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Posted by on Oct 10, 2014 | 0 comments

Reader Recs: World’s Best Markets

I’m a sucker for a good market. The noise, the food, the smells, and best of all, the shopping. There’s nothing quite like it.
To celebrate these dynamic cultural hubs, we asked our Nat Geo Travel Facebook fans to share with us their picks for the best markets to visit all over the world.
Their answers—from Amsterdam’s Flower Market to a sunset market in Australia—inspired our wanderlust, and we think you’ll agree:
We kick things off with one of my favorite markets—La Boqueria in Barcelona, Spain. Stacy M. recommends it for the food and wine, and Alicia A. thinks everyone should visit at least once “to marvel at the produce on show.” This colorful market is open year-round and is located on the city’s vital La Rambla, which boasts street performers, boutiques, and delicious eats.
A vendor waits for customers at the Panjiayuan Antique Market in Beijing.  (Photograph by cementley, Flickr)

A vendor waits for customers at the Panjiayuan Antique Market in Beijing. (Photograph by cementley, Flickr)

If you’re looking for authentic finds off the well-worn tourist path, Nancy L. suggests Beijing‘s Antique Market, formally known as Panjiayuan: “There is an amazing array of local goods in a swap meet sort of environment.” While most of the vendors don’t speak English, Nancy assures us that they work hard to communicate with visitors. If food is what you’re after in the Chinese capital, head to the Donghuamen Night Market for a taste of everything from fried snake to spiced scorpion, says James H.

Istanbul‘s Grand Bazaar gets Marissa B.’s vote: “Nowhere in the world would you hear sellers speaking so many different languages in order to attract tourists. That was music to my ears and one of [my] lasting memories from Istanbul.” It is one of the largest covered markets in the world, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each day, so come prepared for a crowd.

Bou N. admits that while there is no central shopping area in Marrakech, the entire city should qualify as a market, as the streets are a maze of souks selling everything from Moroccan decor to traditional food. “This is the place to be,” he says. When dusk descends upon the city’s ancient ramparts, Nicole S. recommends visiting the Djemaa el Fna. While there may not be too much on offer for you to physically take home, the square becomes a veritable entertainment showcase for local performers and storytellers. “It feels like a circus meets a street fair, meets a step back in time,” she says. If you don’t believe her, watch this video.

Pike Place Market in Seattle was added to our list by Tyler W. for its “killer view of Elliot Bay” and mouthwatering food (think Chinese pork buns and pastries).

As the sun sets on Marrakech, head to Djemaa el-Fna square for spectacular entertainment and authentic street eats. (Photograph by rol1000, Flickr)

As the sun sets on Marrakech, head to Djemaa el Fna square for spectacular entertainment and authentic street eats. (Photograph by rol1000, Flickr)

In Bangkok, Kamakshi R. recommends Chatuchak Weekend Market for its variety and affordability, and fellow Facebooker Nomadic Decorator agrees, writing: “Right now I sit surrounded by things we found there and shipped home—a Burmese rain drum, an opium bed coffee table, Lao textiles, and even the silverware in our kitchen.” Just make sure to give yourself enough time, cautions Pam T., as the market is Thailand’s largest.

If you’re in the mood for some holiday flair, Christmas markets are the perfect place to do a bit of shopping. Katie F. recommends Strasbourg, France, where the market “takes over the entire city.” The Swiss city of Carouge also knows a thing or two about decking the halls, says Elodi B. From meeting Santa to exploring the stalls filled with handmade gifts, this festive bazaar will always make her think of home. Susan H. adds Amsterdam’s Christmas market to the list, owing to its delicious holiday delicacies. If you’re lucky, you might even get to experience a rare snow shower in the Dutch capital.
Dutch tulips and more can be found at Amsterdam's floating flower market. (Photograph by suedehead, Flickr)

Dutch tulips and more can be found at Amsterdam’s floating flower market. (Photograph by suedehead, Flickr)

Speaking of Amsterdam, Lorene A. counts the city’s Flower Market among her favorite markets in the world. “I could go on and on about the brilliant colors and variety of flowers,” she writes. As if a beautiful bouquet of flowers wasn’t enough to make you visit, the stalls float on houseboats in the Singel canal.

What could be better than a market with a view? Nothing, if you ask Maria H., which is why she suggests a visit to the Mindil Beach Sunset Market in Darwin, Australia. Every Thursday and Sunday, she says, “you get to experience a breathtaking sunset by the beach before the market begins.” Live performers, amazing food, and local artists round out this scenic event.

Quennie L. names Divisoria Market in Manila as a good bet, due to its amazing options and incredible prices. “It is the bargain shopper’s candy market,” adds Facebook user Shots and Trails.

Food may be the main attraction at Darwin's Mindil Beach Sunset Market, but theatrics play a vital role in the market's popularity. (Photograph by smithal, Flickr)

Food may be the main attraction at Darwin’s Mindil Beach Sunset Market, but theatrics play a vital role in the market’s popularity. (Photograph by smithal, Flickr)

“You feel as if you’ve stepped back in time while shopping for that next amazing cheese,” writes Jennifer M. of London‘s Borough Market. Shannon T. agrees that this food market, one of the English capital’s oldest and largest, is the best in the world. From the friendly people to the incredible smells, she just can’t get enough.

Last but not least, we head to St. George’s Market in Belfast, where “local musicians, artists, and craftsmen alike combine to form the U.K.’s most popular indoor market,” Ryan S. insists. “When the rest of the city goes quiet, particularly on a Sunday, this part of town springs to life,” he says.
Megan Heltzel is an associate producer on National Geographic Travel’s digital team. Follow her on Twitter @MeganHeltzel.
What’s your favorite market in the world and why? Tell us in the comments section.
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