From India to Guatemala, it seems as though every culture can get behind a little shopping. Below, we’ve rounded up eight of the world’s best markets that give you just that.
1. Johari Bazaar – Jaipur, India
Johari Bazaar is a streetside market that is just as colorful as the city it inhabits. For those visiting the Pink City, or simply stopping over on their way to the Taj Mahal, this is not to be missed. The word Johari, meaning jewel, is representative of the wondrous gems this market contains. It is here that you will find not only traditional Rajasthani necklaces, anklets, bangles, and rings made of gold, silver, diamonds, and emeralds, but you will also glimpse numerous clothing stalls selling beautiful dip-dyed sarees and lehengas. For an accurate representation of the spirit of Rajasthan, be sure to bring home a pair of “juttis,” the traditional colorful footwears of the Rajasthani people.
2. Chatuchak Weekend Market – Bangkok, Thailand
Though this market is only open on the weekend, it is a very popular attraction for both tourists and foreigners who stay in Bangkok. With over 15,000 booths clustered into 27 acres of land, it’s among the largest markets in the world. With that being said, it’s safe to say you can find everything but the kitchen sink — and for cheap. Bargain with shopkeepers on anything from underground hip-hop fashions and chunky handmade jewelry to traditional Thai musical instruments and Buddhist amulets. If you plan on staying the entire day, be sure to check any of the various food stalls selling pad Thai, massive bowls of paella, and freshly chopped fruits.
3. Mercado Ver-o-Peso – Brazil
The only UNESCO World Heritage site on our list, this market received acclamation from the United Nations in 1977 as a bit of “cultural property.” Mercado Ver-o-Peso today, with it’s distinctive steeples and serene blue tone, is sprawled across a vast landscape of almost 35,000 square meters. Set along the Guajara Bay in Brazil, this massive market is an important part of Brazilian social life and cultural exchange. It isn’t just a place where people go to buy their fruits, vegetables, beans, and rice – it’s where they go to experience the tradition of trade, which is merely a fraction of the ancient, rich traditions of their people.
4. La Boqueria Market – Barcelona, Spain
Located right in the center of the city, in an area known as Las Ramblas, is La Boqueria Market. With traces back to early civilization in the 1200’s, the market today serves as a major gastronomy hub for Catalonians and tourists alike. The market boasts over 200 stalls selling fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, meat, and various spices. There are a number of different sit-down restaurants and traditional tapas bars where visitors can get a taste of not only Spanish cuisine, but flavors from all over the world. The market also contains a second floor, where classrooms are housed for events and courses dedicated to all things cooking and gastronomy.
5. Jemaa el-Fna Square – Marrakech, Morocco
An unorderly array of vendors set across a vast expanse of desert land, in this square you will surely be enchanted by the Moroccan spirit. Wander through the square during the day, and you will find carts laden with dates, dried figs, and nuts, as well as stalls lined with delicate statues and colorful handicrafts. In the afternoon is when the magic happens. Take a stroll through the square and you will find the entertainment factor. Crowds gather around street performers, storytellers, and snake charmers clutching cobras and flutes.
6. Camden Market – London, England
We couldn’t make a list of the best markets in the world without including one of the most famous. Camden Market, also referred to as “Camden Lock,” is open 365 days a year, closing only for Christmas. Though you can find various stores teeming with punk-rock clothing, hipster bags, and vintage vinyls, Camden Market is just as much a lifestyle as it is an artisan market. It’s been called "London’s trendiest Sunday hang-out" by The Daily Express, with famous talents such as David Bowie, Paul McCartney, and Naomi Campbell all showing face among the hundreds of stalls. Businesses in the area had also been known to host its fair share of pub crawls, coffee house sessions, and spoken word performances.
7. Chichicastenango Market – Chichicastenango, Guatemala
Just about 140 km north of Guatemala City, nestled between mountainous peaks lies a small town by the name of Chichicastenango. At an altitude of 1,965 meters, the journey up is just half of the adventure. But be sure to visit on a Thursday or Sunday, as this is when the famous outdoor handicraft market is open, and the bulk of the community gathers to take part in trading. Vendors set up their stalls, selling anything from handicrafts, flowers, condiments, medicinal plants, and incense (also known as pom and copal). In the central part of the market, you will find some small eateries selling traditional Mayan food.
8. Reading Terminal Market – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
A piece of history in its own right, Reading Terminal Market is one of America’s largest and oldest markets. What once served as a public, open-air market for the fishers, huntsmen, and farmers of the late seventeenth century transformed over the centuries into a street-level market building, home to over 80 merchants offering everything from fresh produce and meats to crafts, clothing, and books. Enjoy a bite of the freshly baked goods of Philadelphia’s Amish community, or tempt your tastebuds with a famous Philly cheesesteak!