In 2008, The Westside Market was named one of the “10 Great Public Places in America” Photo by: Trishna Patel

Known as one of Cleveland’s National Historic Landmarks with origins dating back as early as the late 1800s, The West Side Market tells a beautiful story of how the city’s first generation of immigrants, mostly of Eastern European descent, traded their native foods and spices.

It was officially dedicated in 1912 and has grown into the largest operating, public-owned market in the country. The market features over 180 booths with selections of fresh vegetables, meats, fruits, produce, and dairy.

I immediately sensed the vendors’ energy and excitement as they prepared for the hundreds of customers who would soon be meandering the aisles and negotiating prices. As I made my way through the market’s centerpiece- a yellow brick house with an interior concourse, I was hit with the intoxicating aromas of baked goods, cheese products and freshly cut flowers.

As you spend hours sampling foods and talking with friendly vendors of all ethnic backgrounds, it’s easy to understand the market’s historical relevance. At the turn of the century, it began as a haven for Cleveland’s first immigrant community to access and trade familiar foods from their countries of origin. Today, the tradition continues to serve the broader population with an authentic shopping experience; a transition that signifies the growth of the Cleveland community as a whole.

Tourists from all over the world (last year it was estimated more than one million people) visit the market every year with rising interest from television programs highlighting it, from the Travel Channel to the Food Network.

Word to the wise: come hungry, roam aimlessly, and leave happy.

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