Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo
Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market is the largest fish market in the world, and at its heart sits a frenetic section of fish wholesalers and processors, where every morning at 5 a.m. the famed tuna auction takes place. But it’s just as thrilling to wander around the perimeter of the market, where retail shops sell seafood and other groceries, and humble food stalls offer sushi as fresh as it comes.
Borough Market, London
London’s Borough Market can trace its roots back 1,000 years, and in the last century, has transformed itself from wholesale market to a vibrant, stylish destination for tourists and locals alike. This is the place to find locally-grown produce, wild game, excellent British cheeses, and street foods from all over the world. Looking for some nit’ir kibe, or aromatic, clarified butter, for example? Try Ethiopian Flavours, found next to Southwark Cathedral.
La Boqueria, Barcelona
A trip to Barcelona would not be complete without a visit to La Boqueria, the city’s most famous public market. Colorful stalls line the vast, covered space, offering heaps of fruit, fresh seafood, and rows of hanging chorizo. Grab a paper cone piled with sliced jamón for snacking, or wait patiently for one of the 14 seats at Bar Pinotxo, which many say offers the best tapas in the city.
La Merced, Mexico City
Wend your way through the jam-packed stalls of the 150-year-old Mercado la Merced and you’ll find Mexico City’s largest—and best—array of foods and ingredients. Up front sit the food vendors, stationed over sizzling griddles and cauldrons of rich red pancita (soup made with cow stomach). Venture beyond and you’ll find a gritty meat market, along with vendors selling fresh vegetables, strings of dried chiles, sugary candied fruits, and a variety of thick, black mole pastes.
Egyptian Spice Bazaar, Istanbul
Istanbul’s cavernous Egyptian Spice Bazaar offers much more than just spices (though those are plentiful, and sold in every blend imaginable). Avoid the trinket-sellers and steer instead toward the stalls selling sweets like Turkish delight, or buy the makings of a Turkish breakfast: wedges of sheep’s cheese, olives, and local honey.
Or Tor Kor Market, Bangkok
Or Tor Kor Market offers a vast array of fresh meat, gleaming seafood, and pristine produce. But it also has a bustling cooked food section, where enormous bowls hold all kinds of nam priks (pungent chile and fish-based sauces), and whole, cooked shrimp are sold in packs of ten. Even better? Beyond those take-home ingredients lies a food court, where you can get a bowl of curry or a papaya salad made-to-order.
Pike Place Market, Seattle
The “Public Market” sign above the entrance to Pike Place Market is a familiar Seattle landmark, and rightly so. This 110-year-old open-air market is deeply invested in the community—it not only supports a wide range of local farmers and food producers, but also provides services and affordable housing to low-income families. Don’t miss the fish markets, which offer fresh-caught salmon, crab, oysters, and more, plus an array of smoked seafood.
Chinatown Complex Food Centre and Kreta Ayer Wet Market, Singapore
The Chinatown Complex Food Centre is one of Singapore’s many hawker centers, an enormous food court where expert cooks serve their specialties from tiny stalls. Seek out Singaporean favorites like fish head soup or claypot rice, then head downstairs to the Kreta Ayer Wet Market, a pristine meat and produce market that specializes in Chinese ingredients and seafood (including live frogs, eels, and turtles).
Varvakios Agora, Athens
The Varvakios Agora is Athens’s foremost public market, and it bustles with locals as well as visitors most days. As you might expect in the Greek capital, the seafood—most of it pulled fresh from the Aegean—is especially beautiful. But there’s also a vast meat hall, and all manner of produce, fresh cheeses, and olives to be found. Stop at one of the small tavernas inside for rustic meal or a glass of ouzo, the country’s widely popular anise-flavored apéritif.
Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio, Rome
In 2012, Rome’s historic Mercato di Testaccio relocated to a sleek new building. Now, it’s the Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio, and while old vendors stayed on, new ones also joined the mix. The result is one of the best markets in the city, where you can find anything from a horse butcher to a cannoli filled to order, and buy some of the best produce in town. Grab a classic (and delicious) tripe sandwich for lunch.