Mercado Ver-o-Peso - Gastro Obscura

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Gastro Obscura

Mercado Ver-o-Peso

Belém, Brazil

This massive waterfront market is located at the "gateway to the Amazon."  

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In the city of Belém, in the Pará state of northern Brazil, is the Ver-o-Peso market. One of largest open air market in all of Latin America, it dates back to colonial times. The name ver o peso directly translates to “check the weight,” and refers to when the Portuguese would check the weight of the market’s merchandise in order to tax it. 

Today the market is a chaotic masterpiece with over 2,000 stalls of goods, many of which hail from the Amazon. You can find pretty much anything at Ver-o-Peso. Massive bags of Brazil nuts line the tables, with vendors cutting the shells off in front of your eyes.

An entire section is dedicated to unique local alcohols, from tropical fruit-based liquors, to the tongue-numbing jambu, to bottles with lobsters and crabs fermenting in the spirits. Feathers from the live birds rustling in their cages fly through the air towards open vats of fresh, colorful tropical juices made from Amazonian fruits. 

Dry herbs hang from booths overflowing with perfumes, tinctures and concoctions hinting at witchcraft. Candies made with local cacao and handicraft souvenirs adorn the stalls on the outer edge of the market. And there is, of course, an ample selection of produce, meat, and seafood of endless variety. 

If you find yourself hungry, you can make your way to the bustling food court with upwards of 100 numbered stalls, or “boxes.” These small eateries serve up anything from seafood from the nearby river, to acai straight from the rainforest, to the national beer Bohemia. There are so many that picking which one to try can be an activity in itself.

Adjacent to the market is a small marina full of colorful fishing vessels unloading their catch. Herons and other birds flock around the ships, feasting on discarded fish pieces in a display that can only be described as beautifully gruesome.  

Whether you’re in the (literal) market for some groceries or just want to take in the sights, this waterfront mercado is an adventure for the senses. Ver-o-Perso is currently listed on UNESCO’s “tentative list,” under consideration for nomination as a heritage site.

Know Before You Go

The market is best in the morning, before temperatures rise and while everything is at its freshest and most plentiful. The area directly south of the market, behind the boats, is apparently a no-go zone, so it's probably best to steer clear.

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March 1, 2024

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