21st Sep 2012 6:54am | By Caitlin Stanway
Get in touch with your inner-hipster by scouring the local markets – with our guide you may even get more than you bargain for
They’re the place where the timid are taken for all they’re worth and those arrogant tight-arses (we all know one!) come away with a king size loot and yet another thing to brag about. With at least one in every city around the world, markets are the perfect place to get a feel for local life.
From questionable street food to authentic national costumes (think Indian saris, Moroccan babouche slippers and the all-Australian Akubra) local markets are the best way to experience a new culture and pick up a memento that’s actually worth showing off (you may have collected 25 from each country your Contiki tour waved to, but a shot glass is still a shot glass!)
Markets are usually the place where locals come to wheel and deal, and they tend to be easily accessible, generally found within walking distance of the city center. With many of the world's best markets boasting ocean views, and some of the most impressive markets housed in century old precincts, the locations are often just as impressive as the wares.
It’s all about being savvy and getting your haggle on. Being reserved will get you nothing but zips that don’t zip, lights that don’t light and a pleather bag that’s only a ‘one off’ because that’s roughly how many times you’ll get to use it before it disintegrates.
With so much food to taste, instruments to test, bags to buy and stall holders to haggle with, we’ve done the hard work for you (someone had to do it!) and found the best markets to get you started.
Set in the historic precinct of The Rocks, these Sydney markets are the ultimate strolling destination. Between stunning views of Sydney Harbour, cobbled alleyways and period sandstone architecture, The Rocks are a charming labyrinth of hidden café’s and art galleries that transform into a bustling arts hub on the weekends. Being such a short walk from the CBD and transport hub, Circular Quay, the markets have a definite tourist focus but don’t let this put you off. Nestled between the fridge magnets these all-Australian markets are home to some truly memorable wares, with authentic emu leather wallets, kangaroo skin bags and crocodile belts guaranteeing you will leave with the ultimate Australian memento. If the feathers and scales aren’t quite your thing, the impressive selection of soaps and lotions made with native Australian plants will have you at least smelling better than a tired traveller. With food from surrounding restaurants making their way to the sidewalks, the night markets are the perfect place to wrap up the day.
DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT: An authentic hand painted didgeridoo – what better way to remember Australia and piss off your housemates?
Mindil Beach Markets are possibly the most relaxed markets in the world. Setting up camp on the shore of Mindil Beach in Darwin, the sunset markets are held beneath the stars on a Thursday and Sunday night during the dry season. Established in 1987, the Mindil Beach vision statement was to bring the multi-cultural vibrancy of Asian street markets to the tropical setting of Darwin, and it’s a vision that has clearly come to fruition. From April to October, Darwin nights are balmy and inviting, and the crowds are an attest to this. It’s the perfect climate for wandering through the hippy clothing stores, vintage jewelry stands and eclectic art stalls. Live bands, fire shows, acrobatics and street performers keep revelers entertained while testing some of the 1,200 dishes on offer is the ultimate way for a hungry shopper to get a taste of Asian-Pacific cuisine. It’s not just the food rocking an Asian flavour either, as among the local handmade wares you can pick yourself up some authentic Balinese silks or kick back with a massage under the stars.
DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT: Hightailing it to the ‘Crock, Stock and Barra’ stall to score a crocodile tooth necklace. Nothing says ‘the Top End’ like a Crocodile Dundee impersonation.
The forgotten state, Hobart is often thought of as the slow sibling, but anyone who has found themselves venturing across the Tasman will tell you the sleepy state is full of surprises, and if the Salamanca Market is anything to go by they’d be right on the money. Held in Salamanca Place, the Saturday markets are a hot spot for locals heading out to grab some breakfast and stock up on local produce for the weekend. Ringed by sandstone warehouses, Salamanca Place has a definite village vibe, and the locals manning the 300 hundred stalls are all too keen for having a yarn and making visitors feel welcome. The Salamanca Market really is all about the locals. The produce on sale is farmed, grown, picked and cooked by the very same local selling it too you, and the stunning hand-crafted jewellery is melted twisted and polished by the artist holding up the mirror. Short of pulling on the gumboots and becoming a sheep farmer (all gags aside, Tasmania is renown for their sheep’s milk cheese) there is no better way to be a local for a day than a Saturday jaunt around Salamanca.
DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT: Making yourself sick (and saving your lunch money) testing the hundreds of cheeses on offer.
Forget about dirty stalls, hawking sellers and smells you don’t even want to try to guess, the Queen Victoria Market is arguably the classiest market around. Housed in a several connected precincts, some dating back to 1868, the period architecture sets the scene for these charming markets. Renown amongst foodies as the cuisine capital of Australia, Melbourne’s finest restaurants all hit up the QVM’s huge fresh food markets for the best quality produce. Get into the foodie spirit and spend an afternoon trawling Deli Hall and Meat Hall where the art deco features make you feel a corset may be more appropriate than your Chuck Taylor’s. The old world charm doesn’t end on the dinner plate either, the Victoria street shops are home to so many specialty shops and boutiques you’ll start to wonder how you ever lived without that dedicated button specialist and teacup store.
DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT: A hideously quaint floral teacup for a little bit of class in the dodgy hostels – we can all pretend!
Take Mindle’s hippy clothes, Salamanca’s cheese, Melbourne’s tea cups, The Rocks’ souvenirs, throw in a cooking school, and you’ve got yourself Fremantle Markets. It’s the Jack-of-all-trades of markets, with a little bit of everything, including a zoo. Where else can you buy fresh produce, an opal ring, get a henna tattoo, learn to cook a risotto and get cozy with a koala? Purpose built as a market hall in 1897 this heritage-listed building is the self-proclaimed home to the weird and wonderful. If you can’t be bothered learning to cook, Freemantle Fish and Chips is a tried and tested favourite among locals as the ultimate hangover cure. With live music and street performers entertaining (or at least amusing) shoppers over the weekend, the eclectic-ness of these markets is exactly why the locals love them.
DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT: Checking out the Doll Orphanage – it epitomizes the brilliant weirdness of these markets. Just look though, buying would be creepy.
No trip to Thailand is worth it unless you return with a hideous fake Louis Vuitton, ten pairs of ‘Ray Bons’ a knock off Armani suit and a hundred DVDs that will ultimately make you seasick. With this in mind, a visit to Chatuchak Markets in Bangkok is a must for every visitor. With 15,000 stores the sheer size of these markets alone makes it worth a look. Aside from the thousands of knock off stalls, Chatachak is full of authentic Thai clothing, questionable pet stores (a monkey anyone?) and street vendors selling food you don’t even want to try to identify. Get there early as the estimated 200,000 visitors a day combined with the Thai humidity can make for a pretty uncomfortable afternoon once things start to get sweaty. The Thai are a friendly bunch, so although you can expect to barter and negotiate, this is one market where a polite approach and big smile will help you out.
DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT: A fake bag full of fake stuff you can sell to your younger brother’s friends – it’s all about the bargain at Chatachak.
It’s hard to describe the overwhelming grandeur of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. With construction of the main building, the Bedesten, starting in 1455, the history of these undercover markets is evident in the elaborate buildings. Over 60 undercover streets house over 3,000 shops that twist into such a maze you can bet on leaving with a head spin. If the Bazaar’s architecture is a work of art, then its art is a masterpiece. Almost every wall, floor, ceiling, door and window boasts some sort of fresco or mosaic. The shopping is almost as impressive as the site, with the goods for the most part staying away from gimmicky tourist trash. Hand painted ceramics, detailed printed textiles and leadlight lanterns all add to the overall beauty of the Bazaar. Haggling is, like most international markets, par for the course in a Bazaar shopping trip, so be ready to do some fairly standard negotiating. With up to 400,000 people visiting in a single day, be sure to keep a close eye on your backpack and study the map and landmarks well, it’s scarily easy to get lost.
DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT: Spending a fortune on something gold. Midas went to town in the Bazaar’s jewellery section.
Spread over the north of Marrakech city, this baby is not for the faint-hearted. Even the best hagglers will be put to the test, over multiple cups of mint tea (refusing the merchants tea is, if you want to buy anything, not really an option). With shopkeepers out the front yelling, motorbikes flying down streets and more felines than a Cats production, the souks can be overwhelming. But if keep your sense of humour and brace yourself for the mayhem, the Marrakech experience is unlike any other. While the prices aren’t the cheapest, the quality is unbeatable, and the famed Moroccan rugs can easily last up to 30 years. Unless you have superlative map reading and negotiation skills it’s wise to hire a guide to take you around. Be cautious though, as although they are still worth having, they do get kickbacks from retailers if you make a purchase, so stand your ground. Aggressive shopkeepers aside, the souk is a myriad of exotic sights, smells and experienced you’d be mad to miss out on.
(LADIES) DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT: A chaperone. While you may think you’re talking carpet prices, the cost of your hand in marriage is often open for discussion (and depressingly affordable, so they think).
Berlin is a hipster’s paradise and the markets are their mecca. It’s the place where they can combine their love of bargain hunting, being outdoors and recycling. They’re also the perfect way to dip into the unique aesthetic of cutesy-crafty, vintage-chic. But above all, they are the place to get a feel of the city’s culture, past and present. At the Karl-August market, ice-skating, jugglers and fire-breathers create a carnival atmosphere, and Berlin’s edgy rep as an arts hub is reflected in the sale of jewellery, paintings and sculptures by the city’s cutting-edge designers and artists. Household bric-a-brac on tabletops serve as a portal to the past, from World War II to Berlin’s industrial expansion in the 19th century.
DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT: Trying on some authentic German shorts (Lederhosen), you’ll save a few Euros (and a lot of chafing) if you buy a pair that have already been broken in.