5 of the Best... Markets

| May 20, 2011

A local market can prove the best way to sample the delights of a destination and its culture. Here Cox & Kings lists 5 of the best on offer from around the globe.

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Name: Bazar-e Vakil
Where: Shiraz, Iran
Don't miss: Headscarves

The Bazar-e Vakil in Shiraz is a perfect introduction to traditional Iranian shopping. Ambling along the labyrinth of streets under a vaulted roof we found all sorts of interesting and eye-catching wares, ranging from mundane household goods and kitchenware to beautiful rugs, backgammon sets, ceramics and copper and silverware. There is a seemingly infinite array of gorgeous scarves - these being big business as they are one of the few fashion items where the less conservative Iranian girl or woman can stretch the Islamic dress code a little. Moving further along we marvelled at the dishes piled high with colourful spices and herbs, tempting platters with mountains of sticky sweets and freshly baked biscuits, baskets filled with dried mulberries, raisins, almonds and pistachios.

Explore the Bazar-e Vakil in Shiraz on our 'Treasures of Iran'tour.


Name: Night market
Where: Luang Prabang, Laos
Don't miss: Table Cloths

Luang Prabang is a name which melodiously trips off the tongue and is a small, charming town nestled on the banks of the mighty Mekong River in Laos. Uncharted territory for some, but a true hidden gem and a must on anyone’s itinerary exploring this part of the Far East, is its wonderful night market. Every evening at dusk, the main street welcomes an influx of villagers from the surrounding countryside who make the journey to sell their handiwork and also catch up on the local gossip. Row upon row of colourful fabrics, cushion covers, table cloths, shawls, throws, jewellery, wooden gifts, gimmicky t-shirts, you name it, they’ve got it. In Asia its almost compulsory to haggle. I also recommend you follow your nose and take a detour to the fragrant food section to try the delicate spring rolls fresh from the wok with a tangy chilli dip.

Visit Luang Prabang's night market on our 'Ancient Kingdoms of Southeast Asia' tour.


Name: El Rastro Market
Where: Madrid, Spain
Don't miss: Tapas in a nearby bar

This huge flea market takes place every Sunday morning, as it has done since medieval times, across a number of streets surrounding Plaza de Cascorro in Madrid. The market can be a little bewildering, selling everything from clothes to handicrafts, antiques to electrical items and more, but at a time when most sights in Madrid are closed it offers an excellent insight into Madrid life. The market can get very busy so it’s a good idea to get there relatively early. Afterwards the neighbourhood of La Latina, one of the oldest parts of Madrid, is an excellent place to go on a tapas crawl.

Get lost in the jumble of El Rastro Market on our short break to Madrid.


Name: Asni, Saturday market
Where: Atlas Mountains, Marrakech
Don't miss: Leather Bags

Moroccan towns and villages have weekly markets, where locals from the surrounding area come to sell their produce and buy goods they don’t grow or produce themselves. They are different from the permanent ‘souqs’ found in larger tourist towns and provide an opportunity to observe the distinct customs of the local communities. The Saturday market at Asni is located in the High Atlas Mountains, around 45km south of Marrakech. It was fascinating to observe the local Berber men exchange fruit, vegetables, livestock and home wares and there are even a few stalls selling jewellery, rugs and souvenirs for any tourist who wants to try their hand at some
bartering. If you are thinking of heading into the High Atlas Mountains for a day tour or a longer stay, it is definitely worth trying to plan your journey to coincide with a visit to one of the Berber village markets.

The Saturday market at Asni is the perfect day trip to take during a short break to Marrakech.


Name: Pisac Market
Where: Near Cusco, Peru
Don't miss: Baby Alpaca jumpers

Every Sunday hundreds of people descend on the normally sleepy village of Pisac for the bustling weekly market. Everyday there are some permanent stalls selling local artisan products and souvenirs, but on Sundays locals sell anything and everything. In the main square there are the usual fruits, vegetables, fresh bread and meat and down the side streets you can buy live goats, sheep and guinea pigs. Strolling around the artisan stalls you can haggle for colourful blankets, soft hand-knitted alpaca clothing such as jumpers and socks, hand-made jewellery and a multitude of other imaginative souvenirs. It is much cheaper than the shops and stalls in Cuzco or at Machu Picchu, and bartering is the key. You can expect to pay around two-thirds of the original price you are given and its useful to take money in as small amounts as possible.

Wander the Pisac market and admire the goods on offer on our 'Highlights of Peru' tour.


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