When I travel, I try to squeeze in a trip to a local market (maybe two!) into my travel plans. It doesn't matter if it's a wet fish market or a dry clothing market, the authentic cultural experiences that the markets offer is what I seek.
Here's my top 10 reasons why YOU should visit a local market at your next travel destination!
1. Authentic Experiences
Local markets offer genuine experiences, unlike the often scripted and gaudy experiences that most major tourist attractions offer.
Yes, you breathe, and breathe again, that lingering smell of fish.
Yes, that fishmonger is overly expressive in convincing his customers that his fish are the freshest ones in the whole wide world.
Yes, one poor fish is definitely missing its head, as you spot a discarded fish head in the gutter.
Yes, it is all real. Everything is real. And good.
2. Soak Up The Atmosphere
Local markets are vibrant and bustling with activity. With the right dose of chaos and clutter, markets offer an experience for the senses for the casual visitor. Each market holds its unique combination of sights, sounds, smells, touch, and tastes, which you can explore at your own pace. Staying within safe boundaries in the fruits zone or venture deep and grimy into the meat section, it is all up to you.
3. Interact With The Locals
Local markets are a great place to interact with the locals. Many merchants warmly welcome curious tourists who show an interest in their livelihoods. The merchants may be very pleased to give you a quick show-and-tell of what they sell and proudly ask you to photograph their fresh produce (with a seeing-is-believing confidence in their produce's freshness!). Local markets are also full of colourful personalities, many of whom you won't forget long after your holiday is over.
4. Learn About Local Cultures
Many of these markets have been around for decades, and even centuries, and are firmly rooted in the lives of the local community. They offer a view into the day-to-day life of the local people. Fresh produce and cooking products sold at markets offer a good glimpse into the ingredients that goes into the cultural dishes of the region. Also, apparel observed hanging in stores (and hanging on the shoppers themselves) offer an insight into the style trends and clothing fads of the locals.
5. Endless Photo Opportunities
With reference to the previous points, local markets provide fabulous photo opportunities for you Instagramers. Colourful and diverse fresh produce, chaotic market scenes, and friendly merchants provide the right ingredients for your Instagram-worthy shots.
6. Try Some Local Food
Local markets are a great place to try authentic local cuisine and snacks. Stalls in the local markets tend to cater to the local shopper crowds so they offer menus that are not "internationally"-influenced for tourist tastebuds. You may also like to try some of the fresh produce or the fresh seafood (which are probably as fresh as they can get!).
7. A Different Shopping Therapy
Whilst many of us are acclimatised to the air-conditioned and cosy environment of mega-shopping malls, local markets provide their own intimate retail charms. The shopping experience is personal, and merchants may love for you to feel or sample their products. At the markets, there's usually many stalls selling the same products so the merchants can get very competitive - ensuring you'll have the optimal shopping experience and leave their store a happy shopper!
8. Practice Your Haggling Skills
Never haggled? It's fun! More than just saving on a few dollars (or cents), it provides a great opportunity for interaction with the friendly local sellers. A friendly banter never hurts anyone, and remember, practice makes perfect! If it works out, great, you've got yourself a steal, otherwise, move on to next door!
9. Buy Unique Souvenirs
Tired of tacky mass-produced souvenir key chains and fridge magnets? Local markets make a great hunting ground for handicrafts and other locally made goods. Local spices and locally produced food products also make lovely gifts, and your experience in procuring them at the local market will be a good tale to tell. Remember, you will be directly buying from the local people, contributing directly towards their livelihoods.
10. Markets Are Free!
You don't have to pay a cent to have a good time at the local market! In fact, you will leave much richer with great memories.
Enjoy your time exploring the local markets on your next holiday!
Below are a collection of local market experiences, for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy.
Mercado Municipal de São Paulo, São Paulo
Mercado Central, Santiago
Dorze Market, Dorze Village
Lake Hawassa Fish Market, Hawassa City
Hamer Market, Dimeka
Key Afer Market
Animal Market, Jakarta
Pasar Ikan (Fish Market), North Jakarta
Pasar Kambing (Goat Market), Jakarta
Pasar Petak Sembilan (Victory Market), Jakarta
Rishon Lezion Market
Kuromon Ichiba Market, Osaka
Yanagibashi Fish Market, Fukuoka
Green Bazaar, Almaty
Isoko Mini-Market, Kigali
Dongdaemun Market, Seoul
Jongno Market, Seoul
Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market, Seoul
Darajani Market, Zanzibar
Malindi Fish Market, Zanzibar
United Arab Emirates
Deira Fish Souk, Dubai
United States of America
Berkeley Farmer's Market, California