I recently read a very well written piece in NYMag by Richard Morgan, who, from the sounds of the article, is just as much a traveler as Michelle and I are.
However, I can’t help but entirely disagree with his main point. The best way to tour new cities, when applicable, aren’t through their grocery stores, but rather through their markets.
Vegetable markets, meat markets, or fish markets. Christmas markets or food hall markets. Now these are the places where you get to truly experience a city and its culture.
My Grandpa and Michelle heading down to the market
A Glimpse of the Wadi Market
In Haifa, Israel, a city which is considered to be the model for coexistence between Jews and Arabs, there lies a market in the ‘Wadi’ under an old abandoned large building. This is where you can find my grandpa gathering fresh ingredients for my grandma’s next hit dinner. It’s also where you’ll hear booth owners yelling, to everyone and no one at the same time, their prices trying to drown out their competitors. There’s no need to bargain here, they practically do the bargaining for you, as long as you buy from their stand, and not the one across the way.
Looking forward to some Sangaria and Pork in Mercado da Baixa
In Lisbon, Portugal, with Christmas just around the corner and the weather cooling down, be sure to stop by Mercado da Baixa, where you can warm yourself from the inside with Sangaria (red or white!) and all the types of pork you could want filled in any bread of your choice. All the while you can shop for great cork-based souvenirs to show off back home.
Currywurst in Berlin
Spiked drinks in Edinburgh
When Christmas-time finally does roll around, be sure to check out the nearest seasonal market. Whether you’re in Edinburgh, walking through with the occasional whiff of a warm - and spiked - beverage, having all the types of ‘wurst’ you can imagine to pick between in Berlin, or coming across mulled wine (Gluehwein) and even mulled beer (Gluhbier) in every corner in Zurich, Christmas markets are not only a thing to do, but the thing to do.
Chef Prepping Sardines for us at Time Out, Lisbon
Budapest’s Central Market
There’s also the ever-growing popularity of mixed food markets. A large market building with half of it reserved for booths selling raw, fresh ingredients, and the other half consisting of food stands serving both traditional and unique foods you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. You can find these places in the Time Out market in Lisbon (and more opening up all the time), the Central Market in Budapest, Sarona Market in Tel Aviv, and countless more. The best thing to witness here is when you order a dish from a restaurant that just ran out of an ingredient, and them going straight to a food stand to order more of that fresh element that will in a manner of short minutes make its way into your stomach and leave you thirsting for more.
A butcher in Medina
A View of Medina from a Rooftop Restaurant
And of course, let’s not forget about the Medina market in Marrakesh. If you’re not careful, you will seriously get lost here or end up buying things you didn’t need. The Medina market, in the center of the city surrounded by ancient walls, is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced in person before, but we’ve all seen it, probably through movies such as Aladin. Outdoor stands as far as the eye can see, everyone is trying to sell you something as long as you’re buying it, and snake charmers and dancing monkeys everywhere. The art is absolutely exceptional there, from large area rugs, antique stores, to decorative tea sets, there is something there for anyone. And that’s not even touching on the food market! Spices from here until tomorrow that can turn a plain chicken into a tajine feast fit for kings. Have you ever wondered where your chicken comes from before it makes it to the market? Wonder no more, because here you can even pick the chicken you want!
You’ve by now heard quite a few examples of markets we’ve visited in less than a year or traveling, and that’s not even all of them! We haven’t touched on the market in Belgrade, Serbia where you can pick any fish you’d like from an aquarium and take some filets home with you. Or yet another food hall market in Lyon, France, which is known as the ‘gastronomic capital of the world’. Or the large outdoor fresh foods market in Split, Croatia, located just outside of Diocletian’s Palace, which offers vegetables, any fruit you could want, flowers, and even live snails if that’s what tickles your fancy.
Grocery stores are a necessity everywhere you go, definitely. And it is cool to come across some new ingredients or a local fruit that might become your new favorite. But to truly experience a new place and soak up some culture, do yourself a favor and go to the nearest market.Written on September 26th, 2019 by Tomer S