Fish dish: Tokyo's Tsukiji market is famous for its sushi bars / Getty

For a real taste of a city, it's often best to head to the local food market

As you stroll down the aisles of the historic St Lawrence Market ( in downtown Toronto, you'll pass anything from a Ukrainian shop selling spicy home-made sausages to another selling freshly made Mexican mole poblano and cactus-infused tortillas; all an indicator of the city's multi-cultural population. Shopping done, stand in line to sample the freshly fried seafood at Buster's Fish Place or join the queues at the Carousel Bakery for a Peameal sandwich – several layers of Canadian bacon rolled in a corn meal crust then wedged between a soft white bun.

Earlier this year, the first floor of Florence's historic Mercato Centrale ( unveiled a new-look food hall and is now enjoying a mini-renaissance of its own. Unveiled to coincide with the market's 140th anniversary, the first floor is now thronged from 10am to midnight with hungry visitors eager to sample its array of different food stands. With wood-fired pizzas, pasta, fried fish, buffalo mozzarella, breads, cheeses, beers and wines as well as an Eataly grocery store and a cookery school, there is also ample seating to enjoy the fruits of your plunders and soak up the hustle and bustle.

Visitors to Rotterdam's newest landmark, a horseshoe-shaped apartment building, will also see the Netherlands' first covered market – a key element in the city's regeneration. The spectacular Markthal (, in the up-and-coming district of Laurens, is replete with almost 100 stalls and eight restaurants.

Further north, Scandinavian food fans should take a peek at Helsinki's historic Old Market Hall (vanhaka, which reopened in the Finnish capital in June after a five-month renovation. The building dates from 1889. Whether you are after wild berries or reindeer meat, you can find it here. At its heart is the new Nordic Café and Story Restaurant serving an all-day menu put together with ingredients from the market stalls.

At Tokyo's legendary Tsukiji market, the tuna auctions are off-limits to tourists until 17 January 2015, because it is such a busy time of year. As the market is scheduled to move to the Toyosu district in early 2016, catch it before it goes at one of the market's atmospheric sushi bars that start serving at 5am.

The tiny, cramped bars of Sushi Daiwa and Sushi Dai are the most celebrated, but such is their popularity you'll need to start queuing around the same time the fish market springs to life. If you need an alternative, even the most ardent raw fish fans would be impressed by the offerings at Sushi Bun, also in the market.