Top 5 markets around the world
There's just something intoxicating about the atmosphere of a market. It's in the gathering of people, the love that goes into moulding handicrafts and the aroma of mouth-watering morsels chopped, baked and fried right in front of you. Sometimes a primal urge takes over and you find yourself heatedly bartering over a leather bag or throwing elbows to get to the dumpling stall first but hey, that's what the experience is all about. There's really no better way to get to know a town than by visiting the local marketplace.
Craft markets, farmers' markets, vintage markets, flower markets – people of all cultures really dig their open-air spending sprees. These age-old centres of commerce offer great insight into the local culture and cuisine, have some of the best souvenirs hidden beneath brightly coloured stalls and make for a perfect weekend morning outing. Grab your market trolley (please don't, they're awful) and spend your converted currency at these amazing global bazaars.
If you're planning a trip to the Apple Isle, reserve your Saturday morning for a wander through Hobart's Salamanca Market. Since the 1970s the markets have grown to include some 300 independent vendors pursuing their passions, peddling everything from woodwork to vintage clothing. But the main reason crowds gather against the backdrop of gentrified sandstone warehouses is the glorious food. Think of Tasmania as a kind of Garden of Eden – the scenery is mind-blowingly beautiful and something devilish happens beneath the ground to sprout sweeter than sweet fruit. But nobody is going to banish you here so bite into that big, shiny apple (as long as you've paid for it) and indulge in all the epicurean delights you want!
Le Grand Marches, Aix-en-Provence
The entire region of Provence is cloaked with markets; it's a great injustice to pick just one. Seriously, step outside your hotel and you might just wander straight into an open-air flea market! Like most places, Saturday morning is peak time for browsing and bartering, rubbing shoulders with locals stocking up on fresh meat, bread and produce, socialising in delicious French accents. At Le Grand Marches in Aix you can chat to the producers, pick up soaps and textiles, indulge in good food (of course) and a range of other Southern French delights. Aix has pretty much every kind of market you could want from daily flower markets to Sunday antique book fairs. Tres bien indeed!
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Bangkok
It's not unusual to see markets in hipster-chic warehouses, bustling town squares or along pearly white beaches, but what about floating down a river? True story. Bangkok's floating markets see vendors in long, thin vessels hawking their wares right from the hull. Rivers and canals squiggle along the surface of Bangkok so it makes sense that Thai locals would take advantage of these aquatic highways. The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi Province is probably the best known and, as a result, river traffic can sometimes come to a grinding halt. Head to the pier and jump on board a long-tail tour boat for an incredible cultural journey, mingling with floating fruit and flower sellers and enjoying tasty treats back on the docks.
Djemaa El Fna Souk, Marrakech
You might feel a little bit ‘Alice down the rabbit hole' when you enter into the maze of Marrakech souks off Djemaa El Fna, immersed in a heavy wave of Arabic language. Knitted together by some kind of market-loving wizard, the area between Djemaa El Fna and the Ben Youssef Mosque is pretty much one giant labyrinth, a vibrant mix of textures and tastes. Tacky souvenirs aside, the souks are a feast for the senses - authentically spicy, loud, pushy and colourful. Make a mental note of landmarks to gain your bearings or latch on to an official guide to show you where the best leather goods, handcrafts, carpets and flatbread are at. Djemaa El Fna is a shopping experience like no other where snake charmers, street performers and eager sellers all vie for your attention. Souk it to me!
Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market, Berlin
European Christmas markets are a magical kaleidoscope of colour. Glittering with snow, cast in a warm glow from decorative lights and drenched in the aroma of freshly baked treats, Berlin's Gendarmenmarkt is a knockout. A beautifully historic background doesn't hurt either, with market stalls nestled between the German and French cathedrals and a grand concert hall. To be fair, there are over 50 different Christmas markets in Berlin filled with yuletide elves*, acrobats and carollers, but Gendarmenmarkt has a special kind of White Christmas postcard-esque appeal. You can experience the weihnachtszauber (the magic of Christmas) for an entire month leading up to the big day, downing mulled wine as you croon along to the sound of Stille Nacht.
(*toy makers, craftsmen, goldsmiths, wood workers and general Santa-types)
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