3 years ago

From London to China: The World’s Largest Markets

Explore commerce at its finest, with the world’s largest markets including Yiwu in China, Djmaa el Fna in Morocco, and more.

Since before the world’s first market – back before history even started being recorded – people have bought things. Everyone likes to buy things. Sometimes, it doesn’t even matter what it is. Other times though, it’s not just about what you buy – or the fact that you’re buying – as much as it is about where you buy it from.

For those who want to see some of the world’s largest markets – and go shopping in them – we’ve put together this list of exactly that. So get your wallets and purses ready and prepare to have access to more goods than you could possibly shake your bargaining stick at.

Yiwu in China

This is the largest wholesale market in the world, and the location where most of your annual Christmas presents are made. But Yiwu is about much more than just tinsel and tree toppings. The expansive indoor market covers a space of over 5,500,000 meters squared and has more than 75,000 stores vying for business inside.

Whilst many of the customers here tend to be from China, the market has started to feature increasingly in international commodities markets. Many overseas buyers are interested in the cheap prices, easy access, and convenience of many different stores selling the same product. Whilst the market is primarily for wholesale, you can sometimes buy single items (“to try”). Just ask the store owners and they will normally be more than happy to accommodate you.

The market opens every day from 9 am to 5 pm. Try to arrive and depart at least an hour away from these two times as traffic can be really bad if you decide to go during opening or closing time. The stores are also generally more packed during the morning, so afternoons are better if you want more space.  

Temple Street in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is known for its cheap goods. Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon is just one of the best places to get them. Technically, Temple Street is just a normal street. However, every night the area comes to be the location of one of the world’s best night markets. Not only is the street home to stores and (knockoff) goods, it’s also a place where locals come to relax and socialize. If you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll be able to spot the older generation coming to play chess or try their hand at gambling games.

Temple Street is also one of the world’s largest markets when it comes to Cantonese cuisine. Between street food and many restaurants, you’ll have access to a bunch of food which makes the area so great.

The Temple Street market usually starts at 2 pm and will continue on into the night.

Djemaa el Fna in Morocco

Once the grisly site of public executions (way back in 1050 AD), Djemaa el Fna, or Assembly of the Dead, has since become one of Africa’s largest open-air markets. Packed with stalls selling spices and fragrances, and snake charmers playing their flutes.

You can, in fact, spend the whole day walking around the market here. Not just because it is one of the world’s biggest markets, but also because when it comes to night time, the market lights up with shows and spectacles focusing on Morocco’s history. There are also several places here where you can eat incredible local food.

Try to arrive early in the morning is you can. This way you’ll be able to grab the best seats for the shows, and won’t have too much of a crowd to contend with. Plus, you’ll be able to buy the freshest local food – which is always a good thing!

Pike Place in the USA

Located just a short walk from the waterfront, Pike Place is one of the USA’s most famous and well know marketplaces. Probably best known for being the birthing point of Starbucks (you can actually visit the first Starbucks store here), it’s created a lot more than just great (possibly mediocre) coffee. At one point, the market would see over 40,000 people per day make their way through the different stalls. From unique nostalgic gifts to fresh fish and vegetables, the marketplace seems to have everything you could want.

Pike Place is particularly famous for its fresh fish. The salmon here is some of the finest in the Pacific Northwest, and the crab second to none. Make sure to head over to the Pike Place Chowder store to pick up some of their famous chowder (a soup-like collection of fish food). You should also make sure to visit that first Starbucks just around the corner. Weekdays are better as during the weekend the queue has been known to extend all the way around the corner.

Camden in England

It might not have the “cheap” quality of many of the other markets on this list but Camden is a London Staple. The market opens every day for people to come and have a look at the many different stalls and wares on offer. You can also grab a bite to eat from either one of the market’s many permanent cafés, or the daily food trucks which appear.

The market is at its most busy on the weekend, with people from around the world coming to visit and see what’s on offer. There are three main areas, each of which offers something different. Camden Lock Market offers craft stuff, Camden Stables is the place for alternative fashion, and the Electric Ballroom is where you want to go if you’re after fashion which is a bit more ‘normal’.

Don’t Fall into the Spending Trap

As the quote goes: “travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”

Whilst there might be a lot on offer at these markets, make sure that you don’t fall into the tourist trap and keep an eye on your budget. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, but tourist pricing is a real thing. Whilst you might not get the full local price, try to get the seller to go down a little bit. After all, that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?