Porto Alegre’s geographic and symbolic heart is the Mercado Público (Praça XV de Novembro, Centro, tel. 51/3289-1756, www.portoalegre.rs.gov.br/mercadopublico, 8:30 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 8:30 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat.). Completed in 1869, this rather grand, biscuit-colored neoclassical building has an interesting (and very well-organized) array of stalls proffering everything from food, wine, cookware, and herbs to handicrafts from all over the state.
Be sure to check out the stalls selling religious objects used in Afro-Brazilian Umbanda rituals as well as the umpteen varieties of Gaúchos’ bitter and beloved erva maté.
For refreshments, do like the locals and stop for an icy chopp at Naval or an icy suco or sorvete at Banca 40, which has been selling homemade ice creams for over 50 years.
The Café do Mercado (Loja 103, tel. 51/3029-2490) serves up one of the best espressos in the city. The market is a favorite gathering place during happy hour (bars and restaurants stay open later than the markets’ stalls).
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition