The Mediterranean is more than just a Sea. It’s the channel between Europe and Africa. For centuries it has been the crossing point for millions of people who have sailed in search of adventure, or a brighter future.
Hundreds of years ago, the cities beside the sea where the merchant ships docked became true hubs of trade. Markets were at the heart of these exchanges. These days they’re also a tourist attraction.
Want to see the strong links between local culture and everyday life? Here are some of the most important and interesting Mediterranean markets…
1. Vucciria (Palermo, Italy)
One of Palermo’s historic markets, its name comes from the French ‘boucherie’ or butcher, since it initially only sold meat. ‘Vucciria’ also means ‘confusion’ in Sicily. Apt considering confusion is the main feature of the market and its various vendors. It’s worth seeing just for the stalls, but it’s also home to the historical buildings and art of Mazzarino Palace.
2. La Medina (Tunisia)
Tunisia is the definitive city of markets. They’re everywhere. The streets are like real life art galleries, filled with all kinds of products and vendors who seem willing to sell at any price. Camel skin lamps are highly typical, but even more so is the atmospheric smell. Black tea, mint, red pepper, saffron, cinnamon … it’s a veritable feast for the nose. Before you visit, make sure you’ve refined your five senses and are willing to negotiate everything.
3. La Boquería (Barcelona, Spain)
La Boquería market is a Barcelona institution. It combines some essential elements of Spanish culture: food and a sense of community. Also known as the Mercat de Sant Josep, it’s a true temple of gastronomy where farmers, butchers and fishermen sell fresh produce to delight the palates of visitors.
4. The markets of Aix (Provence, France)
There’s always a market on in Aix. One day it’s vegetables, on another old books or flowers. These colorful markets are a great way for visitors to discover the local products of Provence, especially the food. Thanks to its array of heady aromas, the flower market is one of the most fascinating. Find it in front of the town hall.
5. Rialto market (Venice, Italy)
The Rialto market represents a thousand years of colours and fragrances. Visit the city of canals and a walk around the stalls is all you need for a taste of Venetian culture. Fish is the market’s signature product, but here you can also find fruit, vegetables and much more.
6. The Pazar (Split, Croatia)
Located near Porta Argentea (Srebrna Vrata), this market sells a variety of fruit, flowers and vegetables. The stalls are particularly unusual in that they are enormous ancient stones. The products placed on these are always fresh since they are delivered that morning.
7. Athens Central Market (Greece)
What’s intriguing about this market in Athens is the palpable oriental feeling you get there. Inside, there are mainly butchers, but there are also a lot of vendors selling eggs and goldsmiths. Oh, something else you might notice – the market is housed in the Agora Omonia; a glass ceilinged building dating back to the nineteenth century.
8. Spice market (Istanbul, Turkey)
In Turkish they call it the Misir Carsisi, or Egyptian Bazaar, because this is where you’ll find spices from India and South-west Asia which have gone through Egypt and across the Mediterranean until reaching Istanbul. In fact, since the time of the Silk Road, the Turkish capital has been the final destination of products distributed in Asia and Europe. This market has an infinite number of aromas but the ones that particularly stand out are cinnamon, cumin, saffron, mint and thyme.
9. Aleppo Bazaar, Syria
This Middle Eastern market is characterised by its maze of little alleys, where you’ll find all kinds of goods. It’s well-known for its spices and coffee, as well as its herbs and teas. Also worth a visit is the Souk al-Attarin perfume market, the Souk az-Zarb for textiles and the Souk as-Sabun for soap.
10. Carmel Market, Tel Aviv, Israel
This market is famous for all its fresh produce and their vibrant colours. Tourists come to buy fruit to take to the beach or back to their hotel room. The most famous feature of this market, however, is its dates, which, if reports are to be believed, are the best in the world.
Have you been to any of these markets? What did you buy? Do you know any other must-visit markets?