Grace Lower | Dec 21, 2020
I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for a good outdoor market. When the weather’s nice, there’s absolutely nothing like an afternoon spent wandering from stall to stall, sampling foods, and haggling over shiny trinkets. I’ve found market-shopping to be a universally enjoyable experience. No matter where you are in the world, you and your fellow shoppers are united by a common cause—searching for the best deal.
Of course, not all markets are created equal. From antiques to fresh produce, from seafood to silks, different markets are known for certain types of goods. Regardless of what you’re hunting for, here are a few outdoor markets that you won’t want to miss while you’re abroad or even here in the states.
1. Camden Market
Since 1974, Camden Market has been a favorite haunt for artists, craftsmen, musicians, and hipsters alike. With nearly 1,000 stalls, Camden Market is especially well-known for its diverse
array of vintage clothing and unusual accessories. But what sets this market apart--aside from its scale--is its connection to the world of Classic Rock. Camden Market is home to Dingwalls Dance Hall, which was once a favorite venue for musicians
like Blondie, The Ramones, The Clash, The Rolling Stones, and Pink Floyd.
Today, the market stays true to its musical roots. Music fans from around the world visit Camden Market for its live musical performances, its wealth of record stores, and its…alternative…fashion trends.
2. Medina of Marrakech
When I visited Morocco, I had the opportunity to experience the excitement and chaos of this market first-hand. While I’m always game for an afternoon at an outdoor market, the Medina of Marrakech is not for the faint of heart. Marrakech’s marketplace is made up of 18 souks (traditional markets), each with dozens of vendors and no clear sense of organization. Even if I had a command of Arabic, I would have been hopelessly lost without my local guide. During my time in the souks, I quickly learned not to spend too much time admiring the different goods on display—the vendors have a habit of trapping shoppers in conversation, so it’s best to be strategic during each stop. If you can overlook the wild energy of the Medina, there are incredible treasures to be found. Bronze-wear, leather, spices, and silks are among some of the more popular goods sold. In addition to a thick skin, you’ll want to bring your haggling A-game, that is, unless you want to blow all of your souvenir money in one go.
3. Grand Bazaar
One of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, Turkey’s Grand Bazaar is a sight to behold. The market is a network of 61 covered streets, housing nearly 4,000 stalls. The market has been open since the 15th century, and since then, it’s earned the nickname of “the world’s oldest mall.” But don’t expect to find Auntie Anne’s or Gap at this shopping center. Given its scale (and the nearly 400,000 shoppers who visit each day), the Grand Bazaar can make for an overwhelming shopping experience. But with a game plan and a sense of navigation, you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for. If jewelry is what you’re after, stick to the main gold vendors on the streets Kalpakcılar Caddesi and Kuyumcular Carsısı. You can find high-quality furniture along Divrikli Caddesi, and hand-woven carpets along Sahaflar Caddesi. For fine leather goods, try browsing along Perdahçılar Caddesi or Bit Pazarı. And while it’s easy to get caught up in the shopping experience, stick with your gut (and to your budget). Don’t let the shop keepers pressure you into buying item unless you truly want them.
4. Tsukiji Fish Market
Sushi fans, take note! Tsukiji Fish Market is one of the best destinations for the catch of the day. As the world’s largest and busiest fish market, Tsukiji is teeming with sights, sounds, and (not always pleasant) smells. One of the market’s most popular attractions is the 5 AM fish auction. At the crack of dawn, representatives from fine restaurants, food processing companies, and retailers flock to the market to bid on choice cuts from the day’s catch. Members of the public are invited to watch the bid-wars unfold. It’s recommended that you arrive at 3:30 AM—and hire a guide if you really want an inside scoop on the action. Afterward, treat yourself to a sushi breakfast at one of the many food stands within the market. You’ll have a newfound appreciation for the work that goes into a good tuna roll!
5. Temple Street Night Market
If the idea of waking up at 3 AM for a fish auction sounds more like torture than tourism, Hong Kong’s Temple Street Night Market might be a better option for you. While the market is technically open in the afternoon, the action really begins at 6 PM. Under bright bulb lights, vendors peddle everything from handmade knick-knacks, to counterfeit accessories, to electronics, and bizarre “miracle medicines.” Fortune tellers and street performers mingle among the shoppers in search of tips or a willing audience. As you browse, keep an eye out for shops hidden behind the vendors’ stalls—these lesser-known spots can be treasure-troves for curious shoppers. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, be sure to sample local cuisine from one of the many food stands. Hot-pot rice is a crowd favorite. For a true night market experience, enjoy your meal at one of the tables in the middle of the street to take in the chaos and fun that come with evening shopping.
6. Chatuchak Market
The Chatuchak Weekend Market—also called JJ Market—is one of the world’s largest outdoor markets and one of the most beloved shopping centers in Thailand. The market spans 35 acres, and it contains over 15,000 vendor stalls. While navigating a market this size might seem daunting, the market is broken into 27 sections, or neighborhoods, that can be easily accessed from the main walkway. Goods and souvenirs are roughly divided into 9 categories: antiques, plants, animals, food and beverage, groceries, home decor, ceramics, books, and clothing. Because this market tends to draw large crowds, you’ll want to keep an eye on your belongings—pick-pockets are common, especially in the popular sections of the market.
7. Pike Place Market
Seattle, United States
If you’re looking for a shopping experience that’s slightly closer to home, consider paying a visit to Seattle’s Pike Place Market. This public market is one of the oldest in the country, and it overlooks the Elliott Bay waterfront. The mission of the market is simple: by bringing together shoppers and artisans, Pike Place allows the unique opportunity to “Meet the Producer.” Visitors can learn more about their fresh cod from a local fishmonger or chat with an artist about their trade. Whether you’re picking out ripe tomatoes at the farmers’ market, searching for the perfect pair of earrings at the crafts market, to trying one of the 80 different restaurants within Pike Place, there’s a good chance you’ll find what you’re looking for.
Grace Lower is a recent college graduate with a love for writing and an incurable case of wanderlust. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.