Spices, chocolate, freshly baked bread, tea, sweets for every palate, seasonal fruits, deli from the best confectioneries, hamburgers with fried chicken, cheese and excellent wine… We could go on forever. Check out the local markethalls whenever you are visiting a new city, be it for breakfast, lunch of afternoon snack. This way you are appeasing your appetite in the most beautiful way. These are the best markethalls Europe’s got to offer! Crossing their threshold always leaves you wanting more than before.
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1. Markthal, Rotterdam
Where should you start describing the incredible experience of visiting the magnificent heart of Rotterdam’s vibrant city, the Markthal? We could start talking about it’s structure, an ancient arc and its transparent colors which let you see the sky and give home to 228 apartments inside the markethall with a stunning view. Under the artistic roof are hundreds of stands selling the freshest delicacies, choosing only one of them will cause you nightmares. One also has to mention the marvellous restaurant on the first floor, the underground supermarket, the cooking school, and the thousands of people pouring into this mecca of gastronomy every day. But we should stop talking about it here. Come see it yourself!
2. Nagycsarnok, Budapest
Started as a fruits and vegetables market in the end of the 19th century, this superb metal strucuture is nowadays known as Hungary’s biggest and oldest market. Years after its opening, this gastronomy castle (covering more than 10,000 square meters) has suffered severe damages during WWII. But the reconstruction during it’s 100th anniversary has brought back it’s former splendor to this structure made out of iron and crystals. Because of that, the central market of Budapest has become an indispensable attraction for any visitor in Budapest. Comb through all the local delicacies and go hunt some tasty souvenirs.
3. La Boquería, Barcelona
No doubt, Spain is a land of markets. The most magic one is surely La Boquería, which was born as the specialized meat extension of another market in the city, which has grown over the centuries (it’s roots go back as far as the 15th century) to a small food universe at the Ramblas. It’s full of stands which literally offer you everything: fruits and fresh vegetables, of course, but also beverages, meat, fish, sweets, instant meals, small bars and an incredible atmosphere. Forget about your diet and dare to try various cold cuts, for example.
4. Saluhall, Stockholm
Who would’ve have thought that the Sweds are real experts in markets and street food despite their low temperatures? The wonderful Saluhall in the central district of Óstermalm demonstrates this very well. It is a real temple of local and international foods , in which you can spend hours watching and degusting delicacies, talking to the experienced owners of the stands. The structure is also worth mentioning: the redbrick tower tower might look frightening from outside, but once you’re inside you’ll find yourself under a roof of forged iron and crystals, housing the most elegant wodden stands. One can truly feel at home in this beautiful markethall.
5. Mercado Central, Florence
Built when the beautiful Florence was still the capital of Italy, in the end of the 19th century, the Mercado Central has got to be known as the Eden for gourmet enthusiasts. The lower floor is the beating heart of the structure, conjuring up echoes of the ancient famous Mercado de San Lorenzo. You’ll find the best traditional delis in there, with quality products which are unique in the world: fresh pasta, pan dishes, cheese, bread, wine, coffee and so much more. A precious bookshop and side tables to sit and taste your purchases is also included. And everything is protected by Mengoni’s cover, the famous architect who was also the mastermind of the Galería Vittorio Emmanuele in Milano, for example. Wanna make a trip to Florence?
6. Borough Market, London
At the shores of the Thames river, right in the heart of one of the most chaotic cities, at the same time being one of the most vanguard places in the world, you’ll find a merry oasis, the Borough Market. The perfect place to cheer up from London’s vexed rain. One cannot stop using the word “multicultural” in this place, and you’ll find pretty much every kind of dish the world has to offer: From Africa to the Balcans, from India to Thailand, of course British local specialties as well. While making your purchases (or snooping around), you can join brassbands or culinary demonstrations. A feast for the eyes, but foremost for the palates.
7. Spice Bazaar, Istanbul
Leaving the grey skies of the North for one of the most colourful and flavorsome cities of the Mediterranean. Welcome to Istanbul, where a walk through the market becomes 360° cultural experience. The famous and ancient Spice Bazaar (not to be confound with the Grand Bazaar, which is great as well, but more touristy) is in the Eminönü district, close to the Bosporus river. Stands with small spice bags are found here just as well as indescribable herbal aromas, dry fruits, sweets and tons of other small grandiosities which you would just love to taste and take with you. Take your time to talk to the vendors: Discover stories and receipts which you won’t find in any tourist guide.
8. Kauppahalli, Helsinki
Open since 1889, the market hall (Kauppahalli) of Helsinki is another splendid building of brick and crystal, which houses 24 small deli stands inside and is the ideal place to warm up from the cold temperatures at any time of the day. You’ll find local meat and fish here, a perfect coffee, several types of bread and candy, fresh fruits, cheese and oriental products, and a variety of vegetarian dishes. You’ll find something for every taste here.
9. Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid
Let’s go back to the South, once more to Spain. This time for the capital. Madrid knew how to adapt to the new times, which is being demonstrated by the beautiful San Miguel complex, in the centre of the city, in walking distance to the fabulous Plaza Mayor. Built in 1916 in pure iron, it has nowadays become a place for wine gastronomy of high quality, many of them being organic or certified with excellence. From meat to vegetables, from yogurt to confectionary, your mouth will water facing all these dishes, which can be tasted straight away, accompanied by the cheerful Madrilenians. Add some of the best wine and beers and the panorama is perfect. Because in Spain every moment is good enough to drink something with your friends.
10. Arminius Markthalle, Berlín
To call it just a market would be a bit short. Berliners still prove their big love for the retro and bohemian style, no where else more than in this tall, splendid building in the Moabit district, Northwest of the center. There are plenty of stands selling fresh products and instant meals (traditional as well as non-traditional) in the Arminius Markthalle. You’ll also find corners to eat something to appease your hunger, accomodated with vintage sofas and surrounded by wodden side tables, plants, crystal lamps and some improvised concert if you’re lucky. Berlin is always very special!
11. Mercado Central de Valencia, España
The Mercado Central de Valencia is impressing, not only because of the marvellous iron-glass dome which crowns upon this structure. This Modernist style building’s construction has been started in 1914 by Francesc Guàrdia i Vial and Alexandre Soler i March, two architects who have worked in Barcelona with the famous Domènech i Montaner. There are some 400 stands inside nowadays, in which you can find anything your palate demands since it is the biggest center in Europe for fresh products. Walk through this cathedral of gastronomy and breathe in this unique atmosphere.
12. Mercado de Colón, Valencia
In the capital of Valencia are not just one, but two of the most beautiful market halls in the world. If the Mercado Central left you with your mouth open, the Mercado de Colón, won’t stand back either. This joyful Moderniste building made of redbrick, iron and glass, has been completly restaurated in 2003 and is nowadays an inevitable stop for any cultural or gastronomic guide through Valencia. Built between 1914 and 1916, it is a National Monument in which one can clearly see Gaudí’s and Domènech i Montaner’s influences in Francisco Mora’s work. Mercado de Colón is the ideal place to go when you are getting hungry, because it’s a center for hostelry with traditional horchatas, beers and restaurants with a professional florist.
13. Mercat Santa Catarina, Barcelona
Mercat Santa Caterina is the latest market built in Barcelona. Totally renovated in 2005 with brilliance by the architects Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue of EMBT, it’s a little marvel located in El Born, right next to the Cathedral and the Palau de la Música Catalana. The beautiful architectural idea for this multicoloured ceramics roof was having the shape of a wave posed on an air structure of wood, which shelters all the stalls of the market. One finds all kinds of local products there: fruits, vegetables and flowers, but also fish, meat, pork-butchery including one or two stalls dedicated to Jabugo ham and finally a small supermarket called “Caprado”.
The very good Tapas bar and restaurant “Cuines Santa-Catarina” is located on the opposite side of the main entrance. In brief, the place is worth a walk for its architecture, for shopping or to lunch.