My Favorite Food Halls from Around the World
I think I start all of my food posts with, "I love to eat"! That also goes for restaurants that serve my favorite types of food, BUT in all honesty what I think I love even more than a good restaurant is a giant food hall, where I can shop around for ingredients to make the perfect meal, while also trying lots of different food stands. I've traveled the world and anytime I'm in a city with a food or market hall, I HAVE to visit it. Here's a list (in no particular order) of some of my favorite food and market halls throughout the world. I hope this post leaves you hungry :)
1. Cleveland's West Side Market:
I have to start out my favorite market hall list by giving a shout out to Cleveland's West Side Market. The West Side Market is over 100 years old (opened in 1912) and is home to more than 100 locally owned businesses. It's also the city's oldest, continuously operating municipally owned market. There are tons of stalls offering meats, cheeses, seafood, baked goods, an amazing spice stand, prepared foods and my favorite outdoor produce market.
My dad's side of the family are originally from Cleveland, so I've spent years going up there to visit. Whenever, we're in town we ALWAYS make some time to stop at the Westside Market because we love the different food stalls but also because many of the vendors sell Eastern European foods and ingredients, which my family and I love. My dad's side of the family came from Hungary, Austria, The Czech Republic, and Slovakia to name a few, and there are plenty of food stands here that sell everything from bratwurst, sausages, pickles, Polish pierogis, and some amazing Hungarian baked goods, peppers and spices.
There truly are some amazing gems here that you'll have a hard time finding anywhere else.
The market is open M and W from 7-4pm, Friday and Saturday 7-6pm, and Sunday 10-4pm, you can also download a printable guide to the market here.
2. Nantes Food Hall:
Next, let's go from Eastern Europe in the U.S. to a French market in the small town of Nantes. The Marché de Talensac, is one of the best markets for every kind of fresh food you can imagine. I visited this market when I was on one of my favorite road trips of all time with friends across the Brittany region of France. We stopped there one morning to make a picnic and get some fuel for our next few days on the road.
When in France (or Europe in general), you really need to try to the fresh produce and artisanal foods that locals produce and bring to market, they really are the best. Here, they source local and seasonal produce from Brittany and Vendée, the Loire Valley and the Nantes region, which I loved. We spent time picking up lots of French delicacies like cheese, produce, baguette and the famous kouign-amann (Breton butter cake). It also helped that our one friend is French and did a lot of the talking for us :)
Mathieu, one of my favorite people in the whole world, ordering lots of French cheese for us!
The market is open most days from 8-1 and closed on Mondays.
3. Harrods Food Hall:
Staying near Europe, but jumping swinging north to London, we can't talk about food halls without mentioning Harrods. Harrods should be in a category all it's own. If you've never been there it's sort of hard to imagine everything this store has to offer. It's a mixture of department store, luxury retailer and of course food hall. I think it's possible to buy almost anything you can imagine at Harrods, but what I love the most is the food!
The food hall at Harrods includes a deli and ready-made food to go, while the fresh market includes all things seasonal and delicious. There's also a roastery and bake hall with glistening pastries and custom-blended teas, a fine wine and spirits hall, which is home to more than 1,400 bottles of wine and 400 varieties of spirits. Finally, there's also a dining hall with six restaurants, including a caviar and vodka bar to name a few.
When coming to Harrods, think luxury. I literally walked from room to room, hall to hall, just ogling all of the delicious fresh and ready made foods. I wanted to pack up an entire suitcase just with groceries. But this is also a great place to sit down and treat yourself to something really delicious or get something tasty to go for a picnic, that is of course after strolling through every designer shop and stall imaginable throughout the rest of the department store.
4. Cincinnati's Findlay Market:
Going back to the States, and the Midwest in general, I've got to mention Cincinnati's Findlay Market. I lived in Cincinnati for six years during grad school and spent a good amount of time at this market on the weekends. Cincinnati also has a very German influence in the city, with many immigrating to this area in the 1800's, so the food in the city definitely reflects that. Findlay Market opened in 1855, right in the heart of downtown Cincinnati and has tons of vendors, restaurants and a fresh farmers market. If you go to Findlay Market, you have to try some of my favorite vendors including Colonel De's (for the most amazing spices from around the world), Dean's Mediterranean for all things hummus and ready to eat salads and olive oils to name a few, Eckerlin Meats for sausages etc., Pho Lang Thang (for one of the world's most delicious Bánh mì sandwiches- seriously this place has been featured on tv many times), and Taste of Belgium for the most mouth watering Belgian Waffles.
The market is closed M but open Tue-Friday 9-6pm, Sat 8-6pm, and Sun 10-4pm, with the Farmer's Market open Saturday and Sunday 8-2pm. Findlay Market also offers self-guided tours or free, bi-monthly publics tours on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month at 10am.
5. L.A.'s Downtown Grand Central Market:
Speaking of places I've lived, I can't mention food markets without spending some time talking about L.A.'s Grand Central Market Downtown, L.A.'s largest and oldest public market. Opened in 1917, the Market, lovingly referred to as the "Wonder Market" was originally billed as "the largest and finest public market on the Pacific Coast." It fills the entire ground floor of the Beaux-Arts-Style Home Laughlin Building in Downtown Los Angeles.
Today, the Market hosts 40 different stalls and vendors (some dating back to over half a century like China Cafe and Roast to Go and other rising food scene stars like Egg Slut and Ramen Hood (a vegan ramen stall, complete with vegan soft boiled eggs!). But what I truly love about Grand Central Market are the different communities and cultures represented here through food. Something I really appreciated about L.A. while I lived there, and still do, is how diverse it is.
I've been to Grand Central Market many times and enjoyed so many delicious places but really got to know it when I had jury duty downtown. I spent almost two weeks on a case and during every lunch break I walked a few blocks from the court house to Grand Central Market. I've loved everything from amazing falafel sandwiches, seafood stalls, egg slut breakfasts, gigantic burritos and tacos, vegan ramen and some of the best donuts you'll ever have.
L.A. is a donut city, and these are some of the best!
There are literally a million other places to try, and honestly you can't go wrong just going from place to place sampling lots of different types of food. They even have a food stall that sells dried chilis and mole sauces by the pound! Go with a group and have everyone get something different to taste and then when you're done, take the Los Angeles Flight, which is a funicular ride across the street, and keep exploring downtown L.A.! Grand Central Market is open Monday through Sunday, 8am — 9pm.
6. Seattle's Pike Place Market:
Keeping close to the West Coast of the U.S., let's stop at Seattle's Pike Place Market. I got to visit Seattle for one of my best friend's weddings, and while I was there I knew I had to take some time to stroll through the different stalls of Pike Place Market, and of course see the famous 'flying fish'.
Pike Place Market is open 7 days a week, 363 days a year, only closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. According to their website, everyday is different but most stalls are generally active between 9-6pm, with some of the restaurants staying open later. Opened in 1917, Pike Place Market is an icon of Seattle, spanning nine acres in the center of downtown and is one of the oldest and largest continuously operating public markets in the U.S.
There are tons of food stalls, restaurants and breweries and some really cool oddities stores downstairs, but my absolute favorite are the amazing flowers and bouquets that are sold there. They're giant, and include some of the pretties flower arrangements I've ever seen at an incredibly cheap price. But I think the one stall that stands out and makes Pike Place Market absolutely famous is the flying fish stall. This stall sells everything from wild salmon, to king crab and caviar, and is 100% sustainably sourced seafood that arrives daily. Make sure to check out the famous 'fish throw' across the stall and listen for the vendor's call back and forth to each other.
7. Mercato Albinelli in Modena, Italy:
Taking a quick trip back to Europe, let's stop in Modena in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy. A few years ago I was on a work trip in Modena and really had no idea at first what this area in Italy was known for. After doing some research, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this was actually one of the food capitals of Italy, specializing in balsamic vinegar, tortellini and mortadella to name a few.
In every new city I travel to, I always check to see what local food markets are around on my first day, when I usually walk through town to get the lay of the land. In Modena, that meant exploring the Mercato Albinelli, right in Modena's city center. Opened in 1931, the Albinelli Market is the oldest covered market in town. It's considered one of the most beautiful in Italy, designed in the Art Nouveau style, with a center fountain surmounted by the sculpture of a beautiful woman, the “fruit bearer” made by Giuseppe Graziosi, one of the most appreciated Modenese sculptors of the 19th century.
The rest of the market has over 65 food stalls serving different Italian delicacies ranging from cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano, which is offered in 24, 36 or up to 60 month cellar curing options), local fruits and vegetables, cold cuts and meats and of course lots and lots of hand made tortellini! Yes, this is the region where tortellini are made, get a ton and report back later. You can also try the famous Modenese Balsamic Vinegar, shop for local Lambrusco wine and famous tart cherry jams and pastries, which have strong ties to the Modena culinary tradition.
Finally, (and maybe the most exciting for true foodies) is that Modena is also home to the famous Osteria Francescana restaurant (3 Michelin stars), owned and operated by one of the world's best chefs, Massimo Bottura. Although I couldn't get reservations to his restaurant, I've heard that many days he's found shopping among the market stalls, getting fresh produce for his famous Osteria, which is right around the corner! The regular market vendor hours are from Mon-Sat 7-3pm (open longer on Saturdays) and Sundays the restaurants are open from 12-3 and 6-11.
8. Budapest's Great Market Hall:
Ok, I originally said I made this list in no particular order, but in this case I had to save my absolute favorite for last. Budapest's Great Market Hall in Budapest, Hungary. My family is largely Hungarian on my Dad's side and so I grew up eating lots of Hungarian specialities like chicken paprikash, goulash and learning to love all things paprika. A few years ago my mom and I decided to take a Viking River Cruise along the Danube River and Budapest was our last stop. While there, I knew I needed to spend some time exploring the famous market hall and (WOW) it did NOT disappoint.
Budapest's Great Market Hall (in Hungarian Nagycsarnok or Vasarcsarnok) was built in 1897, is one of the most beautiful market halls in all of Europe, and was once frequented by Emperor Franz Joseph who loved the Neogothic architecture and Zsolnay ceramic roof. Although no longer there, the Market originally had a canal that ran right through it's center so that barges could deliver fresh produce to traders. The building itself has been through a lot, being badly damaged by a bomb in WWII, which led to the building being rebuilt in the 1950's. However, in the 1990's a fire weakened the structure and it became dangerous, causing the market to close down and await a complete renovation in 1994, where it still stands as a national monument.
The Market is only a 5 minute walk from the city center and is situated right along the Danube River. You can take the metro (M3 Blue Line) to Kalvin Ter or take a tram (2, 47 or 49) to the Liberty Bridge and see the city as you go. The Hall has 3 different levels with produce, meats, pastries, candies, spices, traditional Hungarian paprika, and Tokaji wine on the ground floor. Wander to the second floor for eateries, souvenirs and clothes and other handmade goods, and a fantastic cafeteria and ready to eat food like the famous Hungarian goulash and fried bread Langos with sour cream. Save the basement for last where they have the butcher shops, fish market, and (MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE) pickles!!! Not only do they have traditional cucumber pickles, but they also offer pickled cauliflower, cabbage, beets, tomatoes, and garlic.
I also loved walking along and seeing foods I grew up eating and enjoying with my Hungarian Grandmother. It gave me a lot of pride to know my family is part of this culture. While at the market, you have to try some of the most traditional (and my favorite) Hungarian foods like Hungarian Pickles, Hungarian Sweets and Pastries (filled with poppy seeds and walnuts), and of course the FAMOUS Hungarian Paprika. I think I left with about 10 bags and jars of different types of Hungarian paprika while there. I absolutely LOVED walking through the different levels and wish I could have taken an entire suitcase of just the pickles home with me! Trust me, you've to try them and see each and every kind of pickled vegetable, and of course, the adorable smiley faces they add to them.You can get these treats on your own, or easily try them on one of the MANY food tours at the market.
Lots of walnut and poppyseed pastries and enough paprika to last a lifetime <3
Budapest's Grand Market Hall is open everyday from 6am to about 3-6pm (but check for specific days when planning a visit) and closed on Sundays.
Other Food and Market Hall Tips:
Some other tips I learned from going to food halls and markets are to check the specific hours and get there early to avoid the tourist crowds AND to get your choice of the best selection of produce and other food etc. when they come in fresh. However, keep in mind that locals and restauranteurs are also there at the crack of dawn as well. Weekends are also likely to be very busy.
Also, if you have any food related allergies and are in a foreign country, chef cards are a great way to relay any allergies and they come in a variety of languages! Trust me, this came in handy when a group of us were traveling in Japan. I think we had every type of allergy present in our group and one of our friends was smart enough to bring along a pre-translated card so she never had to worry. You can create and print them here, and never have to worry if questions about ingredients are lost in translation.
Finally, if you're a true foodie, I always recommend just generally wandering around, sampling different foods and taking some to go for a picnic. However, if you're hardcore or just really like the location and food region you're in, most of these halls have food tours which include sampling and even some cooking classes. So always check the market websites beforehand to see their offerings.
And that's it, some of my favorite food halls and markets from around the world. I really love exploring new cultures through food and I hope this post helps you plan your next foodie adventure. As always, I'd love to hear about your experiences or any other markets you loved trying while traveling!