A visit to the Mercado Municipal in Sao Paulo, Brazil

The local markets are, in many ways, the heart and soul of any city. Sao Paulo is no exception, and the Mercado Municipal was alive and crowded with vendors and customers, locals and tourists alike. It had an energy and vibrancy that was simply phenomenal. The market is not incredibly old (it opened for business in 1933), but it is housed in a beautiful building along the Tamanduateí River and houses an incredible variety of culinary treats.

Fresh fruit was one of the best represented offerings in the market, with plenty of stalls, a tremendously broad selection and lots of vendors offering up samples to potential customers. The fruit was beautifully arrayed and, based both on the small sample I purchased and the looks on the faces of the other customers, quite delicious, too.

Showing the Portuguese and Italian heritage of the nation, the market had more bacalao (dried, salted cod) on offer than anywhere else I’ve ever seen it. Add in a number of shops selling pork products of various persuasions and it felt quite a bit like we were in El Boqueria in Barcelona rather than South America. Small world, huh?

The meats were particularly impressive in their variety and certainly fresh, too. At least one of the vendors was curing and drying meats right there in the market. It doesn’t get much better than that.

There were butchers (mostly pork on offer) and cheese shops. There’s a liquor store (they were having a beer tasting as I passed by) and flowers and sweets and spices and olives and fish and lots of other options, too. It was very much a foodie overload. And that’s even before you I got to the prepared food stalls.

Down on the main level of the market there are a few stalls that operate as restaurants. Seating comes at a premium – there isn’t a lot of space for tables and they can get quite crowded – but the food is delicious. I chose one of the shops and settled in for a Pernil sandwich and a Chopp (pronounced shop-ee), the local brew.

More food than I could handle and a deliciously refreshing, cold beer. I even managed to snag a seat thanks to one of the waiters. Truly nothing to complain about at all. And they had several other options available. Plus, there were several other restaurants available, both on the ground level and upstairs on the mezzanine.

Up on the mezzanine the shops were more like real restaurants than food stalls. Lots more seating space and a bit of variety in dining options. Plus waiters with plenty of Chopp to be had by all.

The views down onto the market floor were also rather spectacular.

The stained glass windows in the market are beautifully ornate. The artist, Russian Sorgenicht Conrad Filho, also produced the stained glass windows in the Sé Cathedral in Sao Paulo and hundreds of other churches across the country. Seeing the beauty of the windows, both in the market and later in the cathedral, I can understand why he was invited to produce so many. They are stunning.

The Mercado Municipal is definitely worth a stop as you pass through Sao Paulo. Have a snack and a beer and relax amidst the beautiful fresh produce and cured meats. Even with the hustle and bustle of the patrons and merchants it can be quite a pleasant break from the rest of Sao Paulo.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.