One of the more unusual places we visited on our tour of Portugal was Mercado do Bolhão, Porto’s famous market in the city’s historic center. The market dates to the first half of the 19th century, when the city decided it needed a central market for vendors to sell their goods. In 1914 the current building was opened as the market’s home. It’s a two-story neoclassical structure with an open courtyard where many of the vendors are located. In 2006 the market was classified as a place of public interest.
While much of the merchandise is now geared towards tourists the Mercado do Bolhão has been able to maintain the feel of a traditional market. There are stalls offering fresh vegetables, fish, meat and flowers as well as wine and tourist offerings such as cork products and souvenirs. The baked goods looked nice and the fishmonger had huge octopi for sale. One vendor offers live rabbits and chickens. A few cats laze in sunny spots.
We didn’t experience it, but the female vendors are rumored to use crude language that would rival my own mastery of curse words. Since the use of foul language is supposed to be a sign of higher intelligence in people, we’ll give them a pass.
I’ve read that shortly after our visit to Portugal the Mercado do Bolhão was moved to a temporary location while the existing building is renovated. I’m glad that the city values the market so that they will renovate it rather than tear it down to make space for a new venture. Hopefully the market will retain its unique character when it returns after the renovation.