A good way of discovering the true essence of cities is to walk around their markets. In southern European countries, markets are where people gather every day, where traditions don´t modernise themselves with time. If you are in the city of Porto, that epicentre of people, food and colour is Bolhão Market.
This is a place that no visitor to the city can miss out on. The market is located in a two-floor building with a large interior courtyard, where you can find the stalls that sell fruit, vegetables, fish and meat, everything as fresh as you like. The atmosphere that you can sense in this market is totally authentic, and it´s normal to hear how the sellers shout out their product offers and the low prices that they are selling them at. Here they sell all sorts of fresh produce and if you go early in the morning you will be able to see how the farmers come in with their products to sell them. The market is open every day from 7am to 5pm, although if you want to find the freshest food and fully enjoy this lively place, you better come early in the morning.
If you were planning on cooking a traditional Portuguese meal to cook yourself, Bolhão Market is the ideal place to go to. You can get here easily since you just have to get off at Bolhão metro stop, with the market located on Rua Sá da Bandeira, in the Santo Ildefonso district. This place has been a centre of commerce since 1839, when the Chamber of Porto decided to build a square to sell their products. The place developed quickly and in 1914 they built the building where the market is housed today, a huge advance at the time in terms of architecture, since it was built in reinforced concrete on metal structures covered in wood and granite masonry. This market isn´t as spectacular as some of its European counterparts but it´s definitely a place that will satisfy those who are searching for the city´s true essence. It´s important to say that one of the good things about this market is that all the stalls are grouped depending on what they sell, so you will be able to compare prices without going from one end of the market to the other.
Since it opened, the market has endured many renovations, the most recent one in 2007, and it hasn´t been controversy free, as there were strong support groups of keeping it in its original appearance. Also, here you can eat and have a drink as well as buying food, and you can rest assured that what you eat will be of the freshest quality. The small bars sell traditional portuguese dishes (you can´t miss out on the famous francesinha, the meat sandwich with melted cheese on top and sauce, served with fries) at low prices.
In any case, not everything that is sold here is food. There are also stalls that sell typical regional products to take back home as a souvenir, ideal for gifts. Unlike other markets of big tourist destinations, Bolhão Market hasn´t been ´corrupted´ by tourism and it keeps the authenticity and tradition that it has been showing since its opening 175 years ago.
You can´t miss out on this great alternative attraction of this Portuguese city, so rent your Porto apartments and spend the morning discovering and exploring this market which is such an important part of the city.