10 great traditional markets around the world

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Historic markets offer the kind of atmospheric, sensory shopping experience that stores and malls so often lack. Run by locals predominantly for locals, they also offer travellers an insight into a city’s authentic culture.

An assault on the senses, and on the wallet, here are 10 of the world’s best traditional markets. Our featured image of Jamaa el Fna Marrakesh is by Jorge Lascar.

Chatuchak Weekend Market
meats at Thai Barbecue stall at Chatuchak Market. Photo: jeff_leigh
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Squid Eggs and other delicacies. Photo: Wendy Harman
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Busy Chatuchak Weekend Market. Photo: Voyages etc…

Chatuchak Weekend Market – Bangkok, Thailand

  • What’s on offer: Food, crafts, Buddhist icons, antiques, electrical, DVDs, music, books, clothes, animals
  • Average number of vendors: 15,000
  • When to visit: Saturday and Sunday

Chatuchak’s 27 acres of indoor and outdoor stalls draw 200,000 people each weekend day. Most come for the astonishing array of goods, but there are a large number of vendors selling fresh food and drinks too.

From socks to exotic creatures and almost everything in between, there’s a mind boggling variety of things for sale along Chatuchak’s crowded and hot walkways.

Grand Bazaar Istanbul
Grand Bazaar Istanbul. Photo: exfordy
Grand Bazaar Istanbul
Spices on sale at the Grand Bazaar. Photo: simononly
Grand Bazaar Istanbul
Turkish Delight on sale at the Grand Bazaar. Photo: simononly

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Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı) – Istanbul, Turkey

  • What’s on offer: Carpets, rugs, lanterns, jewelry, ceramics, clothes, fabrics, leathers, spices
  • Average number of vendors: 3,000
  • When to visit: Monday to Saturday

Traders and shoppers have been haggling in this corner of Istanbul for well over 500 years. Narrow, noisy, enclosed and packed full of people, this extraordinary labyrinth has a manic feel about it. Be prepared to bargain, and bargain hard.

Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria. Photo: katherineprice
Mercat de la Boqueria
Souvenirs on sale at Mercat de la Boqueria. Photo: Voyages etc…
Mercat de la Boqueria
Fruit on sale. Photo: Oh-Barcelona.com

La Boqueria (Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria) – Barcelona, Spain

  • What’s on offer: fresh fruits, fish, meat, bread and other food ingredients
  • Average number of vendors: 200
  • When to visit: Monday to Saturday

La Boqueria is an atmospheric, ornate steel hangar just off La Rambla. In terms of sight and smell, this is hands down Barcelona’s most spectacular food market.

Souk in Marrakesh, Morocco
Souk in Marrakesh, Morocco. Photo: plusgood
Souk in Marrakesh, Morocco
Carpets and spices on sale in Marrakesh. Photo: plusgood
Souk in Marrakesh, Morocco
Sandals on sale. Photo: markhillary

Souks of Marrakesh – Marrakesh, Morocco

  • What’s on offer: Carpets, textiles, spices, sandals, kaftans, jewellery, leather bags, dried fruit and nuts.
  • Average number of vendors: Hundreds
  • When to visit: Any day

Marrakesh’s image is closely tied with its narrow interconnected alleyways lined with a dizzying array of vendors ranging in size from tiny kiosks to expansive caverns.

Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen
Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen. Photo: jafsegal
Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen
Browsing the Paris flea market. Photo: ParisSharing
Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen
China and other covetables. Photo: anka @ happyhangaround

Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen – Paris, France

  • What’s on offer: Antiques, paintings, statues, furniture, vintage clothes, bags, ceramics
  • Average number of vendors: 2,500
  • When to visit: Saturday to Monday

This is one of the world’s largest and most interesting collections of antiques and second-hand items.

Those who diligently peruse this treasure trove of unique, previously owned curiosities, are typically rewarded with authentic and affordable one-of-a-kind finds.

Chandni Chowk
Fruit for sale at Chandni Chowk. Photo: dinudey
Chandni Chowk
Chai time. Photo: Meanest Indian
Chandni Chowk
Birds for sale at Chandni Chowk. Photo: Liz Highleyman

Chandni Chowk – Delhi, India

  • What’s on offer: Sweets, books, clothing, shoes, leather goods, electronic goods
  • Average number of vendors: Over 2,500
  • When to visit: Any day

Located in the heart of Old Delhi (a short walk from the Red Fort), Chandni Chowk is one of the busiest markets in India – putting it right up there with the most intense in all the world to visit. If you can think of it, it’s probably on sale somewhere along this street.

Shilin Night Market
Shilin Night Market. Photo: LWY
Shilin Night Market
Photo: Eduardo M. C.
Shilin Night Market
Photo: beggs

Shilin Night Market – Taipei, Taiwan

  • What’s on offer: Oyster vermicelli, fried chicken, tempura, stinky tofu
  • Average number of vendors: Over 500
  • When to visit: Any night between 8pm and 2am

The largest of Taipei’s famous night markets, Shilin Night Market is best known for its gigantic food court. Here, independent cooks serve up local specialities to their devoted regulars. The side alleys surrounding the food court are packed with cinemas, video arcades and karaoke dens

Flower Market Road
Photo: Cheung Fun
Flower Market Road
Photo: Cheung Fun
Flower Market Road
Photo: Cheung Fun

Flower Market Road – Hong Kong

  • What’s on offer: Flowers, plants, floral arrangements
  • Average number of vendors: Well over 100
  • When to visit: Any day

Flower Market Road is arguably Hong Kong’s most picturesque market. The street is lined with thousands of flower varieties – real and fake – from all over the world. The colour riot is a spectacle, even by Hong Kong’s standards.

Ver-o-Peso
Ver-o-Peso. Photo: rictulio
Ver-o-Peso
Photo: claudiocareca_cba
Ver-o-Peso
Photo: rictulio

Ver-o-Peso – Belém, Brazil

  • What’s on offer: Seafood, fish, vegetables
  • Average number of vendors: 2,000
  • When to visit: Morning, any day

This neo-gothic market building beside Belém’s docks houses rows and rows of fishmongers selling the morning’s Amazonian catch. It’s also home to stalls selling exotic fruits that you’ll struggle to find anywhere else in the world.

St. Lawrence Market
Photo: Payton Chung
St. Lawrence Market
Four varieties of peppers. Photo: Glen MacLarty
St. Lawrence Market
Sausage wrapping. Photo: GanMed64

St. Lawrence – Toronto, Canada

  • What’s on offer: Locally sourced foods, artisan jewellery and clothing, flowers, baked goods
  • Average number of vendors: 120
  • When to visit: Tuesday to Saturday (Saturday farmer’s market; Sunday antiques)

Opened in 1803, St. Lawrence has retail pedigree. Saturday’s farmer’s market is the best day to visit.

Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…

10 great traditional markets around the world was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Brett Ackroyd
Author: Brett Ackroyd (631 posts)

Brett hopes to one day reach the shores of far-flung Tristan da Cunha, the most remote of all the inhabited archipelagos on Earth…as to what he’ll do when he gets there, he hasn’t a clue. Over the last 10 years, London, New York, Cape Town and Pondicherry have all proudly been referred to as home. Now it’s Copenhagen’s turn, where he lends his travel expertise to momondo.com.