Where to find the best food markets in the world

We all love eating fresh, healthy produce – and where better to source it than in some of the most famous food markets around the world? With everything from seasonal vegetables, meat and seafood to ready-to-go meals that you can eat on the spot, these are our picks for the best markets to go on a gourmet adventure.

(The Borough Markets. Image: John Holdship)

The Borough Markets in London

This market has been attracting foodies in the English capital for almost 1000 years, and it’s still the best place to go for a fresh, diverse selection of edible treats. Although open every day except Sundays, you should aim to come here later in the week (ideally on a Thursday or Friday) when the largest number of stall are operating and the full selection of local, organic produce is on offer. 

Shopping List

  • Freshly shucked oysters from Cornwall
  • Locally-made raclette cheese
  • Ethically produced raw honey from East London
  • New season asparagus
  • Organic handmade English pork sausages

Must Eat

Don’t miss the handmade tortelloni stuffed with wild boar at La Tua Pasta, which is cooked to order and served with a dusting of parmesan cheese. Gujarati Rasoi offers a wide selection of fresh vegetarian dishes with a spicy Indian twist, and Soul Food has light, healthy Caribbean-inspired options such as grilled jerk chicken with pineapple salsa.

Sanyuanli Market in Beijing

This market is particularly popular with expats, as it features many international ingredients that can be hard to find elsewhere and stallholders used to dealing with non-Chinese customers. But, more importantly, it’s an excellent place to discover some incredible food, from freshly butchered meat to sparkling seafood and some of the best fruit and vegetables in the city. While you’re here, also stop by the nearby Shengfu Xiaoguan Market, which has more traditional Chinese ingredients on offer.

Shopping List 

  • Fresh sea urchin
  • Dried beans
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Silken tofu
  • Cured sausages

Must Eat

This is definitely more of a grocery market rather than somewhere to stop for a meal, but there are still some great options for a quick lunch or snack on the go. One of the most popular options is a simmering spicy hotpot soup filled with your choice of meat or seafood, but there are also delicious pastries and crispy fish on offer. And wash it all down with a young drinking coconut that comes complete with a handy ring-puller opener.

(Union Square Greenmarket. Image: Supplied)

Union Square Greenmarket in New York City

The locavore movement (eating food that is produced nearby) is huge in Manhattan and its home base is the Union Square Market. Although smaller than some of its international counterparts, this fresh food market punches well above its weight when it comes to quality and seasonality. Open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, it’s the best place to buy artisan bread, local cheese, seasonal apple cider and farm-fresh vegetables direct from the people who pick and make them.

Shopping List

  • Delicate mesclun salad greens
  • Hand-rolled pretzels
  • Local apple cider vinegar
  • Gluten-free chocolate brownies
  • Fresh pastured eggs

Must Eat

Although pre-made food is not a huge feature of this market, there are still plenty of delicious snacks on offer. Try a streusel Danish from market favourite Bread Alone, a spinach tart from Las Delicias or a wheatgrass shot from Union Square Grassman.

(The gorgeous displays at Bastille Markets in Paris. Image: Alex Lalak)

Bastille Market in Paris

Although not big on the multicultural offerings, this market is the best place to go when you want a truly, gloriously authentic experience of French food and culture. As popular with locals as it is with tourists, this gourmet outdoor market (open Thursday and Sunday mornings) is totally organic and one of the biggest and best in the city.

Shopping List

  • New season radishes
  • Fresh goats cheese
  • Morel mushrooms
  • A crusty baguette loaf
  • Wild salmon

Must Eat

The buckwheat crepe stall at the centre of the market is a fun place to stop and watch (and maybe enjoy a sweet or savoury snack) and the market’s main oyster stall is a must visit. Pick your oysters, watched them get shucked in front of you, then hold out the empty shell after slurping them down and it will be filled with a nip of white wine from a bottle behind the counter.

Or Tor Kor Markets in Bangkok

Located next to the epic Chatuchak Markets, this is considered to be one of the best fresh markets in the world – and for excellent reason! The colourful array of vegetables and tropical fruit artfully displayed on the endless stalls are enough to get your taste buds working overtime, and the selection of fresh seafood plus homemade curry pastes and spice powders are second to none.

Shopping List

  • A tray of golden mangoes
  • Sticky rice in bamboo (khao lam)
  • Homemade shrimp paste
  • Fresh and dried chillies
  • Grilled coconut pancakes (kanom krok)

Must Eat

The food court at Or Tor Kor is the best part of the market, with rows of incredible street food stalls to choose from. Try the mackerel curry with steamed rice, crunchy green papaya salad with crab, chicken satay skewers with peanut sauce and pickled cucumber salad or (best of all) a steaming bowl of handmade noodles with roasted duck and soup.

 (Mercat de la Boqueria is a meat-lovers heaven. Image: Alex Lalak)

Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona

This mighty market at the heart of Barcelona is the ultimate foodie destination and the best place to truly taste Catalan culture. Start at the centre of market, where you’ll see some of the best fresh seafood displays in the world, and work your way outwards through the stalls offering everything from meat and sausages to vibrant vegetables and pickled olives, to the countless tapas bars around the edges.

Shopping List 

  • Fresh local tomatoes
  • A cone of shaved cured ham (jamón Ibérico)
  • Grilled padron peppers
  • Manchego cheese
  • Zucchini flowers

Must Eat

There are so many good dining options here that you’ll only be limited by your imagination – and stomach. Nibble on samples throughout the fresh market but save yourself for the tapas stalls around the outside, where you can tuck everything from fried baby squid to chickpeas with blood sausage (morcilla), caramelized mushrooms to grilled mackerel and Spanish omelette (tortilla) with zucchini and potatoes.