, Campo once again surges with energy, this time to fuel the nightlife.
16 Kahu Rd, Fendalton, Christchurch 8041, New Zealand
Across New Zealand you’ll find weekend farmers’ markets packed with vendors of artisanal products and organic fruit and vegetables, as well as innovative food trucks providing tasty options for breakfast or lunch. Held in the leafy surrounds of Christchurch’s historic Riccarton House, this Saturday-morning institution attracts gourmands from across the city. For travelers, it’s a great place to try cheese and salmon from around the South Island, sample craft beer from local breweries, and stock up on baked goods for on-the-road picnics. Must-visit stalls include Sausage Sisters (for hearty pork-and-apple-sausage rolls) and Utopia Hot (for freshly baked waffles with seasonal fruit).
Place d'Aligre
Marché d’Aligre is a very special place: Commerces de bouche (mouth businesses!) line up to sell their goods, an orchestra of voices calls out daily specials, and cheesemongers offer free samples. The market’s selection changes with the seasons. In summer, apricots from the Roussillon, figs from Toulouse, and bouquets of herbs from Provence spill from cases and perfume the air. As fall arrives, the butcher will display fresh game from the hunt, and there’s usually at least one stand where someone is shucking fresh oysters. After your visit here, your appetite will surely be piqued; happily the neighborhood is rich in restaurants that base their menus on what’s fresh at the market.
AFAR Journeys
More From AFAR