Five of our Favourite Food Markets

Inntravel Team, 31 March, 2022
With so many to choose from, picking just five favourite markets is not as easy as it may seem…

It turns out that there are so many good markets to visit nowadays that, when we started canvassing opinions around the Inntravel office as to the best food markets in Europe, we found ourselves swamped by first-hand tips from our – evidently very food-focussed – colleagues. In fact, we started to lose focus and became very, very hungry instead!
So we’re not going to pretend this is the definitive ‘top five’. After all, a great market is very much a matter of taste. But these are some of our favourites from the many that we recommend within the detailed cultural notes for our holidays.
Mercado de la Ribera, Bilbao, Spain
Despite being one of the largest indoor markets in Europe, this is still a real neighbourhood draw – frequented by Bilbaínos and a vibrant hub within the Casco Viejo (Old Town). Occupying a striking Art Deco building and resembling an enormous boat moored to the riverbank, the market is a great place to find delicious pintxos (Basque-style tapas), to take in views from the top-floor restaurants and terraces, and to indulge in a little foot-tapping reverie during one of the jazz concerts in summer. Artisans and food producers converge from across the Basque Country to sell their wares, with fresh fish and seafood taking pride of place on the ground floor.

Which holiday? Visit the market while following our self-guided town trail on the Flavours of Bilbao, San Sebastián & Bordeaux journey by rail.
Catania Fish Market, Sicily, Italy
For an absorbing insight into Sicilian life, it’s hard to beat half an hour’s people-watching at the pescheria in Catania, the ancient port city on the island’s east coast. The fishermen set up shop in an 18th-century sunken piazza from 7am, so it pays to arrive early if you want to bag a prized spot on the upper balustrade. There’s an unashamedly male atmosphere, with rubber-booted traders, sometimes in oilskins, often firmly attached to mobile phones. It’s also a place of continuous motion, an earthy din and a decidedly fishy aroma. Stocks are replenished from large blue buckets, scooped out with a net like an adapted lacrosse stick. All in all, it’s quite an experience.

Which holiday? Enjoy the spectacle on our rail journey, Baroque Riches of Sicily, or by adding Catania to any of our Sicilian holidays.
Vanha Kauppahalli, Helsinki, Finland
The ‘1888’ inscribed above the southern entrance to Vanha Kauppahalli is the year construction began on this venerable market hall. Although it wasn’t opened to the public until the following year (cement problems, apparently), the striking, red-and-white striped, brick-built construction has been a Helsinki fixture – and much-loved harbourside institution – ever since. Inside, there’s a fine array of food from across the world, and a few cosy coffee and people-watching corners, too. We particularly like the Seafood Bar (it does a mean fish’n’chips) and the hip café-restaurant, Story; while Alko claims to be the friendliest drinks shop in the country.

Which holiday? The self-guided walking tour of Helsinki on our Nordic Cities Explorer journey by rail and boat takes you right through the hall itself. 
Les Halles, Narbonne, France
The indoor market in the southern French city of Narbonne occupies a handsome wrought-iron-and-glass building dating back to 1901, now housing several good bars and restaurants as well as a multitude of inviting food stalls. A visit here will give you a taste for the pride and passion felt by the Occitanie people – not only in their region, but in the sport of rugby union. Local legend Gilles Belzons entertains customers and visitors alike at his bistro by theatrically catching orders of meat from neighbouring butchers’ stalls as if he were still manning the line-out!
Which holiday? Explore Narbonne on our journey by rail through Roman Gaul, Provincia Nostra, or on our cycling holiday along the Canal du Midi.
Naschmarkt, Vienna, Austria
There’s a charm to Vienna’s Naschmarkt that you perhaps won’t find at any other European food market. The indoor/outdoor ambience makes for an enjoyable visit, whatever the weather or time of day, while a wide and eclectic assortment of food stalls and restaurants blends Middle Eastern delicacies with traditional Austrian fare, as well as smatterings of cuisine from across the globe. Its location – close to the Secession, a beautifully designed art gallery – helps to set the tone in this most refined of capital cities.
Which holiday? The Naschmarkt is just a 5-minute stroll from the Kaiserhof, the elegant 4-star hotel that features in our rail journeys, On the Trail of the Habsburgs and Austria’s Great Cities.
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