To really enjoy and appreciate the culture of a particular country, we think one of the best things you can do is to ditch the guide book (for a day at least!) and stroll around the local market. For centuries, markets have been the centre of trade in many countries and they often give the most insightful view into the culture of a country – from the freshest of food to the most colourful crafts and the (sometimes) wackiest of market stall owners… here’s our guide to some of our favourite markets across the world.
Chatuchak weekend market – Bangkok, Thailand
Thailand’s capital city of Bangkok is big, bustling and busy at the best of times, but Chatuchak weekend market is on a different scale! With around 15,000 different stalls with vendors selling almost everything and anything you can imagine, Chatuchak weekend market is hectic, huge, hot and noisy but is a totally novel experience that you will never forget!
Many of the market stall owners come from the local factories so you can pick up some handmade crafts to take back home such as antique wood carvings, Buddhist amulets, clothes, shoes and textiles. If you’re too hot or your legs are tired and you are in need of a rest, there are plenty of great places to stop for a meal, snack, drink or an ice cream and attempt to cool down and watch the world go by.
The details: Chatuchak weekend market is held on Saturdays and Sundays and one of the best ways to reach it is via the Mo Chit Skytrain station or take the metro to Suan Chatuchak station. Alternatively, you can of course you hop on a local tuk tuk.
We have some great multi centre breaks which allow you to incorporate a trip to Bangkok. Click here to check out our Thailand Multi Centre Holidays.
Grand Bazaar – Istanbul, Turkey
The Grand Bazaar is one of the world’s largest and oldest covered markets and is housed in a stunning building of which parts of it date back to the Ottoman era. With about 60 streets and approximately 5,000 shops there is a huge range of wares for sale including jewellery, carpets, antiques and ceramics. Haggling is of course par for the course, so expect to banter, barter and be prepared to offer your partner up in exchange for a camel!! Seriously though, if you’re planning on making a few purchases, it is worth doing a bit of research beforehand so that you know vaguely what things are worth. Even if you’re not planning on buying anything, the Grand Bazaar is still definitely worth a visit, if just to view the ornate and beautiful building and sit at one of the many cafes with a cup of turkish tea and coffee and soak up the atmosphere.
The details: The Grand Bazaar is closed on Sundays and bank holidays, but open every other day of the week from 9am-7pm. The best way to get there is to take a tram to either Beyazit, Universite or Sirkeci.
Istanbul is great as a city break, however why not incorporate a trip to Istanbul with a fascinating multi centre break to Turkey and combine city with beach?
Marrakech Souks – Marrakesh, Morocco
Marrakesh doesn’t have one single souk, instead it has various different souks which all over lap each other and each are devoted to a different trade, be it leather, copper, carpentry or any other trade imaginable. The souks are a veritable maze of endless alleyways with a unique and heady aroma of exotic spices fragrancing the air. Try to avoid the more touristy stalls and head for the more specialised sections such as the tanneries (which you will smell before you find!) where you’ll find freshly dried leather and some great leather bargains. You’ll also find carpets and textiles, clothing, silver kaftans and blankets – and of course, plenty of bags to carry all your purchases in! Remember, be prepared to negotiate for EVERYTHING. Haggling is a way of life here and as a general rule, you can usually barter the stall owner down to about 50% of the initial price. Be warned though, it is very easy to get lost in here, but that’s all part of the fun of exploring to find your way out!
The details: The first shops open around 6.30am and most close around 6.30pm. Many stalls are closed for at least part of the day on Fridays. Most of the whole northern part of the old city of Marrakesh is dedicated to the souks, so it doesn’t really matter where you start or where you end up as long as you can find your way back to your hotel or riad!
The Feria de San Pedro Telmo – Buenos Aires, ArgentinaThe Feria de San Pedro Telmo is possibly one of the liveliest and happiest markets we have ever come across! Running on Sundays in and around San Telmo’s main square, Plaza Dorrego, it sells all the usual things such as leather and clothing but also has an emphasis on antiques with many vintage wares for sale including art, clothing and jewellery. The market’s real attraction though is its enthusiastic street performers including tango dancers, guitarists and other street acts entertaining the crowds on almost every corner. The dancing and music carries on into the night, well after the market stall owners have packed up and gone home, perfect for getting yourself a glass of wine at one of the outdoor bars and watching the chaos, fun and frivolities!
Details: Only open on Sundays (although another less popular market takes place during the week). The best way to reach the market is to get to The Independencia station (via the E and C lines on the metro) and walk to the Plaza Dorrego.
Camden Market – London, UK
We couldn’t leave good Old Blighty off our list of favourite markets! Camden market (which is actually a few markets that overlap each other) is a funky, fun and incredibly popular market, which really comes alive at weekends. You can find everything here from jewellery, crafts, clothes and lots of food outlets, cafes and bars which come together to offer a fantastically diverse, quirky and multi-cultural feel. The best days to come are on Saturdays and Sundays. The month of August also sees Thursday night late night street food markets with DJs, live music and plenty of delicious food and drink.
The details: Open every day of the week, but most popular at weekends. One of the easiest ways to get to the market is by underground, stopping at either Camden Town station or Chalk Farm Road (both on the Northern Line). Many of the bus routes also stop at the market.