Markets in Romania supply the country’s kitchens with seasonal fruit and veg on the short food supply chain, often at better prices than supermarkets do. In Bucharest, Piaţa Obor, the country’s largest, is the best equipped to do just that. Also one of the oldest Romanian markets, it dates back long enough for market goers to have witnessed executions, as it shared the same location with the city’s gallows.
Here you can find anything from wild berries and mushrooms from Romania’s mountains, pine shoots for teas and syrups, handcrafted wooden bowls and wicker baskets to sauerkraut, spices, to countless types of honey, cheese and meat products sold at market stalls and small shops spread over some 26,000 square metres. The terraces selling mititei and cheap beer are a great spot for a quick pit stop as well as for mingling with the locals and asking for tips. If visiting in autumn, you’ll be among the lucky ones to sample fresh must, the sweetest grape juice at a dedicated fair, while in winter you may stumble upon the pickles fair.
Located at the crossroads of Calea Buzești and Calea Griviţei, on a famous 19th century trading route, Piaţa Matache is one of Bucharest’s oldest markets. Previously hosted in one of the most remarkable monuments in the capital, it was replaced by a new generic building, not without controversy. A great spot to shop for the basics, it is just the right size to offer the best of everything, including fresh seasonal fruit and veg from farmers in neighbouring counties at a good price. Make sure not to miss the dairy section, which has its own entrance on the right hand side from the main door.
There are no markets in Bucharest’s center. The upscale Piaţa Amzei comes to fill that gap and offers not only fresh produce, but also plenty of flower stalls and gourmet shops spread over three floors. The underground floor hosts the fruit and vegetables stalls, while the ground floor mixes flower stalls and shops where you will find delicacies from all over the country and beyond. The first floor is reserved for fresh fish and meat specialties.
Nearby you will find organic food shops Pukka Food – which also serves fresh food at its own eatery – and Ki-life. At the weekend be sure to check out the stalls aligned on the right hand side, where you can find antiques as well as old books and newspapers and handmade jewellery. The best time to visit is at the weekend, when the cafés, bakeries and gourmet shops in the square and surrounding streets are at their liveliest.
The Coșbuc flower market is found in the Rahova neighbourhood, a quaint area of Bucharest with typical Romanian brick houses surrounded by gardens. Calea Rahovei, where the market is located, has a long tradition of hosting flower markets, as shown by its previous name of Flower-girl’s Road. Opposite the market, the beautifully renovated building of the former Bucharest Stock Exchange, now hosting creative hub The Ark, keeps alive the area’s old charm.
Although primarily a wholesale market, this flower market is Bucharest’s best kept public secret, especially at the beginning of March, when Romanians celebrate Mărțișor and Women’s Day by offering flowers. Our tip: prepare to haggle like nowhere else in Bucharest, except, perhaps for Valea Cascadelor (see below)!
Valea Cascadelor, translated as Valley of the Waterfalls, is Bucharest’s largest flea market. A sea of market stalls filled with the most varied merchandise you can think of cascading onto the pavement, this is the place to shop for just about anything. The eager sellers will point you towards clothes and accessories, old books and photographs, vinyl, as well as toys, home appliances, bikes and communist era memorabilia, sometimes even delivered to you from their car trunks.
Open Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, Valea Cascadelor can be reached by public transport departing from Unirii Square in about 40 minutes. The best time to arrive is in the morning, when you can peruse the stalls at a leisurely pace, together with bargain seekers and collectors, before the crowds arrive.
A ten-minute walk from Arcul de Triumf, one of Bucharest’s major landmarks, Piaţa Agronomiei is the place to sample fresh gourmet products made by small, family businesses from around the country. Try the fish soup, grilled fish, fish mititei and fish roe salads from Victoriţa Pescăriţa, or opt for mămăligă cu sarmale from La Maramureșence, all made on the spot. Wash it all down with a Zăganu, an unpasteurised artisanal beer bottled and labeled by hand. Open every day from 8am-2pm, the market boasts a space with wooden tables and benches where you can enjoy your meal in the shade.
Piaţa Progresul is Bucharest’s largest food market. Located in the Giurgiului neighbourhood, a labyrinthian mix of streets dotted with old houses and Communist era blocks of flats, the market has a long history. Over the years, it has taken place in many buildings, and since 2013 has been housed in a new and modern structure with underground parking – spread over two floors, it covers some 18,000 square meters. As Bucharest is surrounded by counties where a lot of Romania’s output of fruit and vegetables is grown, this market focuses on local and seasonal produce.
Perhaps an odd entry to the list of the best markets in Bucharest, in Hala Traian you won’t encounter heaps of products piled up and handwritten price tags; instead, all products are arranged neatly, their price shown on electronic displays. That is because, currently, the building of what was once one of Bucharest’s most important markets hosts a supermarket.
Nevertheless, Hala Traian is definitely worth a visit, as it is the only such building of its type left standing in Bucharest. Finished in 1896, the brick and metal edifice designed by Italian architect Giulio Magni, the man behind Bucharest’s old Stock Exchange, was modelled after a Parisian market hall. Initially intended as a meat and fish market, it served the inhabitants of the surrounding Jewish neighbourhood.