It's easy to think of farmers' markets as a new travel obsession: in the decade between 2004 and 2014, over 5,000 more farmers markets cropped up across the United States. Today's consumers are demanding access to fresh produce, local and seasonal products, and food grown without chemicals.
However, that's actually nothing new. Markets have been a part of civilization for thousands and thousands of years. There's archaeological evidence that the macellum (or provisions market) in Pompeii was at the heart of the city, where locals would barter for meats, produce, and breads. The Pompeii market no longer exists, but you can get your fair share of history and incredible produce by visiting 5 of the oldest farmers markets in the world, from England to Turkey to the United States.
Location: London, England
History: With its 1,000th birthday in the books in 2014, the Borough Market certainly has stood the test of time. In 1014, Southwark, located on the opposite bank of London, was considered a "great market town" and sold everything from corn to cattle to bread, wine, and ale.
For around 300 years, from the 1200s to 1450s, the City of London banned its citizens from buying goods from the Southwark market and the vendors who set up on the London Bridge, because the city wanted its residents to buy within city walls so that the city could profit from those taxes. In 1550, King Edward VI sold the Borough Market to the City of London for approximately 1,000 pounds.
Over the next 500 years, the Borough Market's location has changed several times, due to fires, congestion, and other issues, but you can now find the market just south of Southwark Cathedral on Southwark Street and Borough High Street. The current incarnation of the Borough Market was built in 1756.
Location: Melbourne, Australia
History: Queen Victoria Market officially opened in 1878 as a wholesale fruit and vegetable market, established only 6 years after Australia became a colony. The market is famously known as the largest market in Australia and one of the largest markets in the world. Spread across 17 acres, the market vendors sell fresh produce, meats, cheeses and dairy, as well as non-food items, like arts and crafts, pottery, and fabrics.
The market has a colorful and controversial history. The original hay market was first used as a female penitentiary. Parts of the Market’s location were once the site of a cemetery, and not only that, but it was Melbourne’s first official cemetery, housing the remains of approximately 10,000 of Australia’s early settlers. When the market was growing in size, 914 bodies were removed and relocated to other cemeteries; however, an unreported number of bodies still remain underneath the market’s car park.
Location: Easton, Pennsylvania
History: Since 1752, Pennsylvania’s Easton Farmers’ Market, an open-air market, has never shut its figurative doors. EFM claims the title of “America’s Longest Continuous Running Open-Air Market.” Easton, Pennsylvania is located on the river, in between New York City, Philadelphia, and Trenton, making it the perfect location for trade and community gatherings.
On July 8, 1776, the “Great Square” at Easton Farmers' Market was one of only three places where the Declaration of Independence was publicly read. Today, the indoors market is smaller than the large outdoors market, but the indoor portions are housed in a dry goods store built in 1897.
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
History: The Spice Bazaar was built in 1660 in Istanbul to help fund the construction of the New Mosque next door, because the revenues from the vendors' rental paid for the upkeep of the mosque. The Spice Market was called the Egyptian market because many of the sellers were Egyptian and brought spices for sale to Istanbul. The Spice Bazaar soon became the center of Istanbul's spice trade and continues to be the center of the spice trade, today. The market is a whirlwind of smells and colors, with mounds of spices piled high in front of dozens of shops across the dim and cool market.
Location: Rome, italy
History: The Campo de Fiori is today Rome's most popular market, a bustling place where visitors can find an abundance of flowers and fruits and vegetables. However, in the early 1600s, this plaza was used for executions.
In 1600, Giordano Bruno was burnt alive for heresy because he claimed that the stars were distant suns with planets surrounding them and that those planets could potentially host life forms on it. In fact, he insisted that the universe was infinite and didn't have any single celestial body at its center. It doesn't sound very heretical today, but he was found guilty by the Inquisition and burned at the stake at the center of the Campo de Fiori, which has led modern-day scientists to consider him a martyr for science. In 1889, a statue was erected to Bruno at the center of the Campo de Fiori.
Since 1869, a daily vegetable and fish market has been held at the Campo de Fiori, which was initially moved from the Piazza Navona. Today, this is one of the most picturesque spots in the Eternal City and you'll find visitors and locals haggling for fruits, vegetables, and flowers at this beautiful piazza.