There’s nothing quite like the feeling of exploring a market in a brand-new city. The sights, the smells, the bartering – visiting a country’s local flea market is a sure-fire way to meet the locals, experience the culture and learn a little about the area’s heritage. It’s also the perfect place to pick up a few unique trinkets that will be the envy of your friends back home. If you’re travelling the globe on an upcoming cruise, take a look at a few of the best markets to visit on your journey.
La Boqueria – Barcelona
Picture vibrant fruit stalls, vividly coloured sweet selections and authentic tapas venues. La Boqueria, located just off Barcelona’s buzzing Las Ramblas, has to be up there amongst the most colourful markets in the world. Dating back to the 1200s, La Boqueria was once a humble travelling market and today has grown to be one of the largest covered markets in the region. The impressive modernist entrance arch is a perfect picture opportunity, and tends to attract groups of tourists attempting the perfect selfie, but don’t be put off; waiting for you inside are more than 200 food stalls selling everything from Iberican Jamon to fruit smoothies. Colourful and fizzing with energy, this busy market is the ultimate destination for foodies.
Mercado do Jardim – Lisbon
If your cruise stops off at Lisbon, then make it your mission to attend the magical Mercado do Jardim. This weekly craft and design market is held in the beautiful garden of Estrela, and is the place for local artists to showcase their talents. Musicians and street performers take over every free space and create a relaxing, dreamy atmosphere as they perform traditional Portuguese songs, while local families bring their children to picnic in the grass and soak up the ambience. You’re also likely to pick up a truly unique artefact or two to take home with you. Well worth a visit.
Paddington Markets – Sydney
Taking place every Saturday, the Bohemian Paddington Markets is located on Sydney’s Oxford Street, and has been running since 1973. Originally opened to encourage local fashion designers, craftspeople and artists to create and sell their work, the market is now home to somewhere in the region of 150 stalls. This open-air marketplace is home to an eclectic mix of locals and sales folk, so come to pick up a Bonsai tree, a straw hat and a baby romper before enjoying a Reiki massage and hearing your future with a fortune reading. The locals head here to enjoy a freshly blitzed fruit juice and a tasty Turkish Gozleme, but you can expect to pick up art, clothing and a blissful taster of Boho Aussie life.
Stanley Market – Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s most popular market is a veritable maze of twisting alleys and passageways jam-packed with clothing, souvenirs and art. If you can, visit during the week where it will be a little calmer. Get ready to barter for unusual gifts including embroidered baby shoes, stone ‘chops’ (stamps) hand-carved with names of your choice, and painted wooden boxes. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants nearby, as well as the Tin Hau temple which proudly houses the dubious prize of a preserved tiger skin (supposedly shot by a local policeman in the 1940s). Whatever you do, don’t forget your camera – this is a market to remember.
Chinatown Wet Market – Singapore
Fancy shopping like the locals do in Singapore? Then the Chinatown Wet Market is well worth a visit. These days, Singapore is known for its shiny malls and luxury boutiques, but head to this buzzing underground food market and you’re guaranteed a genuine slice of authentic Singaporean life. Located in the basement of the Chinatown Complex shopping precinct (a vibrant area where you can find free performances like dragon dances, Chinese opera and martial arts displays), you’ll see some of the freshest (and wriggliest) seafood around. Look out for black chicken and humongous bullfrogs which are delicacies of the area. Also, be sure to wear shoes as the Wet Market’s floor can get, well, wet!
Ferry Building Marketplace – San Francisco
Not only is San Fran’s Ferry Building its most iconic structure, it’s also home to a buzzing, artisanal food market. Home to delicacies ranging from locally pressed olive oils to fresh juices and home-made biscuits, the marketplace is among the US’s best food markets (even giving NYC’s Chelsea Market a run for its money). Once you’ve stocked up on delicious local produce, take a seat in one of the cafes, restaurants or delis that line this bright and airy structure and watch your fellow explorers boarding and disembarking from the ferries. Expect to pick up upscale foods and authentic local delicacies.
The Lourensford Market – Cape Town
Set in one of Cape Town’s most picturesque wine estates, the Lourensford Market is home to food, craft and fashion stalls. Open every Friday and Sunday, this market has one of the prettiest layouts around. Designed in a horseshoe shape around a shaded courtyard and with stunning gardens all around, this market is the perfect place to come and spend the day. Pick up a coffee as you visit some 70 different stalls selling great-quality produce. Friday nights see the twilight market where the stunning tree-lined avenues are adorned with fairy lights and DJs and local bands play. Whether you’re here to pick up local produce or simply to soak up the atmosphere of this prettiest of markets, you’ll be very glad you stopped by.
Wherever your cruise takes you, be sure to pay the local markets a visit. Because, whether you’re escaping the city in Cape Town or immersing yourself in it in Hong Kong, a trip to the local market is sure to offer something unique and special.
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