Mercado dos Lavradores – buzzing market in Funchal
The best place to get in touch with locals, local customs and culture is to visit the market. Every Portuguese town has a market where people buy their vegetables, fruits, fish and meat, but the island of Madeira has a very big and lively one. It is called the Mercado dos Lavradores and is waiting for you in Funchal’s city centre.
Meet the locals
For me, the best reason to visit the Mercado dos Lavradores is to walk around in all that buzzing activity. It’s great to mingle with the locals, to listen to them interact and getting a peak of what they will be having for diner that night.
I love watching the tough fishmongers working their knives through the huge fish or the friendly ladies chatting away while selling their colourful flowers. In the middle of all that it’s the tourists with their cameras, but nobody seems to mind.
And then there’s the discovery of unknown foods. Madeira has so many exotic fruits that I had never tasted before I came to the island. Their colours, textures and flavours just blow you away. There’s the fresh fruits and the dried fruits, both of which they let you taste plenty, hoping you get convinced to buy.
Another great discovery are all the types of fish on sale in the fish market. Of course there’s Madeira’s specialty, the black scabbardfish (peixe-espada-preto). Creepy looking guys with their little, sharp teeth, but they taste amazing. And what about the tuna? Sure, I had seen tuna before, but here they are enormous.
Just browse the stalls in this 9,600m² area and get to know all Madeira’s treasures in vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, cheese, spices, herbs and of course flowers.
Another interesting aspect of this market is the building. Inaugurated in 1940, it’s an example of the architecture of Portugal’s Estado Novo regime, meaning a mixture between Art Deco and Modernism. It was designed by Edmundo Tavares. When you enter the building through the main entrance you will see the beautiful tiled panels, displaying regional themes, painted by João Rodrigues. More pretty azulejos (tiles) wait for you inside the building.
The Mercado dos Lavradores is open six days a week, from Monday to Saturday. On Saturday it’s closed in the afternoon!