It is against all odds that fish markets are beautiful. Silver eyes glare up at you as you squeeze past disorderly stalls. Slimey moss grows over mussel shells, tentacles cling to styrofoam boxes, and crustaceans bob around in their tanks awaiting a grim fate. The air is distinctly of the sea and the floors are usually a swamp of saltwater. You are completely surrounded by death, yet fish markets lack the somberness of other meat markets.
In many cultures, fish offers a connection to fading tradition. In others, it is the sole source of income for local people. Seafood is one of the world’s last readily available wild foods. Stepping inside of a fish market can offer a unique window into culture that travel rarely affords so readily.
The World’s Best Fish Markets
Love fish markets as much as we do? We collaborated with other travel photographers to curate the world’s best fish markets so you can get your fish fix too! Some photos have been edited by us and may not reflect the style of the photographer.
Author’s Note: In writing this post, we recognized that certain cultural practices might be considered controversial. We’ve offered links throughout the article to help you make your own decisions. As always, shop responsibly! Overfishing poses serious threat to our oceans. Learn more about sustainable seafood on GoodFishGuide.org.
Tsukiji Fish Market | Japan
2019 Update: Tsukiji Fish Market is officially closed after 83 years in operation! It’s been relocated and now runs under the name Toyosu Fish Market.
“With 900+ vendors selling off 2,888 tons of seafood each day, the Tsukiji Fish Market is the world’s largest fish market. Go for the daily tuna auction** or simply wander the congested web of stalls for a distinctly Japanese experience.” – Taylor of Travel Outlandish
Where: Tokyo, Japan
What to Eat: Maguro (Bluefin Tuna)
Other Info: The inner market of Tsukiji opens to the public at 9am and winds down by 10am. You’ll need to time this trip well to make the most of it. Arrive early for the best breakfast donburi of your life at the outer market!
Read More: Take a look at our other articles from Tokyo
** Should bluefin tuna be listed as an endangered species? Read more on NPR.
Noryangjin Fish Market | South Korea
“The Noryangjin Fish Market in Seoul is a smorgasbord of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. It’s the largest fish market in Korea, and houses over 700 vendors selling fresh and dried seafood.” – Katie of Around the World in KT Days
Where: Seoul, South Korea
Known for: Sannakji (Live Octopus)**
Other Info: Noryangjin Fish Market is best visited in the early hours of the morning (before 6am) when the wholesale vendors are auctioning off their goods. It’s open year-round and all day, but the early morning will be the most lively.
** Is eating sannakji cruel or cultural experience? Check out this article on NPR and decide for yourself.
Pike’s Place |USA
“In addition to the freshest fish – which the sellers are known to toss back and forth sometimes when things get slow – this huge covered market also has some spectacular fruit and produce.” – Carole of Berkeley and Beyond
Where: Seattle, Washington, USA
Known for: Dungeness Crab
Other Info: The market is least crowded before noon. Plan to have lunch in one of the restaurants in the complex.
Port de Pêche d’Essaouira | Morocco
“You’ll find one of the world’s best fish markets in Essaouira. Once the blue fishing boats have floated back into the harbor, order up the days freshest fish from one of the waterfront stalls.” – Taylor of Travel Outlandish
Where: Essaouira, Morocco
Known for: Sardina (Sardines)
Other Info: Go with a local to ensure you get today’s catch and not leftovers from yesterday!
Mercado Modelo | Brazil
“Apart from the great variety of fish, in the morning, vendors in the fish market try to attract huge white birds to fly close. They also feed pink dolphins** that swim close from the river.” – Gábor of Surfing the Planet on touring the Amazon River
Where: Santarém, Brazil
Known for: Piraña (Pirhana)
Other Info: Local people bring their fresh fish every morning so try to be there early.
** Feeding wildlife is unfortunately quite common practice in many parts of the world. Here’s an article from National Geographic on why this is harmful.
Tanji Fish Market | The Gambia
“Seagulls squawking overhead, a pungent smell of fish in the air, people dressed in all the colours of the rainbow with bowls of fish balanced on their heads, the sights, sounds and smells of Tanji Fish market overload your senses, as the equally colourful pirogues (the local fishing boats) are unloaded in a sparkling sea.” – Kat of Travel with Kat
Where: Tanji, The Gambia
Known for: Perch for use in fish benechin
Other Info: The best time to visit is around 4pm when the market is at its most hectic.
Marcat del Peix | Spain
“The Palamós Fish Market is a must-visit for its ultra-fresh seafood and proximity to a fish auction and the Museo de la Pesca.” – Mindi of 2foodtrippers
Where: Costa Brava, Spain
Known for: Gambas de Palamós (Palamós Prawns)
Other Info: The Palamós Fish Market opens at 5pm after the local fishermen return with fresh fish. Visitors can watch the daily fish auction before shopping for fish at the market.
Read More: Check out our other articles on Spain.
The Valparaiso Fish Market | Chile
“The Valparaiso Fish Market isn’t particularly sprawling, but go for the spread of mussels and clams in a hyperlocal setting.” – Taylor of Travel Outlandish
Where: Valparaiso, Chile
Known for: Machas (Razor Clams)
Other Info: The latest catch comes in around mid-day so this is one market where it pays to come late.
Read More: Explore more of our articles on Chile.
Ver-o-Peso | Brazil
“Ver-o-Peso market in Belém Pará, Brazil sits on the banks of the Guamá River which is one of the channels of the Amazon River. Ver-o-Peso was originally named “Casa do Haver-o-Peso” (Have the Weight House) then shortened to its present form. Ver-o-Peso celebrated it’s 390th birthday in March 2017 making it one of the oldest markets in the western hemisphere. (The city of Belém celebrated its 400th birthday in 2016) Since Ver-o-Peso fish market sits at the mouth of the Amazon River it has a vast variety of fresh and saltwater fish and the wider market contains a public açai market and fruits and vegetables often found only in the Amazon Basin.” – Jerome of Travel Boldly and Laudy of Brasil2Brazil
Where: Belém Pará, Brazil
Known for: Dorado (Mahi Mahi) or Gurijubu (Amazonian Catfish) for use in Peixe com Jambu e Tucupi.
Other Info: Ver-o-Peso is open every day. To get the best fish and most interesting people arrive early 7am-8am. There are fewer fish and less people on Saturday and Sunday.
Mercado Negro | Mexico
“Ensenada is a fishing port Baja Norte and since 1958 the outdoor the fish market has sold a huge variety of fish. They are known not only for the quality and freshness of the fish, but the artful and meticulous method in which it’s displayed.” – Alexa of 52 Perfect Days
Where: Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
Known for: Fish Tacos and Tostadas
Other Info: The market is open daily 6AM – 7PM. Next to the market you’ll find small restaurants and food carts offering seafood cocktails, fish tacos and tostadas using the fish from the mercado.