Because I travel so much (and because I’ve lived in many countries) people always ask me for recommendations on where to eat in so-and-so city or country. And truth be told, I actually have a standard answer. Unless you’re looking for a place to sit down for a special occasion or an important business meeting, I usually say ‘Go to the most bazaar place you can find.’
What I mean is a food bazaar, a.k.a. food market. So many cities from Milwaukee to Mumbai to Melbourne have amazing, unique food markets where you can find all manner of local and interesting bites. Food bazaars, which are often incorporated as part of larger bazaars selling all kinds of wares like amazing antiques, indigenous clothing, and local wares, are some of the best places to get immersed in a culture and literally taste your way through local flavors – and fill yourself on the local sights and sounds, like music – thus enriching your total travel experience.
One of the coolest things about food bazaars is their often rich, deep histories. La Boqueria in Barcelona dates back to the early 1200s! London’s Borough Market (a few short blocks from that small tourist attraction, London Bridge) can be traced back to the 11th Century. And Cairo’s famed Khan El-Khalili has origins all the way back to 970AD. Wow. Imagine all the food knowledge and tradition that’s been passed down. Even in the US, there are places like Boston’s Haymarket which dates back to more colonial times and offers all the richness of this country’s relationship to the sea in particular. And in Napa, there’s the inviting, airy Oxbow Market which may only be a few decades old but is an incredible place to sample everything from a variety of Napa wines (come on!) to foods from world-renowned chefs.
Why end up at some stodgy, overpriced restaurant from a touristy guide book (or some online outlet) where you’re stuck with one cuisine? Go palate surfing at a food market!
Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, do not take for granted the notion that food can be as much a part of your adventure as going to a winery, museum, corporate event, or some other attraction. We sometimes take eating for granted because we simply think ‘Well, I just gotta eat some lunch so we can make it to the Eiffel Tower by 3:00.’ No. Food is Life. Literally. Food – and its offshoot, drinks, of course! – is how we gather and commune as a species. Don’t think that eating lunch in a cozy cafe where no one speaks your language isn’t a life-changing experience.