You don’t have to be a foodie to enjoy a good farmers market while travelling. Not only do farmers markets allow you to sample some deliciously exotic produce, but they are also exceptional places for getting to interact with locals and really consuming the local culture.
In addition to offering up all kinds of delicious food and drink, farmers markets often have various demonstrations and workshops, handmade goods from local artisans, entertainment, and sometimes all-out celebrations.
Shopping farmers markets also promotes healthier eating habits while travelling and you can feel good knowing your money is quite literally going straight into the hands of local farmers and stallkeepers.
While countless destinations around the world dish up some wonderful farmers markets, we thought we’d highlight some of the world’s most popular. Just remember before you start licking your chops for tasty international fare that you remember to get yourself some comprehensive travel insurance.
Pike Place Market: Seattle, USA
One of America’s longest running farmers markets, Seattle’s Pike Place Market celebrates its 115 birthday this year. A cultural icon of the city, Pike Place has become one of the world’s most visited attractions, drawing in over 10 million visitors annually.
You will have no trouble finding whatever fresh produce it is you need, but if you’d rather have the cooking done for you, then there are more than 80 restaurants serving up all kinds of delicious delights.
Whether you’re in the mood for Chinese, Mexican, Thai, Persian, or some more traditional American fare, you’ll find it at Pike Place. There are also roughly 500 shops selling items like unique handicrafts. Having just celebrated women’s history month, it’s also worth pointing out that more than 200 of Pike Place’s shops are owned by women.
The big highlight for many is watching the famous market fishmongers known for their skilled fish-tossing abilities. In addition to fresh halibut and salmon straight off the boat, you’ll also find other 100% sustainably sourced seafood such as king crab, caviar, and oysters.
Union Square Greenmarket: New York City, USA
There may be more than fifty farmers markets scattered across New York City, but Union Square Greenmarket has to be the most famous. Visited by as many as 60,000 people on a busy day, the market has been running for nearly 50 years and currently operates 4 days a week.
The Union Square Greenmarket is an outdoor market where hardy New Yorkers brave the elements year round to snatch up more than a thousand different varieties of fruits and vegetables from nearly 150 different vendor stalls.
Even some of New York’s finest Michelin-starred restaurants source their produce from the Union Square Greenmarket and there are often celebrity chef cooking demonstrations as well as cookbook signings.
Easily accessible via the subway or city buses, the market is your go-to place for more than just fruit and veg. Pick up artisan breads, local award-winning cheeses to make your very own New York style pizza, maple syrup, honey, fresh-cut flowers, and more.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market: Thailand
Thailand is known for its unique floating markets where goods are sold directly off small wooden boats known as sampans, with its most famous being the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Roughly an hour west of Bangkok, tours can easily be arranged to visit this lively and very photogenic market.
You can choose to either walk the narrow canals amongst the boats or take a boat tour for a different perspective. Boats filled with colourful produce, along with vendors dressed in traditional clothing, make this a location where even travellers not really into food make an effort to visit simply for the photographic opportunities.
Some may say that the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market has become a bit to touristy and commercialised, and therefore seek out the more authentic Amphawa Floating Market twenty minutes to the south which is open during the evenings on weekends unlike Damnoen Saduak’s daily mornings.
If you’d rather stay within the city, Bangkok offers a number of other fantastic local farmers markets where you can purchase produce to cook your own Thai or enjoy already cooked dishes like Khao Lam, Pla Pao, or coconut pancakes
Within the city, Khlong Toei Market is said to be Bangkok’s largest and most authentic fresh food market, while Tor Kor Market is said to be much more of a high-end, very clean market where nearly flawless produce can be purchased.
La Boqueria Market, Barcelona, Spain
Another one of the world’s top farmers markets is Barcelona’s La Boqueria. More formally known as Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, the market offers up a wide variety of fresh produce in addition to seemingly endless eateries to choose from.
Much like New York City, Barcelona offers up dozens of farmers markets across town, but La Boqueria is the oldest and most famous, having its roots all the way back in the 13th century. Today, the market is a place where tourists from all around the world mix with local chefs and families that all seek out local specialities like cured meats and cheese for charcuterie boards, jamón ibérico, spicy Catalan botifarra sausage, olives, turró sweet nougat, golden raisins, ñoras peppers, pine mushrooms, anchovies, and more.
You’ll find the outdoor La Boqueria just off the famous and very busy La Rambla where around 300 vendors all vie for your attention. Gather foods for a picnic and maybe head 5 minutes up the street to Plaça de Catalunya, a lively square that’s said to be the beating heart of the city and a popular gathering spot for locals and tourists to relax.
Rusty’s Markets: Cairns, Australia
Staying a bit closer to home, Australia of course has numerous popular farmers markets of its own including South Australia’s Barossa Farmers Market, Margaret River Famers Market in WA, Hobart’s Farm Gate Market down in Tassie, and too many to mention in Sydney or Melbourne.
One of the more unique markets, however, is Rusty’s Markets in Far North Queensland. Cairns offers more than just scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef or jungle treks through the Daintree Rainforest, with Rusty’s Markets in Cairns CBD offering up the opportunity to taste the tropics.
Here, you’ll find all kinds of rare and exotic tropical fruits including dragonfruits, lychees, mangoes, pineapples, jackfruit, paw paw, and papaya. There are also Indigenous stalls where you can sample native bush tucker from the mainland as well as more exotic produce from the Torres Strait Islands.
Amongst the 180 stalls at Rusty’s, you’ll also find handcrafted jewellery, organic body products, and local souvenirs. There’s also plenty of sugar cane juice and shaved coconut of course.
For nearly 50 years now, Rusty’s has been delivering a three-day carnival-like atmosphere that kicks off every Friday, luring a melting pot of cultures which have made Australia so great. You may even run into some top local chefs who source their produce for their famous dishes served up by many of the Northern Beaches award-winning restaurants from Trinity Beach to Palm Cove.