Mercado Municipal de São Paulo
As soon as I knew I was visiting São Paulo, I was excited at the prospect of the local markets. I imagined all sorts of weird and wonderful fruits and vegetables, displayed on hap-hazzard stalls on the side of the road. What I hadn’t anticipated was the grandiose Central Municipal market, known by the locals as “Mercadão”, meaning “big market”. A good description, but it hardly does this location justice. It’s a Neo-classical/Neo-baroque building with Gothic touches, some of which was imported from Germany.
The opening of this market was delayed because of the Constitutionalist Revolution of 1932, and for a period of time the building became a military headquarters, and a warehouse for arms and explosives. But in January of 1933, this building opened for its original purpose.
This impressive market is a cavernous space illuminated by 55 topical stained glass windows. The main floor is a labyrinth of over 280 well laid out stalls, selling fruits and vegetables, spices, meat, poultry and seafood.
There’s a good selection of snack stalls to eat on the ground floor, but the main restaurant area is on the mezzanine level. This is where you get a birds eye view of the action below, and a selection of restaurants offering traditional Brazilian dishes, the most famous of which is the Pastel de Bacalhau (salted-cod pastry).
What to Eat
As soon as anyone I interacted with knew I was visiting the market, they encouraged me to visit the Hocca Bar, a São Paulo tradition, which is original creator of the city’s famous codfish pastry (pastel de bacalhau) an iconic dish that’s part of São Paulo’s cultural heritage.
In 1952 Portuguese immigrants Horácio Gabriel and wife Maria de Deus Ferreira opened their bar at Mercado Municipal and started making a pastry packed with shredded codfish, according to an old family recipe.
Each day, literally thousands of visitors head to the market to chow down on one. This isn’t the only place in town to get a pastel — they’re sold at restaurants and street vendors all over town, but the Hocca is it’s home.
The main ingredient in pastel de bacalhau is salted cod, and it’s for sale in the seafood aisle of the market.
I found this quote on Rick Steves Blog about salted cod in Portugal:
While fresh seafood is abundant, the Portuguese favor cod — salted cod, to be specific. Perhaps cod is in their collective DNA from the age when preserved-in-salt cod was the life-sustaining protein sailors filled the bilges of their ships with five centuries ago …. the Portuguese continue to import dried and salted cod from Norway, stack it like wood, and — when it’s time to eat it — soak it and cook it. Frankly, it’s just the strangest thing: a nation’s primary staple imported from far-away Norway.
Video View of Mercadão
As tempting as a Pastel de Bacalhau sounded, I wasn’t in the mood for a fried cod pasty … and ended up at a little seafood stall on the ground floor, where I had some kind of baked crab and potato in a half shell.
I’m not sure what it was called, because the menu was in Portuguese and nobody on the stall could speak English. But I saw one of the other customers eating one, and I pointed at it to order. Sometimes that’s the best way to explore the menu.
Opens at 2:30am for Commercial Customers and 5:00am for the general public
Closes at 4:00pm
Open Monday to Saturday, Closed on Sunday
Closest Metrô: São Bento.
Address: Rua da Cantareira 306, Sé Centro, São Paulo, 01024–000| Map It
- Hours: Mon.–Sat. 6–6, Sun. 6–4