Street markets, bazaars and trade centers have existed since ancient times, even before the use of monetary system. Before coins and bills ruled the world, merchants from all over would gather around and trade goods with each other.
Your spices for my chicken, his lumber for her bread. And these markets were the center of the city, as ancient social life was all about circling the market and getting to know all the merchants.
A lot has changed since then. Money replaced barter, credit cards replaced cash and malls have replaced markets. However, there are some markets that have not succumbed to modern times, and have managed to survive and thrive throughout history. And while these markets are scattered all over the world, they all hold at least one thing in common – the life of a merchant.
From the earliest hours of dawn until well after sunset, the life of a street market merchant is no picnic. Whether he owns a stall that sells fish, meat, spices, clothes or even random tourist accessories, the stall owner must wake up early (like, really early!), gather the goods, open the stand and get ready for a full day of negotiating with tourists, arguing with locals and advertising their stall with nothing but the use of flailing hands and loud vocal cords.
So where can you find these authentic street markets, the ones that have been around since the idea of trade itself, the ones with the real merchants of old, the markets that host hundreds of thousands of visitors daily.
The Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok, Thailand is the world’s largest weekend market and one of the largest street markets. With roughly 12,000 stalls and 200,000 daily visitors, this massive market is one of Bangkok’s most popular tourist attraction and offers basically anything and everything to make your shopping experience truly unique.
The grand bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey is exactly how it’s title describes it – grand. This iconic market is nearly 500 years old, and is home to 61 streets, 3,000 stalls, 21 inns and even a mosque. And if that isn’t chaotic enough, the bazaar reportedly hosts 400,000 people a day! If you’re looking for any authentic Turkish merchandise, this is the place to be, as you can find anything from carpets to leather goods and from furniture to spices.
In japan, the Tsukiji fish market is a remarkable sight and even more remarkable smell. This massive fish and seafood market attracts tourists and locals alike, as nearly 3,000 tons of fish and seafood is dealt with daily.
Temple St., Hong Kong is one of the world’s most famous night markets. This massive market is also widely known as a men’s market, because of the vast amounts of goods offered to men from clothes to movies, jewelry and even “forbidden pleasures”. But watch out, if you’re looking for authentic merchandise this probably isn’t the market for you, as the majority of the merchandise offered in this market is extremely cheap but also extremely fake.