Breathtaking landscapes, historical architecture, and adventure activities are generally the driving forces that draw you to a particular destination. But once you’re there, it’s not often that these factors allow you the opportunity to really get to know a culture. While the best way to fully immerse yourself would be to stay in a destination for a period of time (a good 4-6 weeks), not all of us have the luxury of time or money to devote to such endeavours. There is, however, another great way to peal back the curtain of a culture in a short period of time; by visiting the local markets. In many places around the world, markets are still the central area for commerce, where locals shop for food, clothing, and everyday wears. Even just observing this buying and selling interaction will give you an interesting peak into the everyday lives of the people who make up the culture. Below are some of the top markets to experience around the world.
Chatuchak Weekend Market – Bangkok, Thailand
Hold on tight because this market is one hell of a ride! Located just north of Bangkok’s city centre, the Chatuchak Weekend Market is the epicenter for Thai shopping, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors every weekend. The market is crammed full of over 15,000 stalls selling everything from clothing to home décor, antiques to pets. Bunny rabbits in pink tutus anyone? It can seem like an endless maze of products everywhere you look and in fact, it will likely take you an entire weekend just to see it all. It’s definitely worth checking out some of the clothing stalls as many of Thailand’s top designers got their start at the Chatuchak Market. The pathways can be narrow between stalls, so keep your valuables close.
The Grand Bazaar – Istanbul, Turkey
There’s no market in the world quite like the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey. It’s the Grand Dame of markets having two major legs up on the competition; history and architecture. Built in the 15th century, it’s the oldest market in the world. As you step into one of the bedestens, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to a different time. While there are over 3,000 shops in total, the high vaulted ceilings and wide corridors give the place an airy, spacious atmosphere. Intricately detailed tiles cover the walls and marble drinking fountains can be found within. While prices tend to be a bit higher here than other parts of Turkey, you’ll find the shopkeepers to be exceptionally good at salesmanship, making it hard to say no. Don’t miss the beautiful stain-glassed lamps, Turkish delight (the freshest you’ll taste!), and the mountain of spices, including saffron.
Chandni Chowk – Delhi, India
Originally meaning “moonlit square” or “moonlit market”, the Chandni Chowk market, located in north-central Delhi, is a densely populated shopping hub. This bustling area is home to over 2,500 vendors selling various wholesale and retail goods including Indian food and delicacies, fabrics such as silk, satin, and cotton, electronics, semi-precious jewellery, and of course, spices. Never settle for the first price you’re quoted, as haggling is all part of the experience here. Not sure how to go about negotiating a price? Check out this post on how to haggle successfully.
Tsukiji Fish Market – Tokyo, Japan
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Japan would have the largest fish market in the world. As an island nation, fish plays a prominent role in the Japanese diet. Located near the Tsukijishijō Station in central Tokyo, the Tsukiji Fish Market caters mainly to wholesale business selling just about everything that comes out of the sea before being shipped off to all corners of the globe. The sprawling market is divided into two sections; the inner-market where wholesale auctions take place (no longer open to tourists) and where most of the fish is processed, and the outer-market which is a mix of wholesale and retail shops. Although the market starts to come alive around 3:00am, visitors aren’t permitted to enter until 9am. It’s a fascinating look “behind the curtain” of the fish industry, but when visiting the market, keep in mind that this is a fully functioning place of business. Make sure to wear close-toed shoes. Before leaving the area, treat yourself to some sushi at one of the food stalls that line the outer market. It doesn’t get any fresher than this!
Night Market – Luang Prabang, Laos
By day, Th Sisavangong is the main artery in Luang Prabang, teeming with tuk-tuks and motorcycles, various tour companies vying for your business and travelers relaxing in one of the many restaurants that line the street. But as the sun sets behind the Mekong River, the street is shut down to traffic and an array of tents start popping up. This daily ritual brings out hundreds of locals selling handmade souvenirs specifically aimed at tourists. It’s hard not to pick up a few items as you pass by textiles, paper lanterns, woven pouches, and silver jewellery. The Laotians are particularly calm and pleasant individuals, further reinforced by their non-pushy selling styles. While the souveniers will lure you to the market, the all-you-can-eat food stalls will make you stay. For $1.00 (!) you can fill up your plate with as much food as it can hold.
Ready to experience one of these markets for yourself? Contact a Flight Centre Travel Expert by visiting your closest store, connecting with us online or calling at 1-877-967-5302