Market in Budapest
Nagyvásárcsarnok — also known as the Central Market Hall or Great Market Hall in Budapest. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

Stupid Tip of the Day: 9 Reasons to Visit a Market or Supermarket While Traveling

After you have arrived at your destination, your stomach is eventually going to rumble and growl at you in attempts to remind you that is is empty and you need to fill it — but you might not initially know what you want to eat.

Stupid Tip of the Day: 9 Reasons to Visit a Market or Supermarket While Traveling

Mercado de San Miguel Madrid
Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

You are not to be faulted at all if the first thought which occurred to you is to find a great restaurant in which to dine — but where do you go? What type of food do you want? Do you want to preserve your budget or blow what you have on an expensive meal?

One of the places you might want to consider visiting is a central market which is usually located in the center — or “old town” — section of a city. Central markets have literally dozens of different vendors offer an incomparable variety of items for sale — from a simple snack to an entire meal…

…and even crafts and gifts for souvenirs — some of which are created locally.

Often, you will find a fish market, a meat market, a produce market, a bakery area, a confectionery market, and a food court of sorts — all with a variety of independent vendors competing against each other. Use that competition to your advantage by negotiating the price you are willing to pay with the price the vendor is willing to sell. I have rarely paid full price for items in central markets.

Mercado de San Miguel Madrid
Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

I found myself wandering the streets of Madrid near Plaza Mayor a few years ago and felt the pangs of hunger gnawing away in my stomach. If that happens to you, consider surrendering to temptation and heeding its calls by stopping in at the famous Mercado de San Miguel. Your senses will be handsomely rewarded.

Paprika from Hungary
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

Nagyvásárcsarnok — also known as the Central Market Hall or Great Market Hall in Budapest — is where I picked up four varieties of the best paprika which I have ever tasted.

Many of the items offered by independent vendors are usually made locally — although you should check the labeling and ask questions prior to purchasing an item.

Try a Local Supermarket

Central markets can be a great place to go — but they can be touristy. There is no reason why you cannot visit a local supermarket…

…but you might be thinking, I go to the supermarket often enough at home. Why would I want to go to one here?!?

When I stayed at the Hilton Capital Grand Abu Dhabi hotel property, I walked down the street to a Carrefour supermarket, which was the anchor establishment of an ersatz shopping mall. I found that — more often than not — the best currency exchange rates are found in these local supermarket malls.

In a hot climate such as the desert where the United Arab Emirates is located, walking into an indoor supermarket will be like a breath of fresh air, as they are usually air conditioned and offer a respite from the relentless heat.

Also, shopping in a supermarket will likely be the least expensive option to purchase food and drinks. For example, I will purchase a five-liter jug of water whenever I rent a vehicle; and I will repeatedly fill at least one individual bottle with water. That saves me money and time; and the water will last me a few days.

Pickle Doritos
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Bonus entertainment is not only seeing familiar brands printed on packaging in different languages; but also finding food which might not be available back at home. One example was when I picked up was a bag of Intense Pickle flavour Doritos in Calgary, which was one of the better snacks I have ever had…

Chinook Centre
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

…and I picked it up at a Shoppers Drug Mart store in the Chinook Centre, where I also stopped for a meal at one of its restaurants.

Another bonus is that you are somewhat immersed in the culture, as you are surrounded by local people going about their everyday lives instead of tourists who are enjoying a holiday away from home. Sometimes a conversation between you and someone else will strike up — even if there is a language barrier, from which you can learn a few words.


Mercado de San Miguel Madrid
Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

I have visited central markets and supermarkets all over the world; and I have consistently found them to be the most authentic experiences with the most choices at the least expensive prices — and I get to learn a little bit about the local culture as a bonus.

Nine reasons as to why you should consider going to either a central market or a local supermarket include — in no particular order:

  1. More variety
  2. Authentic local cuisine
  3. Fresh food
  4. Less expensive — and usually better prices which you can often negotiate
  5. Better currency exchange rate
  6. Local souvenirs
  7. Climate controlled
  8. Mingle amongst local people instead of tourists
  9. Learn a bit more about the local culture

All photographs ©2014, ©2016 and ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

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