14th Oct 2012 10:17am | By Editor
Where better to immerse yourself in local culture than a frenetic market?
Bartering for bargains, haggling over homeware and letting the sights, sounds and smells batter your senses. It’s the perfect way to escape the tourist traps in popular holiday destinations.
Whether it’s at a Middle Eastern souk, a European bazaar or an Asian wet market, there are usually as many locals picking up groceries as there are holidaymakers photographing every quirky stall.
Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is our pick of the world’s best. The covered market, which is more than 500 years old, is a labyrinth of narrow alleys lined with silver jewellery stores, sacks of pungent spices, bright lanterns, embroidered carpets and fabulously carved antique furniture.
There are more than 5000 shops along the 60 streets inside the huge two-domed building, the first of which dates back to 1455.
This is a market unlike any other, housing two mosques, four fountains and two hamams for visitors to gaze at while snapping up cheap goods.
And, so long as you’re prepared to bust out your best haggling skills, you can bag an excellent deal.
The best buys to be made are leather goods – you can pick up bargain belts, wallets and bags for much less than you’d pay at home.
Take your time agreeing on prices, though – many of the sellers are mathematical wizards, switching between any number of currencies and calculating percentaged discounts quicker than you can work out the exchange rate.
Feeling flush? The more pricey items – furniture, copperware, prayer beads and jewellery – are sold in the domed hall of Cevahir Bedesten.
After all that shopping, treat yourself to a strong Turkish coffee in one of the many cosy cafes inside the Grand Bazaar, which are interspersed between the shops.
Then sit back, examine your purchases and spend the next hour people-watching for an unforgettable cultural experience.
It’s the biggest wholesale fish market in the world and has an overwhelming smell to match. Tokyo’s Tsukiji seems as though it has half the content of the ocean laid out on ice.
There are amazing products on sale here, from wildly expensive pots of caviar to monstrous 300kg tuna.
It’s auction-only inside the inner market, reserved for authorised buyers, while the public can pick up seafood at smaller shops in the outer market.
The name of this market in Lomé is a little misleading (unless you have very niche bedroom tastes). Instead of latex and leather, you’ll find lots of animal skulls, bones and sacrificial dolls, all of which are used for voodoo spells and medicines.
Among the collections are hundreds of chimpanzee body parts, which are ground into amedicinal powder that’s supposed to help a man’s, ahem, performance.