Souqs

Lonely Planet review

Aleppo’s souq, which runs for 1.5km from the 13th-century Bab Antakya in the west to the citadel in the east, makes the Old City one of the Middle East’s main attractions. This partially covered network of bustling passageways extends over several hectares, and once under the vaulted stone ceiling you’re swallowed up into another world, transported back in time to the medieval bazaars of our imaginings with clamour, commerce and smells that you’ll never forget. Parts of these dimly lit and atmospheric markets date to the 13th century, but the bulk of the area is an Ottoman-era creation. The best way to explore is to simply lose yourself in the labyrinth.

At one time walled and entered only by one of eight gates, the Old City has long since burst its seams and now has few definable boundaries. Exploring its seemingly infinite number of alleys and cul-de-sacs could occupy the better part of a week, depending on how inquisitive you are. We recommend visiting at least twice: once on a busy weekday to experience the all-out, five-senses assault of the souq, and a second time on a Friday when, with all the shops closed, the lanes are silent and empty. Relieved of the need to keep flattening yourself against the wall to let the overladen donkeys and minivans squeeze by, you’re free to appreciate architectural details.