Exploring Odessa’s Public Markets

I made every effort to visit at least one of Odessa’s many colorful markets each day. I never had to go too far out of my way to make this happen, as most of them were in Old Town, seldom more than a few blocks away from wherever I was at the time.

Privoz Market, the main city market near Odessa’s main train station, is one of the largest farmer’s markets in the world. The smaller Novyi Bazar, started in 1850, is located in the heart of the historic district in a building that is an architectural gem.

City Food Market, a “foodies” food court which is frequented mostly by upwardly-mobile young Odessans, occupies a stunning historic building in the heart of Old Town. Odessa Book Market, a fascinating holdover from Soviet times, stretches for a long city block under cover in a park-like atmosphere in old town.

Privoz Market

Privoz Market is one of Odessa’s top tourist attractions. It began in 1827 when wares were sold from the back of horse driven carts.

Full-fledged shops mingle with street-side vendor stalls and stout women perched on stools surrounded by their goods for sale. There are over 6000 vendors participating. Consumer goods abound. Huge individual sections of the market are devoted to meat, cheese, fruit and fish.

Eating samples of fresh homemade cheese in the large cheese section was a special treat. Buying any was a challenge because nobody spoke English. I watched what others were buying around me, tried to figure out what they paid, and then ordered the same.

I was constantly lost in the narrow maze of lanes, but that was half the fun.

City Food Market

The recently restored building that housed the City Food Market looked like a former palace from the outside. Itinerant tribes used to congregate here for jamborees. The two-story building is divided among prepared shops, each with its own kitchen dedicated to a particular product.

The international cuisine was delicious. The vegan and “green” stalls appeared to be some of the most popular. The young staff in the food court generally spoke English, which made ordering a wiz. I enjoyed observing the chic, young Odessan professionals who packed the place.

The prices were higher than what I was used to paying in local restaurants about town. But dining in Odessa was generally so inexpensive that paying a bit more in this “foodies” food hall hardly made a dent in my budget. The atmosphere was worth every extra hryvnia (Ukrainian currency) I paid.

Odessa Book Market

One day while I was crossing a wide leafy boulevard, I stopped in the middle to listen to a male musician with disheveled long hair playing popular tunes at an old upright piano. He was next to a casual outdoor bar and some book stalls. This was one end of the Odessa Book Market which was under a long metal and glass dome.

The book market was important during Soviet times when books were hard to come by. One book stall that caught my attention was promoting *Lonely Planet guide books in Ukrainian language.

Novyi Bazar

Whenever I wanted a quick breakfast of oranges, cheese, and some fresh bread, I headed for the Novyi Bazar, which was only a few blocks from my hostel. No English was spoken there and I didn’t know any Ukrainian. Whenever I bought fruit, I assumed any posted price was for a kilo and then proceeded to buy a kilo. Not a flawless way to shop, but I got the fruit!

Near the market was a traditional Georgian bakery. The neighboring country of the Republic of Georgia shared a common history for a time with Ukraine, both of them being one of the former Soviet Republics. Georgia’s traditional foods and baked goods of meat-and-cheese-filled pastries are popular all over Ukraine. I loved their hot bread which came out of their round, floor-mounted traditional oven.

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*A series of internationally acclaimed guide books especially geared to independent travellers

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