Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Top Food Markets of the World: Mercado Ver-o-Peso

Welcome back to round 4 of our Top Food Markets of the World Series! Number 4 on National Geographic's list is Mercado Ver-o-Peso.

via Flickr by Renato Ribeiro
Located in Belém, Brazil, the Mercado Ver-o-Peso has a longstanding history with both locals and visitors as the must-see market of the area. Belém is located at the mouth of the Amazon River, and as such Ver-o-Peso boasts an incredible selection of rare and exotic meat, fish, and produce.

Ver-o-Peso first opened in 1625 as a tax collection location for the Portuguese Crown. In fact, the market’s name comes from this part of its history; “Ver-o-Peso” is a shortened form of the Portuguese phrase “Haver-o-Peso,” which means to “possess or obtain the weight.” The tax collectors at this time were collecting tariffs on items being shipped on the river based on their weight instead of their value. While the tax collectors are now long gone, the name stuck!

This location has almost 400 years of history behind it, but the market as it’s known today was established at the end of the 19th century. Renowned for it’s Belle Époque architectural style, some of the original structures were in fact built in England and then shipped to Brazil to be reassembled. The market now covers over 35,000 square meters and houses upwards of 2,000 vendors!

Mercado Ver-o-Peso

Location: In front of the Bay of Guajará, Belém, Brazil

Operating Hours: Daily, Early Morning to Late Afternoon

via Flickr by Celso Abreu

Where Should I Go?

There’s a lot to see at the Mercado Ver-o-Peso! You’re sure to find everything from freshly caught Amazonian fish to an abundance of açai berries. This market is very cleverly organized according to the items being sold, so it makes it very easy to quickly compare prices and quality if you’re looking for something in particular.

Here’s a little guide to help you with your visit:
  • Açai Fair. This open market is home for all of the berry merchants. Check it out if you are in search of the freshest açai berries on the planet.
  • Ver-o-Peso Docks. Here you can watch the local fishermen dock and unload their daily catch to sell at the market.
  • Iron Market. This area of the market is the gothic-style structure shipped from England in the late 19th century. In this section you will find more fresh fish for sale.
  • Meat Market. As you can probably guess, this area of the market houses local meat merchants! 
  • Clock Square. Stop by this area if you’d like to take a look at the very impressive iron clock that was shipped from England. It has been a permanent resident of the market for over 100 years!
  • Solar da Beira. Various art expositions are held here throughout the year, so if you’re lucky you might be able to take in some local art during your visit as well.
  • Free Market. You will find a variety of items for sale in the free market, which include (but are not limited to) an array of hand-made items, local dishes, medicines, and natural essence perfumes.

via Flickr by claudiocareca_cba

What Visitors are Saying

“It’s incredible the variety of fruits, colors, smells, tastes you can find at Ver-o-Peso. Even if you are Brazilian, you will be delighted.” – driprado  
“The smell of the herbs of rainforests, birds, fish, exotic fruits. We are on the border of the Amazon. The people are warm and friendly. Be sure to try the goldfish and some of the acai.” – Fernando_Vasques  
“Plenty of places to grab a snack and something cold to drink. A great place for cultural learning as the local vendors are more than happy to share their knowledge of the different foods and spices that are for sale.” – Marcos C  
“We were shocked and disappointed by how poor it now is in comparison to its former glory – it is simply not worth bothering with any more.” – David E  
“The Ver-o-Peso market is a must-see in Belém and a trade spot dating back to the 18th century. Its four towered iron buildings are for Belém what the Statue of Liberty is to New York.” – UrielPinho  
“Wonderful outdoor market. Must arrive early (6-7am) to see the acai and fish markets in full glory. Medicine, craft, fruit, meat, nuts, and snack sections are all worthwhile although better visited after 9am.” – Paul R 

The Bottom Line

General consensus is that the Mercado Ver-o-Peso is a must-see if you’re in Belém. While there are some unpleasant accounts and general safety concerns voiced by visitors, that is to be expected of a market located in a developing country. You’re best to exercise common sense and avoid bringing valuable possessions with you on your visit. Still, the promise of exotic Amazonian produce and fish is enough to entice a visit should we find ourselves in Brazil!

via Flickr by claudiocareca_cba
Have you visited the Mercado Ver-o-Peso before? We’d love to hear about your experience (and what you bought!) in the comments below.