It's no secret that food is an essential part of Portuguese culture. But did you know that the traditional farmers' and fish markets are one of the best places to experience this genuine love for food?
The Portuguese are massive food lovers
Although culinary traditions in Portugal please even the most refined taste buds, the truth is most dishes are actually quite simple. The secret lies in the fact that traditional Portugal recipes are usually made with local ingredients, which accounts for the freshness and quality of Portuguese cuisine. And there is no better place to shop for local produce, fish and meat than in local markets!
Although nowadays the majority of Portuguese families shop in modern day supermarkets, traditional markets are still highly popular among those who have time during their day to visit the "praças" and "mercados municipais" of their towns.
During the weekends, these local markets are also highly sought-after, not only because of the experience, but also because of the very affordable prices and high quality of the products sold!
Visiting farmer’s markets in Portugal
From north to south, there are many places in Portugal where traditional farmer’s markets are actually part of local history, having been an important spot for communities to gather and trade during centuries.
This cultural heritage can easily be found in both indoor and outdoor markets spread throughout the country. Depending on the size and location of each market, you can find a huge variety of products that include anything from fruits, to vegetables, fish, meat, nuts, herbs, but also handicrafts, flowers and sometimes even food stalls!
Why are farmer’s markets so popular in Portugal?
Due to its amazing location close to the sea, Portugal benefits from easy access to delicious seafood and fresh fish. But the Portuguese also love good quality meat! Luckily, you can find both options in most indoor markets, where highly experienced vendors will prepare your fish and meat exactly how you like!
If you prefer a plant based diet, rest assured you will also be very well served as there is a huge variety of fruits and vegetables to prepare amazingly fresh and healthy meals.
As in all countries where the majority of the population generally follows a traditional Mediterranean Diet, the Portuguese value fresh products that are locally grown. And it's not only families to who head to the markets to find the best products. Even the most famous restaurants in Portugal rely on local markets to stock their kitchens, priding themselves on including local ingredients on their menus!
Portugal's most famous farmer's markets
Every small town in Portugal has their very own farmer's market, which can be called "praça" (usually outdoors) or "mercado municipal" (which can be indoors or outdoors). Some markets are specialized in selling specific products, such a "praça da fruta", which only sells fruits and vegetables, or a "praça do peixe" or "mecado do peixe" where you will find an amazing selection of fish and seafood.
In some locations, the farmer's markets are held simultaneously with flea markets, known as "feiras". Others are themed, such as markets that specialize in selling organic produce or operate side by side with restaurants.
Before visiting any market in Portugal, be sure to check opening hours and days, as these differ depending on the size of the village and the type of market.
Portugal's favourite traditional markets
The choice is endless and appeals to all tastes, but there are a few that are a must-visit if you are travelling to Portugal or currently living here:
Mercado do Bolhão (Porto)
Currently undergoing major renovation works, Mercado do Bolhão is one of Portugal's most iconic indoor markets. Created in 1839, in the centre of Porto (known as "baixa do Porto"), Bolhão is one of the city's most popular tourist spots and a favourite location for food lovers looking for good quality products.
Here you can expect a big crowd and also the loud voices of different vendors wanting to get your attention. Just relax and enjoy, it’s all part of the experience!
Mercado Municipal de Matosinhos
Matosinhos is a coastal town also in northern Portugal. It is known as the “land of the fisherman”, which explains why you can easily find excellent fish and seafood restaurants, known as “marisqueiras”, that serve delicious seafood and other traditional fish dishes.
The local market is a great place to find the freshest fish in the area!
Praça da Fruta - Caldas da Rainha
This century-old open-air market located in Caldas da Rainha is known for its colourful fruit and vegetable stalls that are located in one of the city's quaint squares.
This is the only daily open-air market in Portugal, offering a vibrant atmosphere that is typically Portuguese. The regular clientele know the vendors by name, and you're more than welcomed to taste a piece of fruit before buying!
Mercado de Olhão
Located in the coastal town of Olhão, in the Algarve, this market is also very well-known for its amazing fish and other products. This Portuguese region is particularly famous for its seafood, so make sure to visit this market during to enjoy the best fish around.
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Mercado do Livramento - Setúbal
Known for its fresh fish, this market was considered one of the best fish markets in the world by the American newspaper “USA Today”, in 2015. Besides fish, you can also find vegetables, herbs and regional products such as wine, honey, various types of bread and local crafts.
Mercado da Ribeira - Lisbon
This big food market is located in the heart of Lisbon. In 2014, the market was reopened and currently offers dozens of restaurants, bars and other commercial spaces, with many vendors selling fresh produce.
In Portugal, it's fair to say that food is a national pastime! From arguing about our favourite restaurants and "tascas", to planning meals for family and friends or shopping for local ingredients and delicacies... the Portuguese love everything that has to do with food.
Don’t forget to visit at least one of these markets to get a true Portuguese experience and enjoy excellent quality products!