European Market Culture

European Market Culture

Though it sounds trite, one of the best things about travel is how it opens my eyes to local cultures. There’s nothing better than wondering what life is like in a foreign country, traveling there, and then actually witnessing firsthand just how locals go about their day-to-day lives. Doing so forces me to reexamine our own culture and think about our own customs and daily rituals here in the U.S. and even locally in L.A.

One aspect of European culture that I really admire is its daily market culture. During our first morning in Paris, Jave and I headed to our local Marché Franprix to stock up the fridge and pantry in our apartment for ourselves and my parents for the week. It goes without saying that we looked like such “Americans” while loading our basket with breakfast fare, drinks, and snacks. Our register clerk had an incredulous look on her face as she rang up item after item and as our Parisian neighbors patiently waited in line behind us with only a few items in hand.

As Jave and I headed back to our apartment that morning, we talked about European market culture and about the fact that many Europeans only buy a few groceries and produce at a time each day. In America, we’re all about stocking up in an effort to save time,  but by and large, European culture lends itself to only buying what you intend to cook and eat for the day.

Another thing I noticed about European markets (at least the outdoor markets) is that there weren’t any ads promoting non-fat, low carb, or gluten-free products. Now don’t get me wrong – I understand that some people suffer from celiac disease and have a legitimate need to eat gluten-free, but in many ways, I think that gluten-free products are a trend, especially here in the United States. So in Europe, it was rather refreshing that a pastry was simply a pastry, a baguette was just a baguette, and it seemed to be common knowledge that all of the produce was organic. Indeed, food was just food, and it was all incredibly delicious. Imagine that?

In this post, I’ve highlighted three of my favorite markets that we had the pleasure of experiencing during our trip to Europe.


Les Halles – Avignon

Square Pie 
Hours: open daily except Mondays, 6am-1:30pm (during the week), 6am-2pm (weekends)

Given the fact that it’s located in Square Pie in the heart of the walled city, and given the fact that there’s a Vertical Garden growing on its façade, a visit to Les Halles simply can’t be missed. Construction of this market was completed in 1899, and today, the forty merchants who’ve set up shop at Les Halles sell everything from prepared dishes, poultry, cheese, flowers, and much more.

Although we ventured into this market on a Saturday as they were shutting down shop, the friendly merchants there didn’t turn us away. My mom, who was starving at the time, was able to buy a few prepared dishes as Jave checked out the poultry at a butcher’s stall. When one of the butchers saw me taking pictures, he grabbed a freshly-plucked rooster and broke out a rendition of the “The Star Spangled Banner.” He then let Jave pose with the rooster as he grabbed and started waving a French flag while singing the French national anthem. What a character!



Great Market Hall – Budapest

Vámház körút 1-3
Hours: Mon. 6am-5pm, Tues.-Fri. 6am-6pm, Sat. 6am-3pm, closed Sunday

Also known as Central Market, Budapest’s largest and oldest indoor market was designed and built by Samu Pecz in the late 1890s. The huge market space is reminiscent of the inside of a train station and is conveniently located in Pest at the end of Váci utca just across from the hotel we stayed at. Although Great Market Hall is a one-stop shop for everything from fresh produce and paprika to pálinka and Hungarian souvenirs, we were there to try the lángos, a deep-fried delight that can be prepared sweet or savory (more about lángos in a separate post). There are several other eateries to choose from on the second floor of the market.

Although we didn’t get to attend any of the events regularly held at the market, it’s worth noting that it offers gastronomical events and tourism days throughout the year. Check the market’s website for details.


Pálinka, a fruit brandy




Torvehallerne – Copenhagen

Frederiksborggade 21, 1360 København K
Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 10am-7pm, Fri. 10am-8pm, Sat. 10am-6pm, Sun. 11am-5pm

I saved my favorite market for last. Why is it my favorite? Well for starters, it’s in Copenhagen, one of my new favorite cities in the world. Also, the quality of the food sold at this market is supreme as the presentation of the produce, seafood, and everything else on offer makes it utterly tempting based on looks alone. Just as with everything else in Copenhagen, the market is very clean and the booths are neat and orderly. Moreover, there are all sorts of enticing aromas wafting through the halls of this market: Danishes beckon to be devoured, meats cooking on the fire induce extreme mouthwatering, and the nostalgic scent of freshly brewing coffee epitomizes coziness and comfort.

With more than 60 stalls and 60,000 visitors a week, Torvehallerne is the largest food market in the city. The market even offers guided tours where you can learn about its architecture, history, and of course the food.







Have you been to any of these markets? What’s your favorite European market?

Comments 14

  1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave)
    May 27, 2014

    I just love visiting food markets both in Europe and in parts of Asia that I’ve been to – one of my favourite European ones is the fabulous food market in Florence – so many enticing colours and flavours!

    • Dana Carmel
      May 27, 2014

      I’ve heard so many good things about Florence so I can’t wait to visit the city and experience its markets for myself. And I’m also looking forward to getting to Asia someday soon!

  2. Eduardo@Andaremos
    May 19, 2014

    I have been fortunate to experience the European way of life. I love to visit on fish days. There are a few reasons why they enjoy such excellent health. Fresh organic food from local farmers and markets is one of the constants in the formula. I would encourage visitors to stay in apartments with fully equipped kitchens so they can cook with fresh ingredients from the local markets. This is another great way to connect with locals and enjoy the culture.

    • Dana Carmel
      May 20, 2014

      We too got to visit a market in Nice on fish day. The fish looked so incredibly fresh. It was so refreshing not to see any “farm raised” seafood displays. It would be wonderful if America could return to a market culture. And I agree about apartment stays if time permits. We really were able to get a sense of what life is like as a Parisian simply by staying in an apartment.

  3. Kemkem
    May 17, 2014

    That’s one thing l have come to love living in Malta. It’s nice to shop daily. Fresh everything.. I think the workers probably get tired of helping thousands of people! But l don’t find them any meaner than anywhere else. I loved the Budapest market!!! Thanks for sharing. I like the pic of Jave and the rooster!!!

    • Dana Carmel
      May 17, 2014

      I’ve heard such great things about Malta. I’d love to visit someday. And Jave was so excited about this rooster photo opp, so I’m glad you like it! 😉

  4. Agness
    May 16, 2014

    You have no idea how much I love to explore local markets when travelling Europe. My favourite market so far is a very small farmers’ market in Prague from where I always bough some baguette, fresh fruits and veggies, organic jams and some meat :).

    • Dana Carmel
      May 17, 2014

      I love fresh, organic jams. Sounds like just the kind of market I’d love to explore.

  5. jan
    May 16, 2014

    I like the idea of visiting the market every day. This is a good selection. The Budapest one looks great.

    • Dana Carmel
      May 16, 2014

      The market in Budapest is huge! I love watching locals go about their daily shopping.

  6. Katrina
    May 16, 2014

    Ok, I have to admit that I’m one of those Americans who have this idea that most French people are rude towards non-French and especially Americans… but obviously, the guy at the outdoor market shows the friendlier, humored side of the French! Loved those pictures! And it’s softened my (admittedly) preconceived notions about the French.

    It is fascinating to me how Europeans shop lightly and frequently. I live out in the country where the nearest grocery store is at least a 25 minute drive away, so that simply would not work for me!

    • Dana Carmel
      May 16, 2014

      You know, I definitely think that attitudes warm the further south you go from Paris. Everyone we met in Provence and the Riviera was just so warm and kind. And to be fair, Parisians were friendly – it’s just the service workers (i.e., metro, bus drivers, certain shopkeepers – the people who SHOULD be helpful) who were grumpy. But locals on the street tended to be quite friendly. But yes, this shopkeeper takes the cake. Totally wasn’t expecting the anthem and flag-waving!

      I can see why you’d definitely need to stock up at the store considering how far you are from a grocery store. But I really admire Europeans’ daily shopping rituals.

  7. Stefania @The Italian Backpacker
    May 16, 2014

    Yes, we love shopping for food at the market, especially here in Italy. The food there is cheaper and of the best quality!

    • Dana Carmel
      May 16, 2014

      I wish that we had more of a daily market culture here in the U.S. Most big cities have weekly farmers’ markets and stores that specialize in quality, organic produce. But you have to pay a premium for it. You guys really have an advantage over us in that respect.


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