For me, there is no better way to get to know a country; its essence, its people, its habits and its gastronomy than by going to a good traditional market. In these markets you can see locals and experience the mixture of smells, flavours and colours, in a synergy that is hard to find anywhere else.
Portugal is a very traditional country and has a selection of wonderful markets that are visited daily.
In this article, we will take you on a tour of, in my opinion, the best Portuguese markets. Let yourself be enchanted by this mixture of aromas and colours and fall in love, like me, with the Lusitanian markets.
In reality, a trip to the market today is very different from the times of our grandparents. With the appearance of large commercial stores, traditional markets are no longer the main place to buy fresh products. If we think about it, 20 years ago the commercialization of products in markets lost some of its draw due the functionality and speed of shopping centres, but, as everything in fashion is cyclical, markets have come back in a big way and nowadays they are very much back in fashion.
The demand for a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle has led many young people to return to buying products at traditional markets and has brought customers back to the almost extinct markets. In turn, the markets also modernised when they found themselves almost without customers. Many of them adapted to the new reality and although they are centuries old, they have somewhat modernised and adapted to the current reality.
Many stopped being just markets selling fresh produce and started to sell handmade products, jewellery, fashion items, and become a meeting point for. The truth is that, as different as they may be from each other, they will certainly provide you with a unique experience.
We start our journey with Braga Municipal Market. History tells us that it emerged over 2000 years ago and since then it has been constantly evolving both in terms of its commerce and traders. Inaugurated in 1956, it has always been an obligatory stop both for the citizens of Braga and its visitors. Today it unites tradition and modernity in a refurbished space, with various products and services on offer. In the market you can find a great variety of products, including vegetables, meat and fish, a delicatessen, several kiosks to taste different kinds of food and two rooms for exhibitions and workshops. Options are certainly not lacking.
From Braga to Porto we will visit the emblematic Bolhão Market, where the stall holders are the main "stars" thanks to their lively and satirical cries. Right in the heart of the city, the Bolhão, is one of the most emblematic buildings of the city. It is municipal heritage and a monument that has held many stories and memories for over a hundred years. It was requalified in 2022 and today it welcomes all its visitors just like Braga's market, with a huge diversity of products and services.
It has more than 70 traders. On the first floor there are several restaurants and, on the street, under the arcades, several different shops. If you want to get to know the soul of Oporto, the Mercado do Bolhão is undoubtedly the ideal place to do so and to taste the famous Francesinhas.
Next door to Mercado do Bolhão is Mercado do Bom Sucesso, in Matosinhos, as big in size as it is in history and, like Mercado do Bulhão, an icon of the north of the country. Renovated in 2013, today it is a more modern market, but never forgets tradition. We can find a wide variety of fresh produce, gastronomy, flowers and you can even choose from a stall the fish you want to eat for dinner in a restaurant.
We can find picturesque markets in practically every Portuguese city, with a good variety of products and services to offer to those who visit them.
In the next article we will continue our "trip" through the markets of Lisbon, the south of the country and Madeira.
Written by: Cláudia Ferreira