Top Ten Markets & Bazaars
From canaries in Beijing to felt skullcaps in Tunis, relish the sheer variety of the world’s marketplaces and the produce and wares on offer.
1. Sololá Market, Guatemala
Red with white stripes is the dominant fashion among sellers and customers at this weekly market in the Guatemalan highlands. Many women arrive with sacks on their heads filled with goods ranging from tortillas to live chickens as well as the handwoven costumes of the Kaqchikel Indians. There is barely a tourist trinket in sight, and traditional dress is the rule.
2. La Vega Central, Santiago, Chile
The Chilean capital’s joyously chaotic La Vega Central market, beside the Mapocho River, positively drips South American culture. For the less squeamish—and the large stray dog, cat, and fly population—pigs’ heads, tripe, and intestines are a draw. Other delicacies on offer include sopaipillas (fried pumpkin bread), caldo pata (hoof soup), and pastel de choclo (corn pie).
3. Namdaemun Market, Seoul, South Korea
South Korea’s largest traditional market, Namdaemun—“great south gate”—owes its name to its location near a former gate in Seoul’s long gone city wall. More than 1,000 stores and stalls purvey an array of produce, including clothes, flowers, ginseng products, street food, leather goods, toys—and live turtles.
4. Flower, Bird, Fish, and Insect Market, Beijing, China
Chirruping canaries, caterwauling kittens, and chirping crickets create a quintessentially Chinese sound track at Beijing’s Guan Yuan Hua Niao Yu Chong Shi Chang (Flower, Bird, Fish, and Insect Market). Shoes, scorpions, and smoking pipes are among the finds, alongside kites and insects. Much of Beijing may have been sanitized in a frantic rush to modernize, but this old-style market remains refreshingly authentic.
5. Grand Bazaar, Kashgar, China
Two thousand years of history have not dented exotic Kashgar’s importance as a market town on the ancient Silk Road. Its Grand Bazaar has long attracted merchants from throughout Central Asia and western China, trading in livestock, carpets, handicrafts, clothes, and food. Barter remains common.
6. Pak Khlong Talat, Bangkok, Thailand
Head from Memorial Bridge toward Bangkok’s Chinatown and your nose will guide you to the city’s largest wholesale flower, spice, fruit, and vegetable market, open round the clock. Orchids, jasmine, roses, and myriad other eruptions of color and fragrance compete for visual and olfactory attention.
7. Mercato della Pignasecca, Naples, Italy
At its brash best, Naples is one of Italy’s most exuberant cities. A superb place to experience its vibrant soul and top-notch street food is the Pignasecca Market. Culinary favorites include calzone, panzerotti (potato croquettes), taralli (Italian-style pretzels), pizza fritta (deep-fried pizza), and sfogliatelle (filled pastries).
8. Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Provence, France
This island in the fast-flowing Sorgue River was once a water- milling center producing silk, wool, and paper. The traditional industries went into decline in the 1960s, and a new one arose: Antiques-selling. The town now has more than 300 permanent antiques dealers, and its flea market is France’s largest outside Paris. Musicians create a carnival mood on market days, while stalls sell Provençal food and handicrafts.
9. Mercado da Ribeira, Lisbon, Portugal
Founded in 1882 and housed in its current riverside building since 1930, this is Lisbon’s largest food market. On the ground floor, stalls sell everything from fish and seafood to flowers, meat, fruit, and vegetables, while the upper story is a center for local art and gastronomy. Star buys include honey and hand- painted tiles, a Portuguese specialty.
10. Souk des Chéchias, Tunis, Tunisia
Dedicated to the chéchia, a felt skullcap with tassels or a tuft, this suq (market) full of 19th-century shops is perhaps the most interesting—yet endangered—in Tunis. Traditionally associated with Andalusian Moors exiled from Spain between 1609 and 1614, the handmade chéchia became part of the Tunisian national costume. Nowadays, a mere handful of craftsmen remains.
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