Every truly great city has a market like this – or, at least they should! La Boqueria in Barcelona. Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. Souq Waquif in Doha. Eastern Market here in DC. And in Philly, it is Reading Terminal Market.
I try to visit these markets when I travel because its an easy way to get the local feel and flavors. Like drinking a concentrate of a city’s persona – everyone gathered up in one place together to put on a show for you. Except this is real life – real transactions, actual thriving businesses, everyday local citizens getting their nightly groceries, weary vendors who, oftentimes, have been doing this for generations.
Reading Terminal Market has that generational feel (which Wikipedia confirms, informing us that three current vendors are descendants of original market merchants.) The floor is well-worn. The shops seem keep their own hours, some closed certain days for religious observances. But no one really minds, since three feet away is another equally mouth-watering option.
From the street, you might just walk by if not for the neon signs. Once inside, you’ll hear and taste Philly and imagine what it must have been like all those years ago. Though the train-terminal- (yup, that one you recognize from Monopoly) -turned-market has been upgraded over the years, it is a bit like stepping back through time.
Amye’s Advice? I recommend grabbing a coffee or smoothie and slowly wandering the aisles. Grab a Pennsylvania Dutch souvenir to bring home. Decide on a lunch spot (you really can’t go wrong) and bring your heaping plate to the tables in the center of the market. Put away the phones and challenge yourself to quietly observe. Finish by exiting near 12th and Filbert Streets where you’ll find a confectioner and Italian pastry shop. Personally, I can never choose between the two.