Whether you’re a souvenir-hoarder, a shopaholic or you simply love to go where the locals go, markets are usually a good starting point. A tradition that spans the ages, across the planet these shopping meccas offer fascinating insight into the local culture. Spend one dollar or one thousand – or simply look. Here’s a quick rundown of our top five favourite markets around the world, exploding with colourful eye candy and oozing atmosphere that's impossible to resist.
Grand Bazaar – Istanbul, Turkey
It’s easy to get lost in the Grand Bazaar’s maze of winding alleyways overflowing with colourful buys and smelling of exotic spices and aromatic incense. But that’s half the fun! Stumble across gorgeous ceramic lamps, character-laden antiques, Turkish carpets and everything from jewellery to furniture. One of the world’s oldest covered markets, built in the 15th century, it’s home to over 4000 stall holders and weclomes half a million people through its doors every single day. Apart from the retail therapy, inside you’ll also find mosques, hamams (Turkish baths), beautiful fountains and bustling cafes brimming with strong Turkish coffee to keep you going all day.
Tsukiji Fish Market –Tokyo, Japan
A must-see market for every traveller to Tokyo, bustling Tsukiji is fabulous not for the chance to buy what’s on offer but to simply see the spectacle (and perhaps taste it too). The world’s largest fish market, unique sea creatures are laid out on ice, row after row, as the locals go in search of the freshest catch. It's a fine example of just how central fish is to Japanese cuisine. Apart from ogling at the curious specious and their googly eyes (and no doubt smelling them too), travellers will love the chance to try some incredibly fresh sushi – the sushi bars here are some of the best and tastiest in all of Tokyo.
‘Am Dom’ Christmas Market – Cologne, Germany
There’s nowhere better to feel the festive cheer in full force (and buy some last minute Christmas presents) than Am Dom with its traditional offerings and spectacular setting in Cologne. Playing out beside the gothic Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest cathedral in Germany, it can also claim the largest Christmas tree in the Rhine. Rug up and set off in the chilly winter temperatures to find some spiced mulled wine, zingy gingerbread and flavoursome German sausage, before browing the yuletide to the sound of traditional music. The kids will love the puppet theatre, the many toy stands and the sparkling lights that adorn the spirited tents.
Chandni Chowk – Delhi, India
Chandni Chowk is where Delhi really comes to life in a mix of chaos and colour. If you’re looking for a great bargain, this is the place to go – this is where the local vendors go to get their goods. The largest wholesale market in Asia, it’s set in the ancient walled district of Old Delhi so is full of narrow alleyways and sub-markets off the congested main street where a noisy mix of traffic, horse-drawn carts and people fight to make their way through the action. From beautiful scarves and electronics to household ornaments and delicious street food, Chandni Chowk has just about anything you could ever hope for.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market – Bangkok, Thailand
There’s no wandering here. Instead, you must climb aboard your very own boat to explore the many floating vendors on offer at Damnoen Saduak – one of many floating markets in the busy metropolis of Bangkok. Over 100 years old and still going strong, the market is abuzz with excitement and fresh produce (most of the goods are fruit and vegetables). But whether you’re looking to buy a snack on the road or not, Damnoen Saduak is worth the trip. Hire a rowboat or long-tail boat from one of the nearby piers to explore, then afterwards, continue on down a few of the quieter canals nearby for a little more sightseeing.