I'll take a good farmer's market over a lot of things. Having been lucky enough to live in places with consistently excellent ones (San Francisco, Brooklyn), I find myself seeking out markets when traveling. In addition to checking out local fruits and vegetables, you'll encounter vendors and locals as excited about their foodstuffs as you are about trying them.
The Mercado Municipal in Sao Paulo is up there with the great markets around the world. Towering piles of fruits meet giant sides of freshly butchered pork and beef. Espresso stands crowd next to purveyors of dried fruits and nuts. There are stands dedicated to hot peppers, to candy, and to feijoada ingredients.
You can wander the aisles (loosely organized in sections including raw fish and meat; cheese, cured meats, and spices) sampling cheeses and vegetables, or go upstairs to the market's mezzanine, park at one of the sit down restaurants, and enjoy a cold beer and salty snack.
The market is indoors, housed in an expansive warehouse-like building with cool stone floors. It was constructed in 1928, and many of the vendors have been their for generations. While certainly a destination for tourists, the market is utilized by both Sau Paulo residents and restauranteurs—from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., the market stays open for industry and wholesale buyers. Paulista's might end up there after a big night out, downing greasy, massive sandwiches or delicately fried pasteis.
Needless to say, I went a little shutter-crazy wandering the Mercada. Check out the slideshow for some highlights of the goodies.
Where are some of your favorite markets?