Europe’s Markets: The Heart of Every City

By Tom DeFeo  

Once the epicenters of all human civilizations, city markets have always acted as the centers of any region’s commerce, but more importantly, they served as primary vehicles for the flow of the world’s religions, arts and ideas as well as epic diseases. Today, with the advent of modern amenities, city markets may not be as vital to human communities as they once were, but, they still provide travelers with an accurate cultural cross section of any city.

Central Market
Florence Central Market

As ancient precursors to today’s supermarket, city markets have always showcased each region’s own unique food stuffs. For example, Florence’s Central Market is one of the only places on earth where you can purchase cuts of the region’s world renowned beef steaks as well as authentic Tuscan olive oil under the same roof. Similarly, Barcelona’s La Boqueria houses the freshest seafood in Spain along with the region’s specialty, Catalan sausage.

Along with food, markets also offer consumers the chance to purchase almost anything they can imagine. London’s Portobello Market is one of the world’s most famous street markets stretching nearly two miles through West London’s Notting Hill district.

Portobello Market
Portobello Market

Here you can find anything from British antiques and jewelry to fresh fruits and vegetables. More than a storehouse of any city’s cultural manifestations, a market can hold a significant amount of historical relevance in itself. One of the best examples is Latvia’s Riga Market. At over 72,000 square meters, the Riga Market is Europe’s largest and puts mega malls to shame but it’s size is only a result of one of the most important events of the 20th century. Completed in 1930, the Riga Market is comprised of seven old German zeppelin hangars from World War 1 that have since been renovated and redesigned to house some 3000 different vendors. Another one of Europe’s most historically rich markets is Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. Constructed in 1455, the Grand Bazaar is considered Europe’s, as well as the world’s, oldest covered market and still attracts over 250,000 visitors a day.

Riga Market
Riga Market

So the next time you find yourself in a new city try laying off the McDonald’s and instead head on over to the local market for a taste of the city’s specialty as well as a look inside its history and culture.

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