10 Best Street Markets in the World

Busy street market full of goods and people
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Street markets have been centers of commerce for centuries. Even in the age of Walmart and Amazon, these casual retail spaces, usually populated by small, independent vendors, are thriving in some parts of the world and are being revisited as viable places to shop in others. For tourists, cities with bustling market scenes are great destinations. If you want to toss out the guidebook and really see what locals are eating, buying and talking about, visit the local market, like this one in Marrakech, Morocco.

Of course, bargain hunting and eating always seem to end up on market visitors' agendas, even if the outing began as a sightseeing-only exercise. Virtually every major metro area on the planet has at least some sort of market that can give visitors an authentic experience. However, the following 10 markets are not to be missed and worthy of a spot on anyone's itinerary.

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St. Lawrence Market, Toronto

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Toronto's sprawling St. Lawrence Market is the envy of other mall-weary North American cities. The market has a 200-year history and currently consists of three large retail spaces. Open Tuesday through Saturday, St. Lawrence has specialty vendors selling artisan foods, organic meats and vegetables, and many other locally grown or handcrafted goods. More than 100 vendors populate the lower levels of the South Market building, while art and cultural exhibitions are regularly held on the upper level. The Saturday Farmers Market, held in the adjacent North Market building, brings even more options to hungry shoppers, while Sunday's antiques show draws bargain hunters and collectors. The ground floor of St. Lawrence Hall, one of Toronto's most historic structures and home to still more retailers, completes the market-lover's triple crown.

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La Boqueria, Barcelona

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Barcelona is known for its beaches, its famous soccer club, and its architecture. However, La Boqueria is arguably the city's most exciting attraction, at least from a food lover's perspective. This market's roots can be traced back to the 13th century, and its design and atmosphere are, for some visitors, as attractive as what's for sale in the many market stalls. Boqueria's edibles range from fresh seafood and vegetables to artisanal foods and Catalan specialties. Some visitors are bound to get inspired and want to do more than simply eat their way around the market. Luckily, Boqueria has an onsite culinary school so that those with culinary ambitions can take some Catalan kitchen skills back home with them.

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Chandni Chowk, Delhi

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Chandni Chowk is the busiest market in Delhi, as it has been for several hundred years. Located in its namesake neighborhood, within eyeshot of the famous Red Fort in the old town, this buzzing retail area offers the quintessential experience for anyone visiting the subcontinent. For some, the market, which can be described by a number of superlative adjectives, is simply a sensory overload. But, unlike the other markets on this list, it might actually be possible to get anything in Chandni Chowk, from made-to-order wedding dresses to exotic fruits to refurbished secondhand shoes. Each alley of this buzzing retail district holds something that is either unforgettable or simply unbelievable.

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Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok

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Chatuchak Weekend Market is a legend among tourists and Bangkok residents alike. It is the largest market in Thailand, by far, and one of the largest weekend markets in the world. Sometimes simply referred to as JJ (an apt abbreviation, since the "ch" sound in Thai is sometimes Romanized as a "j"), it is a sprawling market that welcomes at least 200,000 people per day on the weekend. This place is a souvenir-hunter's dream, with all sorts of exotic crafts, antiques and collectibles for sale, alongside live animals, socks and boxer shorts, and virtually anything else you could want or need. Novices (and many locals) have trouble finding their way around the 35 acres of market stalls, but a huge variety of food vendors mean that hopelessly lost shoppers will never go hungry or thirsty while wandering aimlessly. Also, JJ has a smoking ban, so while you will be confronted with all sorts of scents, cigarette smoke will not be one of them.

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Shilin Night Market, Taipei

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Shilin Night Market is the largest of Taipei's famous night markets. It is best known for its gigantic food court. Independent vendors sell their specialties in a virtual feeding frenzy, and many locals and visitors consider this one of the best places to eat in all of Taiwan. Renovations of the original market building have led to some major moves for local vendors, but these food artisans, many of whom have a devoted group of regular customers, are still serving the same dishes that they always have. Hundreds of additional vendors are found along the streets that surround Shilin, with non-food related shops also part of the mix.

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Marrakech, Morocco

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Marrakech is home to some of the best, most authentic shopping options in the Magreb. The city's souks have starred in travel literature, films and armchair travelers' daydreams for decades. Though it is often referred to as the Marrakech Souk by the uninitiated, there is actually no central market area, rather a series of interconnected markets that specialize in different items. Authentic Moroccan handcrafts are for sale down one narrow street, while dates and flatbreads overflow from street stalls and shop houses down an adjacent alleyway. Whether you are in the market for a handmade pair of sandals or an authentic Moroccan meal, or you simply want to take it all in without spending a single dirham, this commercial district is one of the best attractions in all of North Africa.

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Camden Lock Market, London

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The Camden Lock Market is a huge area of interconnected retail spaces where vendors sell everything from art and furniture to food and jeans. This is one of London's biggest tourist attractions, with at least 100,000 people passing through the market on peak shopping weekends. Eating and bargain hunting are always options, but a calendar of special events, including concerts and art shows, are also part of the mix.

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Rialto Market, Venice

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The Rialto Market, in Italy's tourism hot spot Venice, is one of the world's most atmospheric retail spaces. It is also one of the oldest, with a market first moving to the area at the end of the 11th century. Today's market sits on the bank of the Grand Canal, which is spanned by the famous Rialto Bridge, a stereotypically stylish and historic Venetian masterpiece that dates from the 1500s. The market itself is a bustle of activity every day, with goods unloaded from barges and locals aggressively seeking out the freshest and best items. Fish is the backbone of commerce at Rialto, though vegetables, fruit and other products important to Venetian cuisine are also on display. For tourists, a visit is more about the experience than about shopping, but what an experience it is!

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Ver-o-peso, Belem, Brazil

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Markets worth mentioning for their size are found in Brazil's main cities, from São Paulo to Rio to Salvador. Perhaps the most unusual space, however, is the Ver-o-peso Market in the mid-sized city of Belem, at the mouth of the Amazon. Açai berries are one of this market's recognizable staples, but many other products are completely foreign to visitors. Fish and fruits found deep in the forests of the Amazon are for sale here, and not for sale (or even seen) anywhere else in the world. This is a place where the true wealth and diversity of this largely unexplored region of the world are on display.

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Portland Farmers Market

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There are plenty of excellent farmers markets in the U.S., but our list's American entry is the Portland Farmers Market at Portland State University because of its local, organic focus and diversity of items. Aside from super-fresh seafood, this Saturday shopping spot in the City of Roses features exotic foods that are made and grown locally. Vendors hawk everything from Asian vegetables that are hard to get on this side of the Pacific to buffalo meat to organic berries. Overall, Portland has an impressive menu of farmers markets.