Where Is the World’s Best Market?

Shopping as the locals do is one of the great pleasures of travel. Here are some of the world’s most vibrant.

Apr 18, 2011
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Locals flock to Beirut’s Souk el Tayeb farmers market.
Locals flock to Beirut’s Souk el Tayeb farmers market.
Photography courtesy Souk el Tayeb
Vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, aromatic spices and street food are available at Beirut’s Souk el Tayeb.
Vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, aromatic spices and street food are available at Beirut’s Souk el Tayeb.
Photography courtesy Mich Café
Plenty of edible goodness can be found at the Central Market Hall in Budapest.
Plenty of edible goodness can be found at the Central Market Hall in Budapest.
The roof of the Central Market Hall in Budapest features brightly coloured Zsolnay tiles.
The roof of the Central Market Hall in Budapest features brightly coloured Zsolnay tiles.
Shopping the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is an exhilarating experience.
Shopping the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is an exhilarating experience.
While haggling is expected at Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, it’s considered bad form to bargain for food.
While haggling is expected at Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, it’s considered bad form to bargain for food.
Stalls at Shanghai's Dongtai Lu sell everything from old mah-jong tiles to lacquer boxes and porcelain.
Stalls at Shanghai's Dongtai Lu sell everything from old mah-jong tiles to lacquer boxes and porcelain.
Photography Getty Images
The atmosphere at Shanghai's Dongtai Lu is unbeatable.
The atmosphere at Shanghai's Dongtai Lu is unbeatable.
Photography Corbis

Souks, bazaars, markets. Shopping as the locals do is one of the great pleasures of travel, leading not just to extraordinary, evocative purchases but real insight into the life of a city. Here are four of the world’s most vibrant.

Beirut: Souk el Tayeb

Beirut’s Saifi Village, or Quartier des Arts, is a redevelopment of the area once bisected by the Green Line, the barricade that divided Muslim west Beirut from the Christian east during the 15-year civil war. It’s home to myriad galleries and shops selling jewellery, embroidered fashion, carpets and homeware, and also hosts a terrific farmers market, Souk el Tayeb. Locals come to buy vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, aromatic spices and superb street food: cooked-to-order flatbread brushed with herb-infused oils; kebbeh, deep-fried lozenges of minced lamb and cracked wheat; all sorts of pastries; and exquisite marzipan. Saturday, 9:00 am–2:00 pm

Budapest: Központi Vásárcsarnok (Central Market Hall)

The roof of the expansive Central Market Hall on Fóvám tér glitters with the same brightly coloured Zsolnay tiles that give the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest its lustre. Inside it’s less richly decorated but no less splendid, thanks to the necklaces of scarlet dried peppers, pyramids of various paprikas and, in season, mounds of wild mushrooms, alongside vitrines of fungi samples. The edible ones are labelled with an image of a smiling woman cooking. Monday to Friday, 6:00 am–6:00 pm; Saturday, 6:00 am–2:00 pm

Istanbul: Grand Bazaar

Shopping in the sprawling, gaudily painted arcades of the Grand Bazaar—a city within the city inasmuch as it has its own banks, police station, post office, mosques and hammams—is an exhilarating experience whether you’re interested in carpets, silver jewellery, textiles, perfumes or slippers. Stallholders don’t hassle anything like they used to, and though you’re expected to haggle (aim for a discount of 30%), it’s good-humoured and not aggressive. It’s bad form to bargain if you’re buying food. Monday to Saturday, 9:00 am–7:00 pm

Shanghai: Dongtai Lu

Shanghai’s answer to London’s Portobello Road, this is a street of ramshackle two-storey houses with cantilevered upper floors and prettily carved balustrades, where the stalls sell bric-a-brac: old mah-jong tiles, lacquer boxes, 1930s advertisements, Mao watches, birdcages and porcelain. Not everything antique is as old as it pretends. But for atmosphere, it’s unbeatable: a place where stallholders doze in easy chairs; men in silk pyjamas bicycle sedately by, so as not to upset the cargo of buckets of flowers balanced precariously on their pannier racks; and people still use yokes to carry their wares. Daily 9:00 am–6:00 pm

You Tell Us
These are just four of the world’s best markets to explore. Where is your favourite?


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5 Comments about Where Is the World’s Best Market?

  1. Tim Nicholls says:

    The Adelaide Central Market in South Australia has to be a contender for one of the best food markets in the world – just ask some of the best chefs on the planet – Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday (cheap) morning.

  2. good shopping istanbul post. Definitely Istanbul! That market is amazing, take a local or a guide and you can spend hours there. by grandbazaar kapalıcarsı.

  3. Steven says:

    Definitely Istanbul! That market is amazing, take a local or a guide and you can spend hours there!

  4. Kevin says:

    The weekend market in Bangkok is phenomenal!

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