When visiting cities around the world, one of the best ways to discover their people, food scene, and culture, is by visiting their local food markets. Think local ingredients, artisanal goods, fresh meals, and the ambiance of locals and tourists mixing. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Particularly in Europe, cities and small towns are known for having regular markets offering wide selections of fresh ingredients, local artisanal goods, and spaces to gather for a meal. To name just a few of the more prominent markets, perhaps you’ve heard of St George’s Market in Belfast, the Östermalms Saluhall in Stockholm, the Marché du Midi in Brussels, the Great Market Hall in Budapest, the Markathalle Neun in Berlin, the Mercato Centrale in Florence, or countless others.
Here in Toronto, the St. Lawrence Market is no different. Offering a glimpse into one of Europe’s most authentic food experiences, you’ll find that not only does Toronto’s food Market look reminiscent of many of the markets listed above, but it also specializes in many of their authentic flavours, among many others!
The St. Lawrence Market was first established in 1803 and has been a must-see location in the city for food, culture, and international wonders for decades. In fact, in 2011 it was named the #1 market in the world by National Geographic.
As one of the largest markets in the world with over 120 vendors ranging in backgrounds and products, Toronto’s iconic St. Lawrence Market is a great spot to experience a little bit of local and international cultures. There’s so much to see that when you think you’ve seen it all, the Market seems to keep going with more restaurants, artisan shops and grocers around the next corner.
While it showcases flavours and goods from all around the world, as previously mentioned, the Market is particularly home to vendors selling all kinds of foods with European influences. Find everything from European cheeses, meats, wines, desserts and more, all in one place. To name just a few countries highlighted throughout the Market, you can find goods from France, Italy, Germany, Scotland, England, Portugal, Spain, Ukraine, the list goes on!
As a Toronto local, chances are you’ve already visited the St. Lawrence Market. However, on your next visit, explore Toronto’s iconic landmark with the new mindset of experiencing international cultures and flavours from home. Trade in the sterile supermarkets for the smells and tastes of authentic foods from around the world! Try new flavours from countries you want to visit and learn more about the goods you’re not familiar with.
Additionally, keep in mind that each season brings its own specialties to the Market. So, depending on the month, week or even the day when you might visit, the selection of goods you’ll find throughout the Market will likely be different, making it an exciting location to explore over and over again and a fantastic opportunity to try new things!
On my most recent visit, I embraced my sweet tooth and decided to focus my search on desserts. I stopped by Future Bakery on the top floor and got some of their French macarons and Portuguese custard tarts. I also picked up some Ski Queen caramel flavoured Norwegian cheese as a gift for my mom from Alex Farm Products. And, although it wasn’t quite international but more a Toronto local favourite, I couldn’t resist getting one of the award-winning “World Famous Peameal Bacon Sandwiches” from the landmark Carousel Bakery.
Year-round, the main St. Lawrence Market South building located at 93 Front St E. is open Tuesdays to Fridays from 9am to 5pm and on Saturdays for Market Day from 5am to 4pm. Saturdays are definitely the best time to visit. The building fills with locals shopping for their groceries as well as tourists visiting the iconic location and indulging in some local and international flavours. And, for the best selections of goods, visit in the morning just after the Market opens!
Next on my list is to check out the North Market, primarily known for its Saturday Farmers’ Market and Sunday Antique Market, in its temporary location at 125 The Esplanade while its original location gets a refresh.
Happy exploring and shopping!