Nothing gives you an insight into local shopping like a loud and sprawling market. Come with us on a global tour of some of the world's greatest markets - bargains, food (and crowds) await.
The Khan dates back as far as 1382, and some of the delights on offer in its 900 shops include glassware, brassware, perfume and jewellery; a number of artisans practise their craft before eager shoppers, too. Go to the Street of the Tentmakers for something completely different: it's a market within the market. It's also Cairo's last remaining medieval covered market, where tentmakers craft beautifully ornate tents. Head to the old gate of the courtyard that hosted the original market, halfway along Sikkit al-Badistan; the Khan also borders Muski Market to its west.
This Bangkok weekend market (actually a 'minicity') has to be seen to be believed. Over its 14 hectares Chatuchak contains between 9000 and 15,000 stalls (depending on what's on and who's doing the counting) and it attracts 200,000 visitors per day. Come here for Thai handicrafts and antiques among many other delights, but don't come here on hot, humid days – pressed against all that flesh, you might faint or fade away. To get there take the skytrain to Mo Chit station or the metro to Suan Chatuchak station.
This famous night market in Yau Ma Tei sees a lot of action. Here you can try to beat the local chess geniuses or buy some ubiquitous jade, believed by the Chinese to ward off evil. Also choose from a huge selection of open-air restaurants and fortune-telling parrots. Temple St is also known as 'Men's Street' because of the huge amount of men's clothing for sale, because of the number of gangster films that are set here, and because of the variety of… um…'men's pleasures' that are on offer at the stalls. The open-air market usually starts around 2pm and is located in Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon.
Crikey, this one's massive, too – like Chatuchak it attracts 200,000 souls each day it's on. At Kashgar you can buy and sell everything from a horse to furniture, from a bicycle to possibly your grandmother. As you can imagine, the people-watching is unsurpassed in such an environment, so keep an ear to the ground, keep an eye on the crowds, keep out of sight and sit back and enjoy the show. It takes place every Sunday on the northeast edge of the town. This is supposedly the world's largest open-air market. Endless varieties of rugs, fruit, beads and breads. And that's just one stall in Kashgar bazaar.
The Chiang Mai market opens after sundown and it's 'bargain city'. Fancy a fake Rolex? Get it here. Pirate DVDs? You got it. Fabrics, silks, sunglasses, gems, it's all here, as are swords and chicken feet. The centrepiece is the Night Bazaar Building, three floors of all this and more. Bargain for all you're worth for a rollicking good time. Every Sunday, head to Royal Avenue (Ratchadamnern Road) in the old city. This market is not to be confused with the Night Bazaar on Chan Klan Road.
This used to be a weekend London market; now it's a phenomenon held every day (ramping up to overdrive on the weekends). It spills over into the streets and attracts possibly the greatest concentration of freaks per square metre in the world today: punks, goths, hippies, ferals, ravers, rappers, chavs, gimps, celebs, grannies, pollies. There are a few components to it: Camden Lock Market, for craft-type thingies; Camden Stables, for alternative fashion; and an indoor fashion market at the Electric Ballroom. Beat the weekend crowd by visiting midweek, most stalls are open from 11am–6pm.
Tokyo's frenzied fish market is one of the largest, busiest markets in the world. Even those who aren't too keen on seafood are addicted to it, for the hustle and bustle of its three whole blocks single-mindedly devoted to the consumption of marine life, and for the codes and modes of behaviour. Auctioneers have a lingo all their own, buyers wear wetsuits, and the market handles around 3000 tonnes of fish each day and almost 800,000 tonnes per year. You can imagine the smell. Check the market's calendar of activities at www.tsukiji-market.or.jp; the tuna auction area is off limits except between 5–6.15am.
İstanbul's Grand Bazaar is Turkey's (and possibly the world's) largest covered market, with around 4000 shops selling jewellery, carpets, brassware, leather goods, hookahs, ceramics, pottery – all under ornate, grandiose passageways spread across 60-odd streets. It gets a reputed 400,000 people per day, which equates to distilled madness. That's not all: the bazaar, which dates from 1520, is also home to a mosque, 21 inns, two vaulted bazaars, seven fountains and 18 gates. Open Monday to Saturday 9am–7pm, the bazaar is a 15-minute stroll from the Blue Mosque.
A considered body of opinion says that Aleppo's unique covered souqs are the finest and most beautiful markets in the world. They extend for around 10km, a vast, stone-vaulted labyrinth of alleyways, and are named for traditional artisan crafts – Souq of Gold, Souq of Cotton and so on. The souqs date back to the 15th century, and anything is for sale: flower tea, animal carcasses, tapestries, silverware etc. Be careful down those narrow alleyways – those donkeys transporting goods to and fro might look placid but they take crap from no one. Stay healthy on your travels by hunting fresh supplies at the Fruit and Vegetable Market, 200m north of Bab al-Faraj.
Some say this Seattle market is a tourist trap, others that it's a national treasure. It's the USA's oldest surviving market, spanning 4 hectares and attracting 40,000 people per day. Books and antiques are sold here, along with the usual assortment found in the great markets worldwide… plus a lot of fish. Watch out, though, you might get a cold-blooded aquatic vertebrate thrown at you when you place an order, playing your part in a fishy shtick that's become famous among screwballs. Judge the Pike Place Market for yourself by viewing the market's webcam at www.pikeplacefish.com.