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In this age of mass consumerism, designer labels and hi-tech supermarkets, it is all too easy to plump for the pre-packaged, homogeneous and singularly non-descript items in a store for the sake of convenience. However, there is a history, the world over, of great outdoor markets, the pre-cursor to the sprawling Meccas of commercialisation we see today.
We asked you to tell us all about your favourite outdoor markets - those cornerstones of provincial economies that supply us with everything from groceries, clothes, flowers and antiques to pet supplies. Below you will find some of the h2g2 Community's favourite markets from all over the world.
Ingleston Sunday Market, Edinburgh, Scotland
In the 1970s and throughout the 1980s this was the place to go to buy anything and boy was the stuff cheap! It was, and still is, great for Christmas shopping. The fast food stalls do a roaring trade - the local favourite being chips and curry sauce to heat you up.
All the lanes for the stalls have funny street names (Tin Pan Alley, Rotten Row ... that kind of thing). At the very centre of the market is a huge statue of King Kong. Because the market is so big, this serves as a meeting point and landmark.
It's years since I've been there, but one other thing I do remember was this. The ground was covered in some strange red clay - and if there was any rain this stuff seemed to get everywhere.
Ah, the joys of Ingleston Sunday Market!
Farmers Markets in Warwickshire, UK
A few years ago, the powers that be in Warwickshire decided that farmers' markets were a good thing, so they started promoting them. There are half a dozen or so venues, each having a market once a month. There is a great range of food being sold - fresh fruit and veg, freshly baked bread, fresh meat of practically every variety, eggs, cakes, jams and preserves, cheeses, etc. All the produce is of top quality - usually fresh off the farm that morning, where possible.
There are three rules that must apply to a genuine farmers market - the producers have to be located within 30 miles of the market venue, stallholders can only sell their own produce, and stallholders have to be the producer, a close family member, or a direct employee of the producer.
These rules ensure that by buying from a farmers market, you are helping the local economy and that you know exactly what you're buying. You can ask the stallholder anything you like about their produce, they'll be more than happy to explain. After all, they've produced it!
Although the prices may be higher than you'd pay in the supermarkets, the quality is far superior. The flavours are just bursting through. You can often find some of the more unusual vegetables too - swiss chard or kohl rabi for instance. Of course, without artificial preservatives it won't keep as long. But it does taste so much better!
Yes, I have to agree about the food tasting better. We have a local farmers market in Fife, Scotland on the last Saturday of the month. Its also nice to see and buy local produce that's in season - sometimes the bigger supermarkets stock a lot of 'forced' veg and fruit which doesn't taste half as good. The food is worth the extra cost.
The Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne, Australia
In Melbourne, Australia, fairly close to the city centre and easily reached by public transport, the Queen Victoria Market is open every day of the year except Mondays and Wednesdays, (and Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Day, Good Friday, Anzac Day and Melbourne Cup Day). It's found on the corner of Queen and Victoria streets.
The largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere, covering 7 hectares, it was first opened on 20 March, 1878. There are almost 1000 traders (many of them second and third generation), selling everything imaginable - there's a fish/poultry/meat building (which reeks... great if you like that sort of thing, but it makes one Researcher gag every time they go near it), many clothes stalls (usually a lot cheaper than anything you'd find in shops), many, many tacky Australian souvenirs, fruit and veg, deli goods... you name it! Apparently 50% of the market is taken up by fresh produce.
There are also many buskers, and on Sundays it's more of a family thing - Queen Street (one of the streets bordering the market) is closed off for street cafés etc, and there's kids entertainment.
Bury Market, UK
Bury's world famous market has 370 stalls,where you can buy anything from a black pudding to a handbag including books, CDs, clothes, etc. There's also the indoor market with meat and fish halls, all within 10 mins of the M66. Well worth a visit.
Sittard Market, The Netherlands
Below is one Researcher's fond memories of a truly Continental market:
Whenever I can get a Thursday morning off (very rarely these days, however) I hotfoot it over to Sittard market.
It's a market as I remember them from when I was a kid - fruit and veg, meat, fish, clothes, household goods. And then there are the things that I go for - fabrics, haberdashery and buttons. Not only is the range of materials available far better than in any of the towns close to me (even the big ones) but the prices are great too. As an example, I bought enough fabric to make six summer dresses for my kids for 10 Guilders (hmmmm... I'd have to say about £3?)
And not only that. The people running the stalls really know their goods, and (unlike the shops in Germany) will usually give you the end of a roll if there is less than a metre, for nothing.
The Missoula Farmers' and People's Markets, Montana, USA
In Missoula, Montana, the Saturday morning farmers' market is one of the social events of the week. From bread to cut flowers, trees to organic vegetables, the market just gets bigger every year. A great many families participate, on both sides of the tables. Sometimes there's a face-painter, or a balloon artist, or a juggler.
My daughter learned to love fresh baby carrots early on, and one of the highlights of the market is making a stop for a bunch or two first thing. She munches contentedly, while I fill her little red wagon with fresh herbs, petunias, and a loaf of ciabatta made with wild yeast. It is a feast for your eyes. You run into people you haven't seen all winter, or even folks who've moved away and are visiting. There are fresh-baked pastries and coffee available, and many people make a morning of it.
Unfortunately, by about 10.30am, it is so packed you can't get through, the line for a latte is a mile long, and all the good veggies are gone. So the moral is go early, and have fun!
Right down the street is the people's market. All sorts of artwork, from the practical to the fantastic, is on display (including one woman's photographs of the aforementioned farmers' market). A bit looser, a little more expensive, and occasionally a bit more, well, colourful, the people's market is where you can pick up a basket for shopping, a xylophone made from a fruit crate and some copper tubing, and a 15-minute massage all at the same time.
Viktualienmarkt, Munich, Germany
The Viktualienmarkt (Viktualien means victual) in Munich is an organized form of an outdoor market with some tradition. It is located in the historic centre of Munich some 500 metres away from the Marienplatz subway-station, right next to the Heiliggeistkirche.
The Viktualienmarkt is a big area with booth-like huts that sell foodstuff ranging from Bavarian specialties (mainly some form of processed pork, like sausages and Leberkäs) to tropical fruit and spices. When sightseeing in the city centre the Viktualienmarkt is a nice spot to recharge your batteries.
Until 1807, the market was situated at the Marienplatz itself, but as it grew bigger and bigger it was eventually relocated to the place it is now (the location of the former Heiliggeist-Spital). Throughout the 19th Century the market dealt mainly with meat-products and fish from all over the world, only slowly did the selling of exotic fruit and spices gain more importance. In the 1960s, car traffic was banned from the city centre, and the Viktualienmarkt became a relaxing-oasis right in the city centre, with an obligatory Biergarten ('beer garden').
The booths are open Monday through Friday from 7:30am to 6pm and on Saturday from 7.30am to 1pm.
Grimsby Market has cheap fruit and veg - half the price of supermarket produce but they taste just as good. The flower stalls always offer an affordable bouquet of cut flowers to brighten your living room and at Christmas they will make up wreaths to your specifications for no extra charge. The people who run the stalls are so friendly and helpful and if they don't stock what you are looking for, they will tell you where you can find it.
I got a stone birdbath centre-piece for my newly-paved area in my back garden and the stall owner offered to deliver it to my home for free.
Pevely Flea Market, Missouri, USA
The Pevely Flea Market operates year round, but is best in the summer when all of the outdoor stalls are open. In decades past it was a drive-in movie theatre; the flea market has been there for more than 15 years, with at least one of the old screens still standing providing a small bit of shade for a few lucky sellers.
Nearly anything can be found there, from clothing and furniture to fresh produce and novelties... not to mention a fair amount of junk (where sometimes a real treasure can be found). It is located in Pevely, Missouri, about an hour south of St Louis on Highway 67.
Our last trip yielded an electric iced tea pot (used), two wren houses made from modified tin cans (handmade), a decorative birdhouse made to look like a Las Vegas casino (new), a ceramic green and white swirled ginger jar (handmade), a pair of sunglasses (new), a six-tiered corner shelf (new), a CD of the Brian Setzer Orchestra (used), a few ears of bi-coloured corn and a cantaloupe (all fresh).
Stockport Market was originally granted a charter in 1260, but is probably most famous for its Victorian 'Glass Umbrella' market hall's in the middle of the open air market.