The World’s Greatest Markets and Bazaars

The following is an article from Uncle John's Fully Loaded 25th Anniversary Bathroom Reader.

You know what would be a great trip? A trip where you went to all these places. (With a boat full of money. So you could buy stuff -and have a place to put it all!)

DJEMA el-FNA (Marrakech)

(Image credit: Flickr user Philippe Mériot)

Djema el-Fna is the name of the square at the center of the old, walled section of this ancient Moroccan desert city- and it’s been the home of an outdoor market off and on for more than 1,000 years. Today it’s actually a collection of several souks -Arabic for “market”- overlapping in the quire and extending into the maze like alleyways around it. Fresh-squeezed orange juice stands and food stands are everywhere, intermixed with jugglers, musicians, storytellers, and merchants selling rugs, spices, brass work and a lot more. (The origin of “Djema el-Fna” is unknown; it means, roughly, “The Mosque at the End of the World.”)

(Image credit: David Samuel Santos)

Highlight: The snake charmers. Every morning there are dozens of snake charmers with live cobras at Djema el-Fna.


(Image credit: Flickr user Robert Wallace)

Plaka is a neighborhood in Athens, Greece, located in the shadow of the city’s famed Acropolis. In the 1970s the nightclubs the neighborhood was known for began to close, and merchants moved in. Today it is a jammed-packed madness of thousands of shops and street side stalls selling too much to list. The market is especially known for its embroidered fabrics, amber jewelry, and musical instruments. There are also a lot of cafes, restaurants, and world class museums. Bonus: No cars allowed. It’s all foot traffic.

(Image credit: Badseed)

 Highlight: Every Sunday (for the last 110 years), the Monastiraki Flea Market takes place just a few streets from Plaka. Great place to get Greek antiques, backgammon sets, religious icons, etc.


(Image credit: ayustety from Tokyo, Japan)

If you want to go someplace to see if you can slowly eat yourself to death over the course of one gluttonous, joy-filled day, this is the place for you. It’s all food, it’s almost all gourmet food, and it’s all laid out in the most brightly-colored, eye-, nose-, and mouth-watering way over two city blocks in Paris’s historic 11th Arrondissement, all of it under the eye of the July Column in the Place de la Bastille. Fresh breads, pastries, pies, cakes, crepes, cheeses; fishmongers with tables full of iced whole fresh fish; rotisserie chickens; huge slabs of lamb and pork; sausages and pates; jams, pastes, fruits, and vegetables; whole ethnic sections with Mediterranean, African, and Arab dishes- and wine after wine after wine. (Okay, we have to go now. To Paris. To the Marché Bastille. Possibly to die.) The Marché Bastille is open every Thursday and Sunday  -so you have a few days to recover between bouts!

Highlights: You want highlights -after that?


(Image credit: Flickr user Rich Bowen)

Only going since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1994, this is an already world famous market located amid the ancient Russian achitecture of Moscow’s Izmailovsky district. Some standout items: handmade Persian rugs and chess sets; mammoth tusk carvings; handmade samovars; Soviet memorabilia -and stalls full of those Russian Matryoshka dolls (where one fits into another into another and so on).

Highlight: The market is right next to Izmailovo Kremlin, a fantastically gaudy and faux-ancient (construction began in 1998) structure full of shops and museums. Among them: The History of Vodka Museum. Samples available!


(Image credit: Flickr user Rod Waddington)

Zanzibar City is located on the island of Unguja, just off the coast of the East African nation of Tanzania. The city is divided into two main parts, the new section, and Stone Town (or Mji Mkongwe -Swahili for “old town.”) A mix of Swahili, Arab, Portuguese, and Indian influences, step into Stone Town and you are immediately lost in a densely-packed maze of streets (most too narrow for cars) full of bikes, scooters, donkeys, and people. This is the Zanzibar Stone Town Market. There are literally thousands of stalls lining these ancient streets, and it isn’t just for tourists: locals come to the market to get household goods, used clothes, tools, and especially food, including fruits, grains, vegetables, spices, and lots and lots of fresh-caught Indian Ocean seafood.

(Image credit: Flickr user emiana)

Highlight: The Anglican Christ Church Cathedral. It’s right in the middle of Stone Town -and it’s built at the site of the Zanzibar Slave Market, the largest in Eastern African during the slaving era, and the last legal operating slave market in history. (Slaves were sold there legally until the 1890s.) The site includes the shallow, stone, windowless cellars where people were kept before being brought above ground to be sold.


(Image credit: Flickr user 246-You)

This is one of the larger outdoor markets in the world; it covers more than thirty acres, has more than 5,000 stalls, and sees more than 200,000 visitors every Saturday and Sunday. Located in central Bangkok, Chatuchak (alternately spelled “Jatujak”) Market is immensely crowded, loud, fast-paced, chaotic, hot, and full of exotic and mysterious people, sights, scents, and sounds. New sneakers? They’ve got ‘em. Electronics? They’ve got ‘em. Baby squirrels? They’ve got ‘em. (We don’t know why -we don’t want to know why- but they do.)

Highlights: Those in the know say to ask around for the restaurant run by the ex-stewardess for Thai Airways, known around the world for its yellow curries and sweet and sour soups, and dishes like “pork & egg in five spices and coconut juice.”

Extra: The Or Tor Kor Market, Bangkok’s largest farmer’s market, is right across the street. It had produce of every kind, as well as prepared Thai dishes of numerous types, and a reputation as a very clean and friendly place.

BRIMFIELD FLEA MARKET (Brimfield, Massachusetts)

(Image credit: Flickr user 6SN7)

An auctioneer named Gordon Reid decided he wanted to set up a place to sell antiques- so he invited dealers to set up tables in his back yard. That was in Brimfield in 1959. The Brimfield Flea Market is now made up of, according to their website, “22 individually owned and operated flea markets ranging in size from 15 dealers to over 1,000,” all of them sprawling on either side of Brimfield’s Main Street. It is one of the largest flea markets in the U.S., with more than a million people coming to rummage through tables and tarps for treasures every year. (The market was featured on Good Morning America in June 2012.) What can you find? Antiques -a real lot of antiques, including glassware, tools, and especially furniture- from one of the oldest, post-European settlement regions of the U.S. (And Gordon Reid’s daughters Jill and Judy still run the market their father started in 1959.)

Highlights: It’s New England- meaning there’s cheap lobster right on the site. Yum.

TONALÁ MARKET (Guadalajara)

(Image credit: AlejandroLinaresGarcia)

Actually about ten miles outside of the west coast Mexican city of Guadalajara, this outdoor market takes place in the streets and alleys of the suburb of Tonalá. And it’s not just kitsch: Tonalá is home to the largest community of artisans in all of Mexico, and has been the center of pottery-making since before the Europeans arrived. You can also find textiles, metal works (iron, brass, tin, and copper, especially) marble carvings, papier-mâché works, and blown glass, as wells all kinds of food, drinks, and entertainers.

Highlight: You can make your own artworks: many of the artisans have workshops where you can learn their particular craft.


(Image credit: Humanoid one)

Prepare yourself -this place has a distinct odor: it’s the largest wholesale seafood market on the planet. You want to see a bunch of buyers yelling and arguing and bidding on a whole, several-hundred-pound tuna -that may end up selling for several hundred thousand dollars? This is the place for you. Located both indoors and out (Tsukiji Market naturally needs indoor cold rooms) the Tsukiji Market sells an astonishing $15.5 million worth of seafood every day. But don’t worry - it’s not just for wholesalers. There’s also an entire section just for us regular folks, with an enormous variety of fresh seafood, fruits and veggies, and even Japanese kitchenware. The maximum number of visitors to the tuna auction is 120 per day -so get to Osakana Fukyu Center (the “Fish Information center”) at the Kachidoki Gate by 5 AM.

Highlight: Sushi breakfast. There are sushi restaurants both inside and outside at Tsukiji market, open from about 5 AM until noon. They have, according to those who know such things, arguably the best sushi you can get anywhere in the world.


This article is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Fully Loaded 25th Anniversary Bathroom Reader.

Get ready to be thoroughly entertained while occupied on the throne. Uncle John has ruled the world of information and humor for 25 years, and the anniversary edition is the Fully Loaded Bathroom Reader.

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!

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