Before the dawn of Wal-Mart, Costco, and Home Depot, street markets were the center of commerce in cities around the globe. Today, bazaars and flea markets are ideal destinations for tourists to sample local cuisine, test their language skills, people-watch -- and of course, shop for unique souvenirs. Check off everyone on your holiday list at these bucket list-worthy markets:
Pike Place Market, Seattle, United States
Occupying Seattle’s waterfront for over a century, the Pike Place Market is one of the country’s oldest continuously operated farmers’ markets. What started as ten farmers with wagons full of goods to sell now stretches nine acres along Elliott Bay, including eighty restaurants and over two hundred owner-operated shops. Open 362 days a year, visitors will find locally-grown produce, one-of-a-kind fashion accessories and handmade home goods.
San Telmo Market, Buenos Aires, Argentina
On Sunday, Plaza Dorrego -- a relatively quiet, shady square lined with cafes -- overflows with vendors selling antiques, homemade crafts and local cuisine from Buenos Aires. Find bargains on clothing, jewelry, handcrafted leather and artwork along adjacent avenues as far as the eye can see. Looking to splurge? Some of Evita’s favorite dressmakers are still available for purchase at the vintage shop Gil Antiguedades. At 5 p.m., stalls clear out to make room for tango performances.
Medina of Marrakesh, Morocco
Visitors can easily get lost wandering the Medina, or historic district of Morocco’s third largest city. Endless alleys are lined with souks (bazaars) carrying spices, tea pots, kaftans and more available for purchase. Haggling is expected here and if you run out of dirhams, locals are willing to exchange your dollars (don’t expect a rate as favorable as the official exchange.) In addition to shops, take time to admire the snake charmers and acrobats performing along the way.
Christkindlmarkt (Christmas Market), Nuremberg, Germany
Dating back to the Late Middle Ages, markets celebrating the advent appear annually in the German-speaking region of Europe. For hundreds of years, nearly all of Nuremburg’s craftsmen opened stalls at the seasonal market. Indulge your inner child with spice gingerbread and marzipan or treat yourself to grownup refreshments like mulled wine. Keep an eye out for the Christmas Angel, a teenage girl wearing a golden robe and crown accompanied by a children’s choir.
Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok, Thailand
The world’s largest weekend market welcomes two hundred thousand visitors each day. In the 1930s, the prime minister of Thailand planned to open a flea market in every town, the first one was located in Bangkok’s Sanam Luang and named for a nearby park. Roughly fifteen thousand vendors sell antiques, handicrafts and even animals in the 27-acre market. Grab a map to navigate the twenty-seven sections and plan to spend a full day at the market, ideally beating the crowds by coming before 10am.