10 must-visit food markets

Markets are a place where communities come together to share their culture, cuisine and stories.

As these food markets have grown, they’ve become a way for travellers to try new and interesting cuisines and learn more about a culture. Here are 10 must-visit markets from around the world.

1. Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Ratchaburi, Thailand

For me, this market, only 100km from Bangkok, brings back memories of sweet mango and sticky rice, fresh seafood caught daily, and a bee sting – I’m not talking about the baked good either. When my wife was stung by a bee while sitting by the water, I raced around the market looking for ice to ease the pain. In my rush and through broken Thai, I returned with lemonade and ice in a bag.

Nonetheless, the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is well worth the visit when you’re in Thailand. Sit waterside, enjoy a delicious meal of noodles and curry of locally caught fish, and watch as wooden boats overflowing with fresh fruit and vegetables navigate the narrow canals. After your meal, soak up the market atmosphere and peruse the many stalls.

2. The Spice Bazaar

Istanbul, Turkey

It will come as no surprise to discover that the Spice Bazaar, also known as the Egyptian Bazaar, is home to mounds of spices. As soon as you walk into this market, your nose will pick up the distinct smell of the hundreds of spices for sale. Over the years, the market has expanded from selling just spices to other edible goods like Turkish delight, honeycomb, dried fruit and vegetables, and eski kaşar – a mature hard Turkish cheese.

Piles of spices stacked up in at the Egyptian Market in Istanbul.
Mounds of spices at the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul. Image: Getty

3. Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market

San Francisco, USA

This gem overlooking the bay in San Francisco matches the likes of Seattle’s Pike Place Market and the French Market in New Orleans. Jet lagged after a long flight from Australia, I strolled through the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market eating a pastrami-laden Reuben sandwich topped with sauerkraut and a pickle. That and a freshly squeezed orange juice were the perfect remedies after a long journey.

Open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the market is the best place in San Francisco to purchase fresh produce grown by the region’s farmers, and much of it is certified organic. A wealth of other products, including jams, breads and cheeses are available. In a land filled with takeaway, overly processed food and sugary drinks, this market is a breath of fresh air.

4. Tsukiji Market

Tokyo, Japan

When I was in Tokyo in 2015, I stayed up all night at a gaming café to visit the famous wholesale area of the Tsukiji Market at first light, famous for its tuna auctions. Unfortunately, the tuna auctions relocated to Toyosu in 2018 and formed the Toyosu Market, but the Tsukiji Market is still definitely worth a visit. Many of the market stalls, shops and eateries in Tsukiji are still open for business. Fresh sashimi is the name of the game here. Explore the many laneways in search of this Japanese delicacy.

A bowl of sashimi at a restaurant near the Toyko fish markets.
There are plenty of sushi and sashimi restaurants near the market. Image: Getty

There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, and they’re typically open from 5am until the early afternoon. Most of the fish sold at the market is still delivered directly from Toyosu, so it’s still one of the best places in Tokyo to enjoy fresh seafood.

5. Viktualienmarkt

Munich, Germany

Located in the centre of Munich, Viktualienmarkt is a must-see for visitors to the city. Not only can you buy fresh fruit and vegetables here, but you can also grab a bite to eat and have a beer at Munich’s most central beer garden. Beers from all six Munich breweries are served on rotation. If you’re feeling peckish, try traditional Bavarian foods like pretzel, pork knuckle and veal sausages.

6. Borough Market

London, England

There aren’t many food markets where you can eat dishes cooked by a Michelin star Chef. At London’s Borough Market, Mei Mei, run by Michelin star chef Elizabeth Haigh, serves dishes from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Inspired by the region’s coffee shops, the menu includes Hainanese chicken, rendang and nasi lemak.

Visit Borough Market for fresh produce, cheese, cured meat and other treats. Image: Getty

Established in 1756, Borough Market is bursting with eateries, butchers, cheesemongers and greengrocers. Stop by the Alpine Deli for northern Italian charcuterie, grab some East Sussex cheese from Alsop and Walker and top it off with a garlic prawn wrap at Applebee’s Fishbox. There are more than 100 stalls, restaurants and bars, so you’ll be spoilt for choice at Borough Market.