For the passionate foodie, markets represent the perfect opportunity to try authentic regional eats, sampling local produce lovingly handmade for generations. From the very finest produce like artisan bread, cheese and antipasti to street food favourites that offer a tasty alfresco lunch on the go — a world of exciting culinary discoveries await in the great food markets of Europe.
If trying new foods is a mainstay of your travel experience, join us as we take a trip to some of the continent’s most diverse and exciting food and produce markets.
Founded in the 16th century, the Naschmarkt has become something of an institution in the Austrian capital of Vienna, beloved by locals and visitors thanks to its raft of charming food stalls and independent eateries. Overlooked by the internationally-renowned Secession gallery, this sprawling food market boasts over one hundred stalls, with a near-unfathomable menu of local flavours to choose from. As you’d expect, the market offers plenty of traditional Austrian eats like schnitzel, waffles and pancakes, but there’s plenty to appease the more daring palette too, including authentic Middle Eastern and Asian delicacies.
Great Market Hall, Budapest
Appearing like an amalgamation between a French railway station and a Turkish bazaar, the Great Market Hall of Budapest is arguably the most beautiful market space in Europe, with a hint of Gustave Eiffel about its towering ironworks. But while the architecture is truly photo-worthy, it’s the collection of food stalls which provide the biggest distraction. For those unaccustomed to Hungarian cuisine, the Great Market Hall showcases many of the country’s staple eats, including lángos, a delicious deep-fried dough ball topped with sharp cheddar and sour cream. There’s produce stalls aplenty too, making it easy to pick up a portion of Hungarian paprika or a bottle of Tojaki.
While the Great Market Hall is popular with tourists, many locals still flock to the famous food hall to browse the stalls and marvel at the beautiful architecture. One such local is Hajnalka Módis of Budapest Local, who had this to say about their city’s world-renowned food market:
“One of the best ways to explore the wonderful Hungarian culinary scene in Budapest is by visiting the Great Market Hall. Built in the late 19th century, this beautiful market hall is the oldest and biggest of its kind in Budapest, and it’s also a great example of Secessionist-style architecture in the city with its wrought-iron structure and colourful tiles. The area of the market is about 10,000 m2 and you can practically buy anything here from fresh vegetables and fruits to meat, fish, pickles, spices and more. Most stalls are in the basement and on the ground floor, while on the first floor, you will find souvenir shops and small eateries with lángos (fried dough) and other traditional Hungarian foods.”
Downtown Market, Budapest
If the Great Market Hall of Budapest has only whetted your appetite for delicious market fare, Niamh Shields of Eat Like a Girl suggests heading over to the Downtown Market, where the locals like to indulge in their favourite Hungarian dishes.
“To eat, as always, follow the locals and not the tourists. Go to A Belvárosi Piac aka the Downtown Market and head straight to Lakatos Műhely, a contemporary bistro selling excellent Hungarian sausage dishes. I loved the paprikás krumpli, a bowl of bright pepper soup with a fabulous sausage and potatoes fried in goose fat. There are many options here, including Moszkva Tér, a Russian street food spot where the pelmeni (dumplings) come highly recommended.”
Le Marché Raspail, Paris
The historic timber stalls of Paris’ Le Marché Raspail food market strain beneath the weight of fresh produce sourced from across northern France, with the Gallic staples of bread, cheese and pâté available in vast abundance. Taking place on the city’s artsy Left Bank, Le Marché Raspail was once the place where cash-strapped artists and writers came to pick up affordable food and produce, but now it’s the Parisian elite who can be found stocking up on authentic food and drink at this charming and timeless food market. One of the highlights of the market today is Cantine Cali, which serves up delicious American-style burgers topped with some of France’s most beloved cheeses, including Bleu d’Auvergne.
De Hallen, Amsterdam
Welcome to De Hallen, one of Europe’s most famous indoor food markets. Located in Amsterdam’s effortlessly hip Oud-West neighbourhood, De Hallen is an elegant, fully enclosed food emporium serving up a mouth-watering array of high-end street food, from wood-fired pizza to the world-famous Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich. The market hall is home to over twenty different eateries and bars, with ample seating for patrons to relax and enjoy the fare on offer. Alongside a roster of international eateries, there’s also a number of more traditional market stalls, selling everything from Gouda to metwurst.
Mercado da Ribeira, Lisbon
With its fertile landscapes and bountiful Atlantic fishing routes, Portugal is no stranger to fresh produce, and much of it can be found in the Mercado da Ribeira, Lisbon’s historic food market. Established in 1892, this historic market and food court received a complete renovation in 2014 at the hands of Time Out, who turned it into one of the premier foodie destinations in the Portuguese capital. For fresh local produce, the expansive traditional market is the place to go, whilst the food court, with its communal tables, is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the very best in Portuguese street food, some of which has been prepared by top chefs including Miguel Castro Silva and Henrique Så Pessoa.
To provide further insight into the culinary goings-on at Lisbon’s Mercado da Ribeira, we enlisted the help of Suze, aka Luxury Columnist, who offered her advice on what to sample there, before touching on other markets to visit in the Portuguese capital:
“Created by the people behind the famous guide books, Mercado da Ribeira is actually the city's most popular tourist attraction, with over 2 million visitors a year. Try the prego, traditional Portuguese steak sandwiches. Two other food markets worth exploring are Principe Real, an organic market taking place every Saturday, and Mercado De Campo De Ourique, a trendy place with fresh juice bars, craft beer stalls and more.”
Heidelberg Farmers Market, Heidelberg
Nestled on the banks of the Neckar River in southern Germany, the charming city of Heidelberg plays host to a weekly farmer’s market, which has grown to become one of the most popular in the region. Taking place in the city’s historic and picturesque Marktplatz (market square), the weekly market attracts traders from miles around, and has a tangible local feel, which adds to the authenticity of the shopping experience. Expect local produce of every colour and variety, from flowers and baked goods to herbs, fruits and vegetables, all of which are grown locally and organically.
Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, Lyon
Lyon is celebrated as the gourmet capital of the world, and nowhere is this reputation better bolstered than at the prestigious Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse food market. Home to over fifty vendors selling a variety of gourmet delicacies, the food market perfectly showcases Lyon’s historic devotion to high-quality food, with everything from creamy French cheese to rich charcuterie on offer. One of the must-eat products of Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse is St Marcellin cheese, which is handmade by legendary cheesemonger, Mére Richard.
The Salzburg Schrannenmarkt is something of an institution, having taken place in front of the city’s St. Andräkirche church every Thursday since 1906. Along with the Naschmarkt in Vienna, it is one of Austria’s largest food markets, with over 190 independent stalls offering a vast array of regional specialities. The market has a charming traditional atmosphere, with authentic Austrian products ranging from fresh sausage and alpine dairy products to fish soup and delicious deep-fried chicken schnitzels — perfect for enjoying a true taste of Austrian cuisine.
Mercado do Bolhão, Porto
Not one to be outshone by the capital; Porto, Portugal’s illustrious second-city, is also home to a historic food market, the bustling Mercado do Bolhão. Housed in a turn-of-the-century indoor marketplace, Mercado do Bolhão does a fruitful trade in fresh local produce, including sausages, bread, olives, smoked meats and cheese. At its liveliest on a Saturday morning, Mercado do Bolhão boasts a range of stalls where you can enjoy fresh, locally-caught Atlantic seafood at ridiculously low prices, as well as other vendors where you can sample that most beloved of Portuguese exports, Port wine.
Meet & Eat Market, Cologne
Street food doesn’t come more authentic and delicious than that served up at Meet & Eat, a local street food festival taking place in Cologne’s centrally-located Rudolfplatz from 4pm and 9pm every Thursday evening. Designed to give Cologne locals a place to meet, socialise and enjoy fresh authentic eats, the Meet & Eat Market boasts lots of different independent food outlets, with fare ranging from traditional bratwurst to Canadian-inspired poutine. Perfect for an alfresco supper on a summer’s evening, the market features covered seating for patrons, as well as a couple of bars allowing you to wash your food down with a glass of refreshing German pilsner beer.
Sarlat Market, South of France
For the final stop on our tour of Europe’s best food markets, we sought the help of passionate food and travel blogger, Rachel Phipps, whose recent visit to the charming town of Sarlat in France led her to stumble upon one of the regions’ finest food and produce markets.
Here, Rachel explains what makes this market so special, before listing some of the mouth-watering food and produce visitors can sample during a visit:
“While it is quite well known, the Saturday morning market in Sarlat is one of the best weekly markets in South West France. The market sprawls over most of the old town, so as you wander through the streets sampling the food and mingling with the locals you also get to see the best of one of the most historic towns in the area. Local delicacies include foie gras (Sarlat is famous for it), Perigord truffles, walnut liquor, purple mustard made from grape must in the nearby town of Brive, and tiny, sweet local gariguette strawberries.”
If you’re an adoring foodie who loves to try regional cuisines, a luxury river cruise from Emerald Waterways permits you to sample local eats in a range of exciting European destinations. To browse our collection of luxury European river cruises, visit the homepage or call us today on 0808 252 5448.
Image credits: Paul Arps, Chris, Jean Mitchel