Museums, monuments, shops and restaurants are essential stops for the urban explorer, but there are few places that distil the essence of a city like markets do. If you want real sights, smells and life a market visit is an absolute must. From the hectic haggling of Hong Kong to the fresh food delights of San Franciso, we look at some of the world's best bazaars…
More of a spectacle than a shopping experience, Tokyo's gigantic Tsukiji Market is a must for those who can get up early enough and don't mind the smell of fish. Handling more than 400 types of seafood daily and 700,000 metric tons every year, any sashimi you enjoy in the city will have come through here. Due to increased safety and hygiene issues with visitors, the exciting wholesale tuna auctions are not currently viewable, but you can still catch plenty of action if you head down between 5:30 and 8:00am. Be careful of the forklifts zipping in and out.
Another one to get up early for, the fantastic Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is a great morning call for visitors to the Bay Area. Situated in front of and to the rear of the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero, this is the place to pick up the freshest, juiciest fruit for a picnic in the park. Produce isn't cheap, but most vendors are very generous with samples that never disappoint. If you want something more substantial to grab on the go, Thursday is the day to visit for a superb selection of sandwiches, breads, pizza and other street foods.
Barely three years old and already a New York institution, the Brooklyn Flea is a weekend browser's paradise. Open every Saturday in Fort Greene and Sunday in Williamsburg, the market brings together quality antiques and artisan items of all stripes, from jewellery and furniture to vintage threads and vinyl records. If you're not into knick-knacks, Saturday's Smorgasburg provides the Flea's foodie fix when 100-odd prepared food and greenmarket vendors gather on the East River Waterfront. The Flea is also well worth a visit in winter when it relocates to its indoor Art Deco-style home at Skyline One Hanson (Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower).
If you want lively, colourful and atmospheric, Temple Street Night Market is the one. Trading starts in the afternoon, but dusk is the time to get there as the lights come on and things really get going. Sometimes referred to as 'Men's Street' it's the territory's top spot for picking up jeans, shirts, shoes and watches – the sale of which is always open to vigorous bargaining. Extra fun can be had at the many fortune-telling stalls and visitors are regularly treated to impromptu street performances of Chinese opera.
Among Delhi's many sprawling markets, Dilli Haat may not be the cheapest, but it's certainly one of the most varied. The small entry fee and the fact that the regularly rotated vendors are registered through a rigorous application process means authenticity and value are ensured. The huge range of fine handicrafts, silks and accessories comes from all over, and there are delicious food offerings from every state in India. Try some coconut-infused Goan fare, veggie delights from Gujarat or some of the hot stuff from Nagaland.
Heading beyond the Bund and down Nanjing Road, Shanghai seems to become one big bazaar. Markets here tend to take the form of indoor mazes filled with a multitude of vendors selling similar wares. The Souvenir Market (AKA the 'Fake Market') at 580 Nanjing West is where most people head first for knock-off gadgets and fashion forgeries of varying quality. However, the Dong Tai Road Antiques Market is a lot more fun for those not afraid to haggle hard – not everything is exactly 'antique'. The Tianshan Tea Market meanwhile has three floors dedicated just to the world's favourite drink. Set aside a few hours and smell and sample all manner of teas to your heart's delight.
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About the author: andrewAndrew Bowman
Andrew is an occasional contributor to the Virgin Atlantic blog. He lived in the Japanese countryside for two years until he could no longer resist the pull of London's galleries, pubs and clubs. He likes to pretend he can speak Japanese and also sometimes writes about music.