Public markets are more than just places selling local goods. They are treasured community meeting places and festive gathering spots where you can celebrate the seasons, catch up on the latest news, trade tips and recipes, eat and drink, and bring home a trove of fresh catch, seasonal fruit and veggies, and homespun arts and crafts. Here are Canada’s best.
Fredericton Boyce Farmers’ Market
Friendly folks, great food trucks, ultra-fresh produce, and delicious multi-cultural fare make the covered Fredericton Boyce Farmers’ Market on the St. John River one of the country’s best community markets, and a local tradition. Pick up a hand-knit hat or handmade sausages. On offer is a wide variety of crafts, ceramics, jewelry, food — from fresh-squeezed OJ, Chinese dumplings and samosas, to pesticide-free produce, fresh lobster and seafood, and artisan goodies from 250 suppliers. In summer, the parking lot is lined with farmers, too. Arrive by 9 am to avoid the crowds, and linger over breakfast and a cup of coffee. Fun year-round events include FROSTival’s ice sculptures in the winter.
Downtown’s ByWard Market is a distinctive neighborhood of handsome brick buildings from the 1800s. It’s also the community heart of Ottawa. Locals and visitors go to the ByWard to do yoga, dance and lounge, sample the latest cuisine and craft beer, chat at a cafe, and people watch. Central is the historic outdoor public farmers’ market, operating since 1826. The 175 vendors artfully display their artisan chocolates, charcuterie, bouquets, fine teas, and fresh produce, embellished with an assortment of exceptional arts and crafts.
Granville Island Public Market
Vancouver, British Columbia
On the water near the green-glass towers of downtown, dockside Granville Island Public Market is a Vancouver must. Locals and visitors love the bustling covered marketplace, packed with immaculate stacks of colorful produce, fresh fish and crab on ice, warm-from-the-oven bread, fresh-brew coffee, handmade chocolate truffles, wheels of artisan cheese, craft sake, and gourmet sausage. Lee’s Donuts are a requisite indulgence. Just as entertaining is the walkable area of this reclaimed cement factory lined with funky converted warehouses turned artist studios, boutiques, ateliers, galleries, restaurants, and theaters. Spend the day and take a guided culinary market tour with Edible Canada.
Le Marché St. Norbert Farmers’ Market
Domed under a cheery new canopy, Winnipeg’s Le Marché St. Norbert Farmers’ Market is the place to buy fresh veg. Manitoba’s farm families convene here with their produce for a total of 130 full-timers and 50 visiting vendors Saturday mornings and seasonally on Wednesdays — the province’s largest market and one that’s run by farmers. Find fresh flowers, honey, meats, preserves, and produce, and meet the bakers and soap makers. The mantra: Quality, variety, and freshness from Canada’s breadbasket. Buskers and Métis musicians keep the ambiance festive. Pick up hand-hewn furniture and wooden toys, leather goods, patio chairs, metal work, and custom jewelry, too.
Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market
See North America’s oldest continually operating marketplace, the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, on the vibrant Halifax waterfront. This place has been a bustling center since 1750 and it’s still the city’s most popular market. Today there are 250 vendors in a giant, two-level warehouse space — the standard produce sellers, but also shops, artists, cafes, galleries, even a museum. Talk to the farmers, fishmongers, take a workshop or join a seed exchange, dine at a farm-to-table eatery, and soak up the lively university student scene. Don’t leave without a cuppa from Java Blend.
Get in on the seasonal bounty — apples, grapes, tomatoes, cherries, edible flowers, and herbs, plus locally raised beef and poultry — grown in this agriculture-rich province, most recently famed for dabbling in grape-less fruit wines. Indoor-outdoor Crossroads Market in Calgary is the go-to — Alberta’s biggest year-round market with 100 producers. There’s a focus on locally grown and immigrant imports: German wieners and baked goods and Cambodian specialties, to name a few. Sample a homemade cherry pie, the popular beef jerky, or taste the espresso-gelato creation called affogato. Expect lots of families in a relaxed, welcoming ambiance — a perfect Saturday morning outing.
Lachute Farmers’ Market
Tuesdays and Sundays are for one-stop Lachute Farmers’ Market on the west side of Quebec City. There isn’t much you won’t find at this sprawling 15-acre site, which includes a flea market, indoor antiques emporium, farmers’ market, restaurants, entertainment, and horse auction, with the equine haggling beginning at 2 pm. As many as 500 are selling you name it just about anything — food and produce, clothes and shoes, treasures and trinkets. Arrive by 7 am, though, if you want to take home a coveted vintage find. The place has been an institution since the 1950s and it’s easy to see why.
Saskatoon Farmers’ Market
Set in an old Saskatoon electrical warehouse and garage, the member-owned co-op Saskatoon Farmers’ Market is about homegrown produce, baked goods, and crafts. Try to visit the 100-vendor, indoor-outdoor market during one of the many year-round special events: Chef demos, shopping nights, concerts, ladies’ night out. In summer, picnic and watch buskers perform down by the South Saskatchewan River. Don’t leave without eating a warm, flaky, luscious pie made from the prairie province’s famed berries: Saskatoon berry, blueberry, raspberry... it’s all delicious.
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