While so many people’s favourite traveling pastime is shopping, we urge you to forgo the enticing glow of halogen-lit malls and opt for a stroll through some of the world’s best markets instead. It’s a great, thrifty way to shop for one-off wares, and offers a colourful snapshot of the local culture.
Below, we’ve pulled together our top ten favourite spots to snatch a bargain:
London – Portobello Road Market
This classic British market, which stretches for almost two miles, first began servicing the needs of London locals in the 1800s. One of the world’s largest flea markets, it gained notoriety for its antiques in the 1950s. Over a 1,000 stallholders offer a variety of unique wares; from antiques and collectables, to clothes, posters, music, ceramics, and fresh produce.
Paris – Marche Aux Puces De Clignancourt
The French capital is brimming with market stalls, but the most famous of them all is arguably, the Marche Aux Puces De Clignancourt. The collection of more than a dozen flea markets, comprising of almost 3,000 stalls, can be found on the Northern fringe of the Parisian city. Here, you will find everything from French antiques, to vintage clothes.
Thailand – Chatuchak Market in Bangkok
This weekend market, once popular with wholesalers, has gained landmark status as a must-visit for tourists. Sitting on 35 acres, the sheer size and diversity of products on sale have been known to bring even the most well seasoned shoppers to their knees. On a typical weekend, more than 200,000 visitors descend on these shops, so pace yourselves – and bring lots of water.
Marrakech – Souk
Likened to Aladdin’s caves, the ‘souks’ (or markets) sell a multitude of handmade ceramics, leather, wood, gold, silver, shawls, bags and slippers. Lose yourself among the hundreds of cobblestone alleyways – and make sure to barter, as it is a must. Beware – vendors can be pushy, and you’ll need your street savvy, as the experience can be intimidating.
Berlin – Die Nolle
Jammed into 16 old railway carriages in Nollendorfplatz, this flea market is a treasure trove of old books, records and antiques. Swarming with street performers, don’t let the loud rumbling of buyers trying to strike a bargain with vendors scare you off. Head for a nearby pub afterwards for a well-earned beer.
Turkey – Grand Bazaar
One of the oldest sheltered markets in the world, the Grand Bazaar is located in the picturesque walled city of Istanbul – where east meets west. Employing 26,000 people and attracting up to 400,000 visitors daily, it is one of the most visited monuments in the world. Pause for a drink at one of the public marble water fountains, and grab some nuts and dried fruits to nibble on as you make your way through the lantern-lit stalls.
China – Beijing Antique Market
Nestled across 48,500 square meters in the south-eastern part of Beijing, close to the famous Panjiayuan Bridge, there are over 100,000 dealers waiting to greet you and strike up a deal here. Popular with locals and visitors alike, you’ll find books, scrolls, ‘high-rank’ antiques, furniture and Buddhist statues.
Argentina – Plaza Dorrego Flea Market
Visitors descend on this place more for the entertainment then they do the bargains. Tango dancers, mimes, puppeteers and musicians line the streets of this South American haunt. Choose from an abundance of antique jewellery, silverware and old record players. The extravaganza is so big it is contained to one day a week – Sunday, so make sure you don’t miss out when you’re in town.
New York – Williamsburg
The boroughs of Brooklyn are fast becoming home of New York’s cool crowd, and these markets have helped fuel this cutting-edge vibe. Held each Saturday by the Willamsburg waterfront, the open-air stalls attract more than 100 vendors, selling handmade food creations, kitchenware and pantry items to food-crazy locals. Described as the “Woodstock for food’, the event tends to attract hoards of snap-happy bloggers and foodies, so beware of jutting iPhones and fancy SLRs. A few tables flank either side of the markets and there is a public lawn to picnic on nearby.
Athens – Monastiraki flea markets
As you make your way through the street of Athens, take a moment to look up and admire the Parthenon in all its marble-gleamed glory. Ancient ruins share pride of place with the shopfronts and stalls of Monastiraki, so you’re never left wanting of something interesting to look at. Evil eyes, wooden komboloi, and t-shirts hang across the markets streets like clotheslines. Make sure you stop by Thanasis for a tasty kebab!