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10 great traditional markets around the world

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.

Featured image: Shilin Night Market by xmatt

Chatuchak Weekend Market – Bangkok, Thailand

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…

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 (Kapalı Çarşı) – Istanbul, Turkey

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

What’s on offer: Carpets, rugs, lanterns, jewellery, 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.

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

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

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.

Souks of Marrakesh – Marrakesh, Morocco

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

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 – Paris, France

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

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 – Delhi, India

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

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 – Taipei, Taiwan

Shilin Night Market

Shilin Night Market. Photo: LWY

Shilin Night Market

Photo: Eduardo M. C.

Shilin Night Market

Photo: beggs

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 – Hong Kong

Flower Market Road

Photo: Cheung Fun

Flower Market Road

Photo: Cheung Fun

Flower Market Road

Photo: Cheung Fun

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 riot of colour is a spectacle, even by Hong Kong’s standards.

Ver-o-Peso – Belém, Brazil

Ver-o-Peso

Ver-o-Peso. Photo: rictulio

Ver-o-Peso

Photo: rictulio

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 – Toronto, Canada

St. Lawrence Market

Photo: Payton Chung

St. Lawrence Market

Four varieties of peppers. Photo: Glen MacLarty

St. Lawrence Market

Sausage wrapping. Photo: GanMed64

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.

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