Visiting one of Europe's local markets is a great way to spend an hour or two as it gives you a true sense of local life. Many towns, particularly in Italy and France, have a regular market where everything from food to clothing is sold. Markets are not only central to the European way of shopping, they are an important social occasion as residents catch up with their neighbours and stall holders that make the weekly trip to market. Food is such an important element in the typical European household that it's no wonder it features so prominently at the local market.
In summer, the markets are bursting with colour. Summer fruits like strawberries, watermelon, lettuce and tomatoes are bountiful, enticing you to enjoy a delicious meal outdoors with the freshest of produce. But fruit and vegetables are not all you will see on display - many markets sell everything from bread, eggs, meats, cheeses, home made produce and wines, to jewellery, clothing, shoes, basket wear and much more. The market is the best place to grab a freshly baked baguette, some ham and cheese and a steaming coffee for your Parisian picnic.
Some of my best holiday memories are of meals bought at local markets. Freshly cooked fish and chips, followed by delicious strawberries, were even tastier from our seat at Salo on the shores of Italy's Lake Garda, whilst the home made pasta from the market in Olonzac (SW France) was so delicious we went back the following week for more!
Winter brings a different atmosphere to the markets with Christmas gifts and delicacies in abundance. Who could resist wandering through the Christkindl Markt with the smell of freshly baked gingerbread and roasted chestnuts in the air; snow falling at their feet and the promise of a glass of warm mulled wine? With children singing Christmas carols and Christmas lights sparkling, the markets are a gathering place for locals who come to buy last minute gifts and wish their friends and neighbours the compliments of the season.
A few hours at the local market will give you a real insight into the way of life of the locals. Just by wandering around, you'll feel a bit like a local and you might grab a bargain to boot!