What we call Farmers’ Markets are known as simply “Markets” in Portugal. This is an ancient tradition that dates back millennia – of local farms bringing their goods to market, along with craftspeople and fishermen. Many towns grew up around markets.
The biggest recent change is the upgrading and rebuilding of many markets to meet stringent European regulations. While they may have refrigeration, hot running water and bathrooms, they still have old world flair. Many have amazing eateries serving fresh local dishes at a low price.
The cool factor is the freshness, local produce, and photogenic atmosphere. This is a great place to pick up a picnic for those who are romantic, or budget minded travelers.
So, without further ado – here is quick guide to some cool open markets of Portugal. These are just a sample; every city and major town has one.
Praça da Fruta-Caldas da Rainha
The Praça da Fruta in Caldas da Rainha is held in Republic Square, but everyone in town calls it “Fruit Square.” It takes place every morning in the square, and is the only daily fruit market in the country. And it has been virtually unchanged since the nineteenth century- and has more fruit than you have ever had the privilege of seeing.
Mercado D. Pedro V, Coimbra
Coimbra’s fresh produce open-air market is right downtown – not far from the City Hall and Santa Cruz Monastery. It is open regularly with a large fresh produce market, meat section, and lots of fresh fish and flowers. The town market was recently modernized, but it still is inside its 19th century walls and gates. Check out the small café in the back, they serve up some world class grilled chicken.
Mercado do Bolhao, Porto
Mercado do Bolhao is Porto’s colorful historic market that sells everything, from durable goods to fresh fruits and vegetables. Set on the central Rua Sa da Bandeira, Mercado do Bolhao is a bi-level – with freshly baked breads as well as the smell of the different varieties of cheese. They will also be greeted with loud fish sellers offering their latest and freshest catch. The buyers and sellers, along with the huge variety of goods, are what make this market so popular.
Mercado dos Lavradores, Funchal
The Farmers Market or “Mercado dos Lavradores” is right in the center of historic Funchal. It is a big draw for visitors, with its abundant tropical and exotic fruit and flowers- and a cool fish section. Opened in 1940, this market is more than just a sightseeing stop today. Locals are drawn to the fresh offerings, and the prices. There are also lots of shops on the 2nd floor selling typical Madeira crafts for a lot less than gift shops.
Mercado da Graça, Ponta Delgada
Mercado da Graça was built back in 1848. It has been recently renovated, but still has its old fashion character fresh local pineapple, bananas, and all kinds of Azorean cheese. The fish section is almost like going to the aquarium. The market is set a few blocks from downtown on a quiet street – and is a must stop on any morning walking tour of Ponta Delgada.
Mercado da Ribeira, Lisbon
Downtown Lisbon’s largest open market is set under a classic pavilion where you can watch fresh seafood and salt cod being bought up by locals and restaurateurs. Look for tons of fresh fruit, cheeses from all over Portugal, olives, fresh baked breads and cured meats and sausages. The market is closed on Sundays – but open the rest of the week.
Mercado de Estremoz, Estremoz
Estremoz has a lively weekly market in this walled city in the Northeastern Alentejo. The market is famous for its Alentejo cheeses, olives and cured sausages and meats. A great stop in exploring this historic city.
Mercado Municipal da Avenida, Lagos
The recently renovated market in Lagos in the Algarve, offers the fresh fish and seafood downstairs with the upstairs full of fruit (including local grapes, olives, figs, almonds), honey and more. The upper floor has a restaurant with a view across the bay.
Mercado de Campo de Ourique, Lisbon
Located in one of the most traditional neighborhoods, the market of Campo de Ourique has reopened recently as a modern space that offers the best fresh products you can find. Side by side with the traditional flower, vegetable or fish stands there are also more than a dozen modern “tasquinhas” (taverns), gourmet restaurants, artisanal ice-cream, cocktail and appetizers stands, and, occasionally, live music. The goal is to mix the traditional market with the modern to attract more young people to the town markets.