To get a good glimpse into a country’s culture, you really can’t go wrong at the local market. From colorful, explosive food bazaars to classic vintage flea fairs, markets showcase local daily life and allow visitors a chance to dive deep. These markets can be a feast for both the eyes and the soul. Whether you are looking to mingle with the locals, try some exotic food or simply go souvenir-shopping, a visit to local markets promises to enhance your travel experience. Be sure to bring some foreign currency, leave some extra space in your luggage and get ready for some haggling!
1. Chatuchak Market – Bangkok, Thailand
The Chatuchak Weekend Market is one of the largest markets in the world – with over 5,000 stalls sprawled across an area of 35 acres. As a major attraction in Bangkok, Chatuchak features a wide and diverse variety of products, from clothing to Thai handicraft, religious figures to food and even live animals. This hugely popular market receives over 200,000 visitors each day, attracting locals and tourists alike. When in Bangkok, Thailand, be sure to head down here during the weekends, wander through its dizzying rows of stalls, try some deep-fried insects and watch Bangkok come alive.
2. Djemaa el Fna – Marrakech, Morocco
The epicenter of Marrakech lies in the Djemma el Fna, a square bursting with so much energy that it can be almost overwhelming for the first-time traveler. During the day, the square is a mishmash of snake charmers, water sellers, Berber story-tellers and peddlers. Inside the souk is a labyrinth of traditional Arabic souvenir stores splashed out in glittery colors and atmospheric lights. By night, the whole area gets transformed into a night food market where hundreds of food stalls are laid out in the square – selling everything from barbequed meat skewers to stewed snails.
3. Chichicastenango Market – Chichicastenango, Guatemala
The indigenous market of Chichicastenango in Guatemala is famed for the plethora of traditional handicraft, food, pottery and textiles on sale. In fact it has gained such a good reputation for itself that travelers often go out of their way to visit Chichicastenango for the market itself. The Ki’che Mayan town sits at an altitude of over 1,965m, right on the crest of mountain peaks. Market days fall on Thursdays and Sundays where vendors sell colorful masks, wooden carvings and carpets. The kaleidoscope of colors provide excellent photography opportunities.
4. Queen Victoria Market – Melbourne, Australia
Queen Victoria Market is not just the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere, it is also an important landmark in Melbourne, Australia. Dating back 130 years, the market building plays a significant role in preserving the city’s culture and heritage; it is even listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. Today, it is more of an attraction and favorite local haunt – offering a flurry of fresh foods ranging from seafood to gourmet and deli food; as well as an assortment of indie-produced clothing, handicraft and jewelry. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the hot doughnut van outside the market – it’s been operating for more than 50 years!
5. Chandni Chowk – Delhi, India
Set amidst narrow alleys and cluttered walkways, Chandni Chowk is a chaotic network of shops and eateries that sell everything from saris, leather good and shoes to electronics, silverware and Indian delicacies and sweets. As Asia’s largest wholesale market, you can just imagine the size of it, and the amount of goods packed into it. In every other direction, you’ll find the bazaar divided into sub-markets specializing in different products. To navigate its highly congested streets without feeling claustrophobic, the best way is to hop on a rickshaw and cruise your way around the market.
6. Grand Bazaar – Istanbul, Turkey
Turkey’s biggest and oldest market, the Grand Bazaar attracts between 250,000 and half a million visitors from Turkey and around the world everyday with over 4,000 shops and 58 covered walkways. The bazaar’s complex also holds historical significance, having been constructed between 1455 and 1461 by Sultan Mehmed. These days, it is the top attraction in Istanbul with its mélange of jewelry, spice and carpet shops extremely popular among tourists. Besides the stalls, the bazaar houses two mosques, two hamams (Turkish baths), fountains, and multiple restaurants and cafes.
7. Portobello Road Market, London
Possibly the most well known market on this list, Portobello Road Market has gained fame worldwide thanks to its quirky second-hand clothes stores and unique antique sellers. Since its early days in the 19th century, this market has long been a fixture of London, and visitors from around the world often flood here to find curios and collectibles. As its name implies, the market is found along Portobello Road, a famous street that cuts through the Notting Hill district of London. Parts of the streets are closed to traffic and lined with hundreds of antique stalls as well as fruit and vegetable stalls every Saturday.
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