The central food market in Santiago de Compostela

Food markets are usually my first destination when I visit a new city. There is so much local knowledge to be learned by just strolling around their stalls that I like to think of them as a strong all-in-one jab of local history, culture, society, architecture, education and gastronomy. That’s why I find them so terrifically inspiring.

For anyone sharing my fascination for local food markets, the central food market in Santiago de Compostela will become a superlative revelation. A place so central to the pulse of the Galician capital that it’s difficult to make sense of this city without the St. James’ way pilgrims or the stalls of this market.

The Mercado de Abastos is placed in the Rúa das Ameas and it has been trading here – in one way or another – for the last 300 years. The first proper building in this site dates from 1873, being the first permanent structure housing all the different city markets of that time. In 1941, the current building was erected to replace the original one and to answer the growing needs of the market.

The mercado as we know it today went through a final remodelling in the year 2000, giving the stalls the aspect we can witness nowadays. Today the market is the second most visited attraction in Santiago and a blast of life, colour, bustle, aromas and all sort of stimuli to the senses.

Come here early in the morning to enjoy the real local atmosphere and catch the best pieces of fish, seafood, meat, fruit or vegetables. Here you’ll find yourself amongst a mix of old ladies, local chefs and young foodies.

If you’re not a morning person and rather coming for a late brunch or an early glass of Albariño, the market reaches its bustling peak at midday, just before the stalls start looking emptier and the surrounding bars – serving fresh produce from the market – get busier. Several of them will even cook whatever you get in the market, should you want to go real and buy some fresh products.

This is not your average food market. It is a temple to venerate one of the best fresh produce in the continent. A sanctuary to celebrate Galicia and its very rich, very generous food culture. A place that questions whether the pilgrims make it all the way here to see the apostle St. James or to enjoy some of the local food.