Tapa Thursdays: My Favorite Food Markets of 2013

As I grow more and more interested in food and its place within culture, I find it hard to resist visiting markets when I travel. When I went to China five years ago, I got to witness the fish monger chopping up fish parts, whipping them, unwrapped, into a shallow pool of salt water while customers grabbed at whatever they could. Pig feet, sheep intestines and even a sandbox full of white rice were clucked over, and the international food aisle had just one Spanish product: Ybarra salsa rosa.

I was hooked.

In 2013, I made visiting markets a must on my trip itineraries. Sampling weird and local fare, watching patrons haggle and understanding shopping and cuisine in other countries is one of my treasured memories from my big year in travel in 2013. Here are some of my top picks:

Madrid’s Mercado de San Miguel

While becoming heavily touristy of late, the Mercado de San Miguel is a stone’s throw from the elegant Plaza Mayor and a perfect introduction to Spanish cuisine. Within the glass and wrought iron structure, far from all over Spain is peddled: Madrid-made vermut in half a dozen varieties, oysters and shellfish from Galicia, salted cod from the North Sea.

For my parents, who trust their sight more than their stomachs, snacking at the tall tables in the center of the venue was the best way to try Spanish cuisine without trusting blind faith (or their fluent-in-Spanish daughter).

Florence’s Mercato di San Lorenzo

I surprised the Novio with plane tickets to Bologna in early 2013 as part of his plea to visit the Emilio Romagna region of Italy. He insisted that we go to Florence (one of my tops in travel anyway), and I made I insisted we stop by the central market. On my first trip to Florence in 2008 my Couchsuring host’s flat was just off of the mark square, and I fell in love with the smells that wafted into her airy apartment (mostly spiced meat).

We took a quick trip around the square’s leather offerings outside, bu I was mostly interested in finding a few hundred grams of parmesan and perhaps an espresso stand. We made out like bandits for a few euros, and stumbled upon a great trattoria nearby, Trattoria da Guido.

Valencia’s Mercat Central

In August, I returned from the Camino de Santiago to a quick jaunt to Valencia for the Tomatina. On my third visit to Spain’s third-largest city, I wanted to do something else than the normal tourist route of Calatrava and paella. K and I browsed the numerous stalls in Valencia’s central market, which feature local seafood and produce, as well as non-traditional items such as Ecuadorian and even British offerings.

What is especially impressive about the market is its structure, with two naves adjoining the central building, which is built in an art-noveau style and decorated with stained glass and azulejo tiles. The cupola is impressive, and the market bustles everyday with locals and tourists alike.

Munich’s Christkindle Market

While not a traditional food market, Munich’s Christmas market was a treat. I met my cousin early for cappuccino, which soon turned into glühwein and sausages as we browsed two of the city’s most acclaimed christkindle markets.


Christmas decorations, sweets, toys and other gifts lined the stalls near the Rathaus and on the famous Neuhauser Straβe. There are numerous markets around the city, including a medieval market behind Odeonsplatz, a children’s market (with cheaper booze prices) in the courtyard of the papal residence and an enormous punchbowl of mulled wine off of Frauenstraβe. 

My advice? Come hungry. Fast if you need to.

Vienna’s Naschmarkt

Though we mostly missed the Christmas markets in Vienna (there were two smaller New Year’s markets at the Museumplein and Schönnbrun Palace), our first stop after a bus tour was the Naschmarkt. Outdoors, nearly a mile in length and punctuated with small coffee houses and sushi takeout, you can find practically everything in its stalls.

Part of what makes Naschmarkt so great is that there is an endless stream of food, from the traditional produce and meat products, to spices, kebab and Turkish delight. My only purchase that morning was 100 grams of wasabi peanuts, but we ogled over fruit we’d never seen before and cuts of lamb that we’d never tried.

Later that morning, as we sped in a taxi towards the palace, we could see that there was a small flea market on the grounds, just on the banks of the Danube.

Budapest’s Great Market Hall

Known locally as Nagycsarnok, the central market of Budapest is part market, part souvenir store. Erected as a market in the 19th century at the end of shopping street Vací Ucta, it’s the most beloved indoor market in Hungary’s capital. There are three levels – the ground floor has produce and meats (including horse meat!); the basement, seafood and a supermarket; and the top floor houses souvenir stands and snack bars.

A must-buy in Hungary is paprika. I bought eight packs for the Novio’s extended family, only to be grounded in Cluj-Napoca, Romania and never get to meet them. Oh well, more goulash for us!

I’m working on a food-related project or two this year and am excited to share my passion with la sobremesa and el tapeo with you. For more, check out my reviews of tapas bars in Seville or my bi-weekly look at Spanish dishes, Tapa Thursdays.

Where are your favorite European markets?

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. Markets are pretty much my favorite thing while traveling. Foodgasm. I love love loved Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid last year, too.
    Alex @ ifs ands & butts recently posted..the damage: spain & morocco.My Profile

  2. Wonderful, I can almost taste the aromas. I love food markets. My biggest regret is visiting the night market in Beijing about ten years ago when I didn’t eat meat and therefore passed on the grub and grasshopper kebabs :(
    Jack recently posted..The Scary Rothesay Lade and why Alcohol is GoodMy Profile

    • Oooooh you don’t know what you missed! I loved the night markets in China and ate everything from snake to sheep penis! Where are you favorites located, Jack?

  3. CAT,
    What great pictures! Brilliant color and lighting. I especially love the picture in the grocery store of the cherry peppers (I think that’s what they are, LOL)! But great article on your travels!
    Irving recently posted..Photography Tricks Explained!My Profile

  4. I find it hilarious that the children’s market had cheaper booze? Hmm, okay, Germany.

    I love food most of all, so markets are my thing too.
    Kaley recently posted..How Teaching English in Spain Has Improved My EnglishMy Profile

  5. Ok, I just ate breakfast and now I’m hungry again….Can’t wait to eat my way through Europe!!
    Val-Travel Scamming recently posted..The Ultimate Travel Bucket ListMy Profile

  6. Aww brings back so many memories, I used to live near Vienna and would go to Naschmarkt quite often. I am going to be in Germany for Christmas and really hope to make it to the Munich Christmas markets! Thanks for this post :)
    Ellen recently posted..pumpkin pie.My Profile

    • The Naschmarkt was great, but I wish I had gone closer to lunchtime! As for Munich, it’s lovely, and you’re just a few hours from Nuremberg, too!

  7. We used to love traipsing the length of Walthamstow Market, Europe’s longest street market, when we still lived in London-public-transport distance of E17. And we still miss that market’s street food. Although we’ve really taken to the covered markets in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. As well as the mercadillos outside the capital, like the one in Vega de San Mateo.
    Gran Canaria Local recently posted..La CocotteMy Profile

    • Street food may be my one true love. Sevillanos very rarely snack in the street (save ice cream and chestnuts, or it it’s Semana Santa), so I indulge when I’m elsewhere!

  8. TapasinMalaga says:

    I used to love the old Billingsgate Market in London when I lived there. My local now is the Mercado Central de Atarazanas in Málaga city (food market that is). I am in heaven in the fish and seafood section and am totally besotted in wild mushroom season.

  9. I LOVE markets. these photos make me happy!
    wanderingeducators recently posted..Online Cooking Class: Live from Italy!My Profile

  10. I love markets, too, and the best ones are always ready for their close up. You’ve collected some beauties!
    Terry at Overnight New York recently posted..January bargain huntingMy Profile

  11. This is the second travel blog I read in a row that featured awesome food images. And here I sit with my sad bowl of cold Honey Nut Cheerios. I need tapas! :)
    Jennifer recently posted..Spa Review: Auberge Spa at Hotel JeromeMy Profile

  12. Cat, I agree with you, markets are addictive. I have been to Mercado San Miguel in Madrid, loved it! You’ve inspired me to get busy with editing my market photos from the December market here in Dallas! :)
    Penny Sadler recently posted..Skiing In The French AlpsMy Profile

  13. What luscious eats!!! Yum yum yum.
    Lillie – @WorldLillie recently posted..My Face Is on a Restaurant Advertisement in Africa?!My Profile

  14. I love local markets and often find them the best place to buy souvenirs for friends back home.
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..The World’s Best Road Trips For Your World Travel Bucket ListMy Profile

    • Definitely agreed. I got half a dozen bags of paprika in Hungary for my boyfriend’s family, but didn’t end up getting back in time to give it to them!

  15. Gorgeous photos, Cat. Love the shape of that lemoncillo.
    Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com recently posted..On Taking Risks and Being Location IndependentMy Profile

  16. I am going to be in Madrid in April, so I will definitely go to Madrid’s Mercado de San Miguel. This has got me so excited!
    Val-Eating The Globe recently posted..The El Tianguis Tuesday Market In San Miguel de Allende, Mexico-What TripAdvisor Doesn’t Tell YouMy Profile


  1. […] When I was on a shoestring budget traveling around Europe, I typically ate street food and made sandwiches in hostels and splurged on one meal. Now that I have a big kid job, I find that a far larger part of my budget on eating and visiting local markets. […]

  2. […] that night, after wandering in the Christmas markets, I called the Novio in the hostel’s atrium before saddling up to the bar for another […]

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