My Favorite Markets Around the Globe

One of my favorite things to do anywhere in the world is go to the local markets. It’s always such a slice of everyday life and culture, fun and interesting. Here are some of my favorite markets around the globe.

Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok

Wow, this place is like the grandaddy of all markets. I’ve never been in any other market so big in all my life. We spent almost an entire day there and still did not get to everything. The massive labyrinth includes loosely organized sections for clothing, housewares, pottery and china, handicrafts, even modern art and incredible antique shops. There are also big pockets of covered restaurant stalls and tables, as well as endless quick drink or snack carts. There are bargains to be had if you fancy shopping, but it’s completely free to enter and be entertained by the myriad sights and sounds. To get there, take the Skytrain to the Mo Chit station – the market is visible from the platform and just outside the Skytrain exit. A top, top draw in Bangkok – don’t miss it!

Morocco

A Moroccan market, or souk, is the absolute epitome of exotic. Thoughts of Arabian Nights fill the head when you meander through the confusing maze of crowded stalls and shops in the main square of Marrakesh. Traditional Berber carpets, clothing, jewelry, potions, spices, unidentifiable foods, slippers, lamps and a thousand other items spill out of every doorway, and you’re pretty much guaranteed not to have any idea where you’ll end up. In the main square, Djamaa El Fna, stick around until dusk – when suddenly, hundreds of tents spring up and the entire square becomes restaurant row. Quite a spectacle, especially with the fortune tellers, dancers, monkeys and other entertainment that is all around.

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Marché Jean Talon, Montreal

A highlight of my trip to Montreal in 2011, this market is really big – fresh produce and separate meat markets, dairy, and scrumptious little pastry shops. I especially loved the multitude of fresh flowers and herb gardens. There were several gourmet and specialty shops as well, and a large indoor area filled with bistros and cafes for enjoying prepared foods. We shopped for ingredients at Jean Talon and went back to our home exchange condo to prepare a beautiful dinner with our market goods.

La Boqueria, Barcelona

This market is housed in a beautiful building, with everything from food and wine to gifts and flowers. There are also many counters to sit and eat prepared food. When I spent a couple of weeks in Barcelona in 2009, I was lucky enough to be staying in a flat, courtesy of a home exchange, that was just a few blocks away from this lovely market.

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Luang Prabang, Laos

A stroll through the local food market in Luang Prabang is an exciting experience. It’s not really a very large market compared to many others I’ve been to, but I have definitely seen some of the most bizarre, unusual ingredients here. I went to this market one morning as Step One in a cooking class I took, with the chef who taught the class. The Luang Prabang morning market is bustling, and besides the slightly disturbing (to a Westerner) items for sale, there are also a plethora of beautiful vegetables, aromatic herbs, poultry, meat and sweets. There is also a night market along the main street, that is more artisans and handicrafts that is fantastic.

Goa, India

The “flea market” at Anjuna Beach in Goa is legendary. It’s more like a huge rave than a market, and is truly a bohemian all night party. There is definitely a market, with all kinds of handicrafts and clothing and gifts. I bought a bedspread there! But then there are also bars, and smoking, and drumming circles, and just general partying, India beach style. A lot of fun and makes for some interesting people-watching.

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Nicaragua

About half an hour outside Granada is the Mercado Viejo, the old market. Located in the town of Masaya (and easily accessible by bus from Granada), this is another large market with indoor and outdoor areas, that is easy to get lost in. When Keith and I were there, we just turned the corner from each other briefly and couldn’t find each other again for more than half an hour! There are plenty of sights to see here, and it’s definitely a local’s market – lots of clothes, underwear, shoes, pots and pans, etc along with the food and crafts. A short taxi ride away is the “new market” which is a smaller tourist, artisan market that is worth checking out while in Masaya.

What is your favorite market? Do you have any suggestions for me on my future travels?

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