A Carnival of local markets around the world

Anywhere I go, one of my favorite places to visit are the local markets. They burst with colors and vitality, they are noisy, sometimes messy, confusing and genuine. In a nutshell, they reveal so much of their society that I believe they are often, wrongly, underrated.

Here are some of the local markets I’ve enjoyed visiting the most, that helped me grasp the intimate aspects of their country, impossible to perceive in shopping malls or in tourist spots.

Shanghai, animal and flowers markets

local markets

Shanghai animal market

One of the biggest cities in China, Shanghai has a huge range of local markets. From flower to food, to animal to antiques, possibly in every corner of the city you can find the community’s way of displaying, trading, selling, and haggling, of course.

I loved ambling about the birds and insects market, a little frightened when passing by the insects’ stalls as I tried not to think I could find some cricket or cockroach on my way.

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Tulips in Shanghai flower market

On metro Line 10, close to Longbai Xincun stop, there is a big and very beautiful flower market, where my flatmate and I bought plants, flowers, two fish and two lovely water turtles. The Hongqiao flower market offers a great range of types and colors, any kind of flower, plant and bonsai are widely available. I was mesmerized by the orchids’ shop, so many pots and shades of what are among my favorite flowers.

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Fat plants in Shanghai flower market

In Shanghai I recently acquired the habit of shopping for fruits and veggies in the local market of my neighborhood, mainly because I finally found out its exact location. I used to buy my grocery in much less colorful Carrefour, but now, apart from cheaper prices and higher quality, every time I go I sense how much the city is home to Chinese from all the provinces, each of them bringing their own language as well as their own (sometimes for me inaccessible) accent when speaking official Mandarin.

I think in Shanghai, nowhere like in its local markets it’s possible to feel the diversity the city holds, enriched by the presence of all 56 ethnic groups that populate China’s mainland.

Abu Dhabi, carpet and fish markets

Abu Dhabi carpet market

In Abu Dhabi I have visited the carpet and the fish markets, one beside the other, close to the port. Convenient location especially for the carpet traders, most of the times foreigners sailing from other Middle Eastern countries.

I went to the carpet market because my friend was looking for a nice carpet for his new house, and that was the best place to find great rugs with the unique possibility to bargain the price. I wasn’t living in China yet, so I was totally new to the phenomenon of price haggling, but to be honest, even if I was already an expert, I couldn’t have helped my friend since the whole negotiation (that ended up with no deal) happened in the loudest Arabic I had ever heard.

As a great example of solidarity, we saw that when we changed shop looking for the same carpet at a lower price, none of the other traders offered a better negotiation than the first one. From the moment we entered his shop, we were his customers.

I don’t know where our swarthy carpet seller came from, but he certainly held a very strong personality. I imagined him traveling throughout the desert on his way to glitzy Abu Dhabi. He did have the air of belonging to a nomadic clan, so between listening to his obscure arguments and looking at his beard, I was completely lost in thoughts involving desert, camels, tents and oasis.

local markets

Abu Dhabi fish market

After getting livid for not completing the deal, my friend felt like ordering fresh fish for dinner, so we crossed the road and headed to the fish market. Mainly Indian-run, in this market I saw some of the weirdest and most mysterious creatures coming from the abyss (again, before getting to China).

This market was divided in three sectors: the area where they sell fresh products, the one where they clean, cut and prepare for cooking the same products just sold, and the place where they cook them according to customers’ instructions.

After going through these three steps and leaving your fish to the cooking shops, you can carry on with your daily activities and go back to pick up your dinner in the evening on your way back home.

Abu Dhabi fish market is very clean, and despite what they are selling, by no means smelly. Some of the creatures on sale are a little creepy, and to vegetarians or animal lovers might look a bit upsetting, but there, like in all local markets, it’s possible to experience some of the hidden aspects of today’s Emirates society, not all flashy and loud, but authentic and genuine.

Jodhpur, Sardar Market at the foot of the clock tower

local markets

Clothes at Jodhpur local market

My first time in India was devoted to visiting the region of the Rajasthan, and Jodhpur was where I could take some pictures of a local market in which they were selling just about everything.

In the very city center, where all seemingly unfinished lanes join together in the main square, at the foot of the town’s imposing clock tower, lies Sardar Market, a street bazaar where anything from exquisitely Rajasthani style clothes, to embroidered leather shoes, to jewellery, handicrafts, fruits and veggies, is sold.

local markets

Jodhpur Sardar Market

Every morning, this is the liveliest part of the city, where citizens go for shopping or just pass by on their way to school, work or any daily activity, both on foot or on Indian typical tuk-tuk that I think every tourist should experience at least once.

A genuine sample of humanity is to be found in Sardar Market, where Jodhpur slowly wakes up and faces a new day. Sounds, voices, colors, flavors, smells and spices are the ingredients for this unique experience of real rural India.

Cavaillon, lavender, olives and French grandeur

local markets

Pots and pans at Cavaillon Monday market

The French region of Provence is very popular for its local markets, every town has one, in tourist offices it’s even possible to find a calendar of where and when they take place.

From Cavaillon, the main town of the district, to L’Isle sur la Sorgue, to Lacoste, to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, every day of the week townspeople and citizens love spending their time in their markets.

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Honey at Cavaillon local market

I visited the one in Cavaillon, that takes place every Monday, spread out along the main street Cours Bournissac and side alleys, where locals and tourists alike share a seductive way of shopping in typical French style.

The smell of freshly made bread dominates the scenario and attracts customers from the early hours, totally motivated to buy also the tasty tapenade, Provençal delicacy consisting of finely chopped olives, anchovies, capers and olive oil.

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Olives in Cavaillon local market

This market is the perfect place to find shoes, clothes, swimwear during summer months, and jewellery at affordable prices, but it’s also an invaluable selling point for all the most delicious local products, such as lavender honey, spices, French cheeses best eaten with the irreplaceable baguette, and olives in every sauce.

The sellers boast their attitude redolent of a die-hard French grandeur, inevitably making it for lively start of the week with style.

  1. Very interesting photo-story..

  2. Angela, that’s a great collection of Markets around the World. For some strange reason, I find the markets in China always fascinating as there is just so many of them selling all kinds of everything under the sun. Hope you make it to the Malaysian markets one day and let me know as I would love to take you around.

  3. Oh, I sure love markets too! :-) I happily wander for ages in every country I can find one. One of my favorites was in Venice right on the water – so beautiful – or one in Fiji across the street from an amazing temple in a rainbow of colors. Love your pictures. So wonderful!!

  4. Je n’ai pas été la première à laisser le “comment” quoique je sois toujours attentive aux nouveautés que tu publies! Bon travail

  5. Quanto amo i mercatini, ci sguazzerei tutto il giorno! E quelli che descrivi tu sembrano molto pittoreschi e “appetitosi”!!!!

  6. What an interesting collection of markets and souks. Great photos as well.

  7. love this explosion of light and colors, nicely done

  8. Great pics! There are so many markets near the port in Abu Dhabi — I can’t believe I missed the fish market when I was there!

  9. I love markets, especially ones that offer something different. Great round-up

    • I will write a post about street food markets, very much popular in China. There you will see something different!

  10. I long to visit markets like these some day! I’ve enjoyed street markets in American and European cities, but none that were very exotic. I find the idea of haggling a little daunting, but would love to give it a try. Your photos are gorgeous, Angela.

  11. I agree the markets are also one of my favorite parts of any new city! They are always so amazing and full of local life. Great photos – I love the muted colors in the flower picture – looks dreamy!

  12. Hi Angela, You and I must have been sharing ESP yesterday…I visited your site for the first time, and when I went back to my site, you had just left a comment. Then I saw that we both posted about markets yesterday! Anyway, I enjoyed these market pictures and will check out more of your posts, especially about Brazil.

    • Hi Jenna! You know that yesterday when I left the comment on your site I had the same impression, that you were visiting mine!
      This is very weird, I went to see your site captivated by the post on Brazil, last time I went was about 2-3 years ago, but I’ve been so many times that I’ll certainly write about it. I love that country, and I’ll be definitely going back soon.

      • :) Funny we were visiting each other’s sites at the same time.
        You’ll have to check back on my blog for more posts about Brazil. I write about it pretty often and will be going there again this summer.
        In the meantime, I’m happy I found your site!

        • I’ll certainly check your posts on Brazil, I have a permanent crash on that country! I can’t wait to go back, and in the meantime I’ll enjoy it vicariously through your blog ;)

  13. Beautiful photos and a great list of markets. I too love visiting markets and checking things out. I love the market culture, the shouting, the goods, the business of selling… it’s one of my favorite things about travel!

    • Ah the shouting! It does make you feel integrated in the society you are visiting. In local markets I feel like I’m not considered a tourist, that’s why I like it :)

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  15. Just love all of these photos Angela. Whenever we go anywhere new, we always hunt the markets out. They have an atmosphere all of their own and are our favourite pastime! :) We could easily blow our daily budget in a trip tp a new market.
    Love the colours in your Cavaillon market photo.

  16. Great idea for a post, and great collection. I love visiting markets when traveling, it really captures a culture

    • Thanks Cam! Looks like local markets are very popular, they’re exciting, aren’t they? They truly are the image of authenticity.

  17. Interesting collection! Asian markets are full of color and character. I’m actually surprised there are no shots posted of meat markets…quite a few of those in Asia.

    • Hi Christina, thanks for your comment. I haven’t been to any meat market in Asia, and all photos in my site are only mine. I’ve been to some street food markets though, and when I’ll have enough material I might write a post about them too :)

  18. Nice colorful photos – I’ve always loved markets!

  19. I did not visit any markets when I was in Shanghai. I see I will have to return!

  20. Amazing. Five years later, I still have tons of stuff I bought at the Shanghai markets — I went every day for at least a week.

    • True, this is the effect of Shanghai markets, especially the one in Yu Yuan, it’s so cheap and full of basically everything!

  21. One of my favorites things to do when traveling is visit the local food markets. Would love to try all those different honeys!

    • Those honeys are delicious, and I usually don’t like honey! My favorite is the lavender one, I know it might sound too sweet, but it’s really great.

  22. Wonderful cross section of markets. One thing that I never miss when traveling.

    • Thanks Nancie, I keep visiting markets, I’ll probably write a post about the food markets I’m visiting in Asia, the quirkiest ever!

  23. I always try to find a market everywhere I visit too.
    Great photos! :)

  24. Visiting market is one of my favourite thing to do in a new place! It’s wild to see what people in one place can’t live without, but totally doesn’t exist in different place :)

  25. True, it also makes you think that sometimes we don’t really need everything we buy! ;)

  26. The picture of Tulips looks amazing.

  27. I agree your post. It is very nice when you plan most interesting landmarks to visit. You can do it with wife. Check on link and find about most popular travel sightseeing on the World. You will find videos. Unique fature is gps map. See you …

  28. Terrific article & pics!

    I truly love visiting the markets in any city or region I visit. It really give you an insight into what is grown and made locally, and is definitely the best place to get terrific bargains and unique gifts.

  29. I also love to visit markets when I travel. Some of my favourites so far include the Pike St Market in Seattle, the various specialty markets in Hong Kong (simiar to your Shanghai one, different areas for birds, meat, flowers, fish, frogs, etc). I also enjoyed visiting a local market in a small town in Provence.

  30. Very nice composition – capturing the essence of each market with well-balanced colours

  31. dubi is best

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