As they say, ‘God is found in the little things’! A travel experience isn’t complete without experiencing the real taste of the place you are visiting and an Indian’s heart is not content until he has tasted the street foods or picked up distinctive curios or clothes that spell wow at the first look, off the street. Getting the best at the best price, off the street! Yes the brands give a boost to our confidence but getting something awesome at dirt cheap price is complete bliss. Street markets have been centres of commerce for centuries. Even in the age of Wal-Mart and Amazon.com, these casual retail spaces, usually populated by small, independent vendors, are thriving in many parts of the world and are being revisited as viable places to shop. For tourists, cities with bustling market scenes are great destinations. Do you want to toss out the guidebook and really see what locals are eating, buying etc? Virtually every major metro area on the planet has at least some sort of market that can give visitors an authentic experience. However, the following 10 markets are not to be missed and worthy of a spot on anyone’s itinerary.
Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok
Chatuchak Weekend Market is a legend among tourists and Bangkok residents alike. It is the largest market in Thailand, by far, and one of the largest weekend markets in the world. Sometimes simply referred to as JJ (an apt abbreviation, since the “ch” sound in Thai is sometimes nicknamed as “j”), it is an expansive market that welcomes at least 200,000 people per day on the weekend. This place is a souvenir-hunter’s dream, presents its visitors with exotic crafts, antiques and collectibles, curios for sale, alongside live animals, socks and boxer shorts, and virtually anything and everything – You name it and they have it!. Novices (and many locals) have trouble finding their way around the 35 acres of market stalls, but a huge variety of food vendors mean that hopelessly lost shoppers will never go hungry or thirsty while wandering aimlessly. Also, JJ has a smoking ban, so while you will be confronted with all sorts of scents, cigarette smoke will not be one of them.
Also, the Phuket town night market, you can buy a variety of different goods. There are a lot of clothing stalls, mostly selling sun dresses, skirts and sarongs, as well as shorts and lingerie. Many stalls sell fake Ray-Bans (most of which are quite good quality, especially for the 100 Baht asked) or pirated CDs and DVDs. One area of the market is committed entirely to food vendors, selling fruit, fried noodles, water and other cold drinks, corn (on the cob or off), meat skewers and even fried insects. The stall central is worth a mention and shpuldn’t be missed in this area, selling an exceptional rice dish, made of a brown rice ball, lime juice, lemongrass, peanuts, chillies, and more! What’s more fun is to see them make it before your eyes, blending the flavours for your scrumptious dish.
Overall, the market is great and is a highly enjoyable cultural experience!
Chandni Chowk, Delhi
Chandni Chowk is the busiest market in Delhi, as it has been for several hundred years. Located within eyeshot of the famous Red Fort in the old town, this buzzing retail area offers the exemplary experience for anyone visiting the subcontinent. For some, the market, which can be described by a number of superlative adjectives, is simply a sensory overload. But, unlike the other markets on this list, it might actually be possible to get anything in Chandni Chowk: from made-to-order wedding dresses to exotic fruits to refurbished second hand shoes to the most exotic food, not to forget the Paranthe wali gali. Each alley is a treasure trove in its own right.
The other two street markets from the same city, Delhi, can’t go without mention are Janpath in Connaught Place and Sarojini Nagar which are known as the hub for designer clothes, accessories and footwear at throw away prices. Worth a try!
Camden Lock Market, London
The Camden Lock Market is a huge area of interconnected retail spaces where vendors sell everything from art and furniture to food and jeans. This is one of London’s biggest tourist attractions, with over 100,000 people passing through the market on peak shopping weekends. Eating and bargain hunting are always wonderful options, but a calendar of special events, including concerts and art shows, are also part of the deal.
Shilin Night Market, Taipei
Shilin Night Market is the largest of Taipei’s famous night markets, best known for its gigantic food court. Independent vendors sell their specialties in a virtual feeding frenzy, and many locals and visitors consider this one of the best places to eat in all of Taiwan. Renovations over the past 10 years of the original market building have led to some major moves for local vendors, but these food artisans, many of whom have a devoted group of regular customers, are still serving the same dishes that they always have. Hundreds of additional vendors are found along the streets that surround Shilin, with non-food related shops also part of the mix.
Portland Farmers Market
There are plenty of excellent farmer markets in the U.S., but our list’s American entry is the Portland Farmers Market at Portland State University because of its local, organic focus and diversity of items. Aside from super-fresh seafood, this Saturday shopping spot in the City of Roses features exotic foods that are made and grown locally. Vendors hawk everything from Asian vegetables that are hard to get on this side of the Pacific to buffalo meat to organic berries. Overall, Portland has an impressive menu of farmers markets, with Travel and Leisure Magazine calling it one of the best cities in the entire country!
Marrakech is home to some of the best, most authentic shopping options in the Magreb. The city’s souks have starred in travel literature, films and armchair travellers’ daydreams for decades. Though it is often referred to as the Marrakech Souk, there is actually no central market area, rather a series of interconnected markets that specialize in different items. You can find authentic Moroccan handcrafts are for sale down one narrow street, while dates and flatbreads overflow from street stalls and shop houses down an adjacent alleyway. Whether you are in the market for a handmade pair of sandals or an authentic Moroccan meal, or you simply want to take it all in without spending a single dirham, this commercial district is one of the best attractions and traveller’s delight in all of North.
Ver-o-peso, Belem, Brazil
Markets worth mentioning for their size are found in Brazil’s main cities, from Sao Paulo to Rio to Salvador. Perhaps the most unusual space, however, is the Ver-o-peso Market in the midsized city of Belem, at the mouth of the Amazon. Açai berries are one of the recognizable staples of this market, but many other products are completely foreign to visitors. Fish and fruits found deep in the forests of the Amazon are for sale here, which you cannot find anywhere else in the world. This is a place where the true wealth and diversity of this largely unexplored region of the world are on display. The exotic is here to find!
La Boqueria, Barcelona
Barcelona is known best for three things – its beaches, its famous soccer club, and its architecture. However, La Boqueria is arguably the city’s most exciting attraction, at least from a foodie’s perspective. This market’s roots can be traced back to the 13th century. Boqueria’s edibles range from fresh seafood and vegetables to artisanal foods and Catalan specialties. Luckily, Boqueria has an onsite culinary school so that those with culinary ambitions can take some Catalan kitchen skills back home with them.