Street dreams are made of these: Why street markets are a MUST for your travel itinerary

A feast for the senses with a hefty dose of local culture, there’s no better way to put your finger on the pulse of the city’s heartbeat than getting lost in the sensory experience that is the local street market.

Farmers markets, flea markets, vintage, mercantile – and I love them all. Each has its own set of distinct and unique treasures. I can only attest to the ones I’ve been to, but there are countless others I can’t wait to explore!

Here are some of my favorite European street markets from the past year.


 

Barcelona, Spain

La Boqueria: Produce, meat, seafood, confectionsLaBoqueria_Produce

Located steps from Barcelona’s famous La Rambla, La Boqueria is my favorite street market by far. Because I’m from a big city (San Francisco), it spoke to my love of chaotic anonymity. I’m used to pushing my way through loud, densely-packed urban areas; yet traversing this market alone is the only way to let your eyes and nose lead the way.

The moment you set foot in La Boqueria, your senses are consumed. A thousand voices fill the air at once. Vendors have mastered the art of the two-second sale as they shout prices at passersby, so be aware that making eye contact or lingering at a stall is an invitation for a sales pitch.

LaBoqueria_crowdWhether you’re in the mood for empanadas a la carte, artisanal candy by the ounce, dates by the box, or Crema Catalan-filled chocolate eggs by the handful, you won’t leave hungry. It’s also an excellent place to shop for local produce, seafood, meats and spices. I distinctly remember stands with colorful fruit smoothie cups stacked high with every combination imaginable– the fluorescent pink pitaya-coconut juice was my favorite.

Open Monday – Saturday from 8am-8:30pm. Visit boqueria.info for more information.

Tips:

  • Arrive an hour before closing for the best deals. As vendors begin to close up shop they are more inclined to slash prices since they dump much of their merchandise at day’s end.
  • The better deals are often in the back stalls.

 

London, UK

Borough Market: For conscious foodiesBoroughMarket_London

Tucked beneath the southern end of London Bridge, Borough Market is a foodie’s paradise. You can find produce, fresh seafood, meat and delicacies from around the world but it’s so much more. As one of the oldest markets in London, it’s a cultural melting pot of vendors and visitors alike.

Whether you’re in the mood for deep fried squid, cranberry bleu cheese, lemon-lime basil ice cream, organic veggie burgers or crumb cake from Cinnamon Tree Bakery, the only problem you’ll have is having only one stomach to fit it all.

Opening times vary depending on the day – the full market is open Wednesday through Saturday with select stalls open on Monday and Tuesday. Visit boroughmarket.org.uk for details.

Tips:

  • Take your lunch to Southwark Cathedral, which isn’t just the beautiful backdrop for this market, it’s also a perfect place to snag a bench and enjoy your lunch among its pink blossomed trees and grassy courtyard. The cathedral is open to the public but food is, of course, not allowed inside.
  • Free wifi is available in Market Hall, the green house area near the restrooms.

Portobello Road Market: For those who want it allPortobelloRdHomes

Portobello Road in London is really multiple markets in one, especially on Saturdays when you can shop the full lineup of stalls (select stalls are open on other days).PortobelloMarket

To accommodate the crowds, Portobello Road closes to vehicle traffic as vendors spill onto the road displaying everything from clothes, coveted British antiques, accessories, street food, vinyl records, and used books.

The Portobello Road market runs from the Notting Hill Gate tube station to Ladbroke Grove station and opens around 8:30- 9am. Closing times vary depending on the day of the week. Visit portobelloroad.co.uk for details.

Tips:

  • Food stalls are concentrated toward the Ladbroke Grove end.
  • Get there early to avoid the largest crowds.

 

Florence, Italy

Mercato Centrale: Food and leather galoreMercatoCentrale

This market spans multiple blocks, with the outdoor stalls featuring mostly leather goods (jackets, bags, belts), luggage and various apparel.

The inside of the market is basically a food lovers/chefs heaven. Not only can you find colorful, fresh produce and exotic meat, but you can also enjoy freshly prepared porcetta sandwiches, pasta, pizza and wine from Porky’s or one of the other restaurants.

Beware though, the lines can get crazy! But that’s how good the food is. And because of the crowds, it tends to be difficult to get acknowledged so you have to be aggressive and get there early.

It’s dog friendly so bring your pups if you have them. And most stalls only accept cash.

Tips:

  • Free wifi and pay toilets inside.
  • Dogs are allowed in the market, surprisingly.

 

Rome, Italycampo-de-fiori-market

Campo De’Fiori Market: Food, flowers and produce

This market is the biggest and most famous in the city. Bring plenty of Euros and put your game face on, cause you’ve never haggled until you’ve successfully negotiated a suitcase down from 50 to 25 euros. I know, I’ve done it in Italy TWICE 🙂

My tactic is to ask for prices, compare the different stalls, then act unimpressed at whatever price they give and walk away. Come back later, or the next day, and they’ll sell it to you for whatever you want.

Eataly and streetside mercantile market: Clothing, jewelry, vintage accessories

I don’t know the exact name of this market but it’s located just outside of Eataly near the Piramide metro station and Ostiense bus stop. This street market features clothiers and jewelry makers offering one-of-a-kind gems. If you want to bring home a unique piece of Italy, check this place out. I snagged two vintage rings which were made from the repurposed buttons of 1960’s Chanel coats!

While you’re there, do yourself a favor and wander around Eataly, a culinary funhouse with four floors of Italian delicacies including a handful of restaurants. I participated in a food show filming on the top floor when I was there in October!

Mercatino: Vintage home décor and collectibles

I still remember tearing myself away from the black crystal chandelier I so fell in love with here. With aisles of densely stacked antique furniture, record players, silverware, tea sets, crystal vases and antique China, Mercatino is a vintage-lover’s dream.

If I lived in Rome, I would furnish my entire house from Mercatino. I would serve my guests Sangiovese from my vintage purple crystal wine glasses, on my 1930’s wrought-iron side table, beneath my sexy black chandelier. It would be fabulous as f*ck.


So next time you plan a trip and someone says, “Bring me back something nice!” hit up a street market and blow their minds with a unique piece of the city.

…because nobody really likes cheesy shot glasses and refrigerator magnets. They just pretend to.

You don’t have to have it all figured out at 30.

welcome-to-reality

If we are all so unique, why should the progression of our lives follow the same timeline?

It’s time to get past the outdated idea that you’re supposed to map out your entire life before you’re even old enough to buy a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon for all those beer pong games you played last weekend in college. It’s hard enough to pick a college major, let alone make life-altering decisions when you’ve had very little life experience.

Your 20s are a time for self-discovery. And that path rarely occurs on a straight trajectory.

Yours may have looked more like this:

Success

So it’s no surprise that reaching your “Dirty 30” might even feel like:

Mistakes are an essential and unavoidable part of life – so is change. The earlier we embrace the fact that mistakes do not equal failure so long as we apply the lessons learned, the less our lives will be driven by fear.

Here’s why you’re better equipped for life-altering decisions in your 30s:

You’re less likely to be influenced by others.
The days of fielding your dating/outfit/career choices by your five closest girlfriends should be over. That’s because you know the difference between seeking advice and needing approval, and you don’t need the latter.

So if you want to take a pottery class, learn French, or quit your job as a paralegal to turn your photography hobby into a career, you’ll decide based on what’s best for YOU (and your kids, if applicable) and not popular opinion.

You know who you are.
Therefore you begin to attract people and opportunities that truly complement you because you are radiating your true self into the world. Yay!

You’re more open-minded.
You’ve probably undergone one or more major life changes and survived, so you’re more open to new experiences and don’t freak out when things don’t go according to plan.

You made enough mistakes then to make wiser decisions now.
By now you’re probably more adept at taking calculated risks as opposed to careless ones because your brain has learned to think a few steps ahead.

Which leads me to my next point…

You’re like, mature and stuff.
Seriously. Your brain’s frontal lobe, which is the part of the brain that solves problems and anticipates consequences, does not reach full maturity until your mid-twenties. That explains SO much, right?

So that time you thought it was okay to slam Fernet shots the night before your 8am midterm and woke up feeling like death, let’s just pretend that wasn’t entirely your fault.

You’ve spent enough time in the workforce to gauge whether you’re on the right path.
Studies show two-thirds of lifetime wage growth happens during the first 10 years of your career. But if you haven’t spent your 20s climbing up the same corporate ladder, it’s not too late to reinvent yourself or further your education. Which leads me to my next point…

Universities are adjusting to the lifestyle of the working adult.
The prevalence of night classes, online courses, and satellite campuses are a reflection that the average college student is no longer a fresh-faced 18-year old living in a college dorm. Even well-known universities like UC Berkeley have satellite campuses in busy downtown areas so students can walk to class after work.

Unfortunately that doesn’t make college any more affordable.

But if you’re going to take out a student loan in your 30s, at least you have a better concept of debt than you did when you were fresh out of high school. And you’re less likely to waste your hard-earned money by changing your major multiple times like you may have done 10 years ago.

Solitude is less scary than it was in your 20s.
You’re more comfortable sitting in a coffee shop alone, or embracing your single-hood rather than crying over it. And that means your travel plans are not dependent on anyone else. Why wait for someone to travel with you when you can write your own travel itinerary? It’s not as scary as it sounds, I promise! If you’re like me, you’ll find it liberating.

Aside from my metabolism, I wouldn’t trade anything from my current life for what I had a decade ago. I’ve never been so sure of what I want and who I am.

Now that you know it’s not too late…go out and conquer the world you sexy, sophisticated beast!

But don’t forget to put on sunscreen first.
…and pack some healthy snacks.
…and set your out-of-office alert on your work email.

You are a grown up, after all 🙂