This market is huge, really huge – and busy.
The Maastricht treaty is probably what makes this city sound so familiar. But it has more to offer, especially style and good shopping opportunities in a very nice historic setting. The Friday market adds its share to enhance the shopping experience. And it is very large, according to official sources up to 300 stalls. This alone is impressive. I am not sure, but I guess the produce and food section represents more than half of all these stalls, the other ones were more into clothes, textiles, bike spare parts and equipment etc.
What was impressive?
This Friday market exudes a real buzz. Even in the earlier hours people queued at some stalls for their shopping. The vendors are very communicative in many languages (Dutch, English, German & French) to attract their clientele and serve them with high efficiency. The supply never seems to end. All produce, be it fruits, vegetables, meat, fish etc. are piled and busy hands make sure that those piles never get to small to impress potential buyers.
In the meat and fish section, it seemed that there is a zero waste policy. All parts of the animals were being sold. You will find minor fish cuts to make a fish soup of fish stock. I am not sure what chicken feet are good for, but there certainly will be a recipe somewhere in this city.
The fish stalls are something worth visiting. First there are plenty of them, each with a wide choice. Most of them are clustered at the Northern side of the market making comparisons very easy. Not being familiar enough with fish I would not be able to name them, but it is certainly overwhelming to see the different shapes and colours. It seemed that most come from the North Sea. I even found oysters, which always makes me happy. The further offering consisted also of smoked fish and street food, often seafood in a batter and then fried. I am not sure how one chooses her favourite fish stall, but all looked great.
The meat stalls were selling mainly chicken and some pork as well as convenience food. Chicken was rarely sold as a whole but each butcher seemed to have a big pile of each of the chicken parts: breast, wings, drumsticks, heart, feet, you name it. Next to those chicken specialists who reminded of wholesale business, there were more traditional butchers with a larger variety of animals and often meals for taking home like goulash etc. Lately I seem to suddenly “discover” rabbit on each market, this market not being an exception. The whole rabbit I saw came from France (see picture gallery). The sausage choice was rather limited comparing to what one will encounter in Germany.
When in the Netherlands it is a must to buy some cheese – Gouda is certainly the most known one, still the country has more to offer. Strangely enough, I saw only a few stalls in comparison to the meat & fish ones and they were distributed across the market. One of the characteristics of Dutch cheese is that it is being sold in different maturity groups, from young to very old. The older the cheese the more concentrated is the flavour, the young ones are very mild. I got a few: an old gouda (approx. 18 months, one with cumin, a young cheese and a Limburger (the one with distinct odour). Happiness back home!
The Netherlands are a hub of the global flower trade. Alsmeer is the location of the world’s largest trading centre for flowers and plants. Maastricht market makes a show case out of it. Many stalls offer flowers, bouquets and more in all kinds of colours. Enough to make the right choice for a loved one.
The fruit & vegetable stalls were a plenty as well. They looked like wholesale business going retail. Boxes and boxes full of what the greenhouses, fields and orchards across the planet are able to offer in large quantities. The prices were low, which also explains why so many people were doing their purchases here.
Besides all the produce, many street food stalls serve the market: fish & chips, all kinds of Asian ones, filled donuts and much more. Trying a mixed seafood platter – with batter and fried, accompanied by a remoulade was rather disappointing. The donut filled with apple was a winner.
By the way: the Maastricht Friday market has been awarded best one in the Netherlands in 2014.
What was less impressive?
Despite the wide choice, especially when it comes to fish, this market offers rather commodities than specialties or gourmet stuff. Being familiar with European markets, there will be no real surprise. To a certain extent it is a huge outdoor supermarket – for feeding people in an affordable manner it is the place to be.
Some of the street food would have deserved a more sophisticated twist, it would make them truly unique. This is especially valid for the fish food.
But the market still fascinates me, my thoughts are coming back to all what I saw. There is some attraction I cannot explain. Probably it is the impressive buzz at the market, it gives me a great incentive to cook more often with truly fresh stuff.
All in all: A market which is attractive because of its sheer size and buzz. The large choice and quantity of fish is remarkable.
A little link list: