Markets are the obvious place to pick up some unique souvenirs on your travels, but they also give you the ideal opportunity to scratch beneath the surface of a destination and discover more about its culture.
From discovering age-old traditions, through handmade crafts on sale to sparking conversations with locals while shopping for some freshly-picked ingredients for traditional recipes, markets are the place for an enriching holiday encounter. Here are four of the best European ones.
There are plenty of markets scattered across the sun-drenched island of Malta, from essentials sold at local village stalls to larger scale setups in towns and cities. The island has an affordable and efficient bus transportation system so you can easily tour a few, and market days vary too, so fitting this in around your sightseeing plans is simple and affordable.
Regardless of where you choose to 'go to market', you can expect bargains in abundance and an assault on the senses, from vibrant straw crafts to the delicious smells of fresh seafood - and it doesn't get much fresher than here!
On Sunday mornings, Valletta is perfect for picking up interesting antiques, handmade tableware, or some Maltese treats. You will be hard-pressed not to get caught up in the buzz of the island's most popular trading location.
Marsaxlokk, on the southeast side of the island, is renowned for its Sunday seafood market, and it's the largest of its kind in Malta. If you want to expand your seafood repertoire, you'll find all manner of underwater delights here. Arrive as early as possible to make sure you have first dibs on the best bites and be sure to get the traders' top tips on the best recipes to master back at your self-catering apartment.
You will unearth a wide variety of arts and crafts at Malta Artisan Markets, with stallholders selling their finest wares in all shapes, sizes and in a rainbow of shades.
Throughout history, a number of different cultures have occupied the island, including Romans, Arabs, Italians, Turkish, French and British. It's these cultural influences and traditions which are reflected in the region's arts and crafts today, creating a living legacy, from filigree jewellery to the finest honey.
The Malta Artisan Markets initiative was setup in 2011, and the pop up events are usually held in stunning historical locations such as Birgu, Fort St. Elmo in Valletta and Mdina - the Silent City.
Time your visit for one of the seasonal markets and shop with confidence, knowing that you are supporting the local economy, as all items here must be locally sourced and produced by the traders; no imports are permitted.
For years, Ibiza has been shaking off the perception that it's just a party island. For around the island there are a number of destinations where you will find more chilled-out vibes, including wellness retreats, culture and fabulous dining experiences - you just need to know where to look.
Start out at one of the island's hippy markets, which are frequently held over summer. The biggest markets are the Punta Arabí Hippy Market in Es Caná and the Las Dalias Hippy Market in San Carlos, held on Wednesdays and on Saturdays respectively.
During summer Las Dalias also runs a night market from 7pm on Mondays and Tuesdays, which is the perfect time to shop when the air is cooler. The live music around the market creates a buzzing atmosphere as you browse through artisan items and imports from destinations such as South America and Indonesia.
This particular market is considered the original of its kind, with market days being held here since 1954, so it really is an integral part of island life. Look out for beach wear, espadrilles in an array of colours and other fashion wear. You'll also discover humorous and inspirational art, local liquors and salts.
Meanwhile, the children's play area and a restaurant will cater to the restless and the peckish in your party.
The Saturday session at Las Dalias is open all day from 10am with mime acts, live music and a Moroccan tea tent, so there is plenty to see and do if you're not really a shopper. The exotic backdrop to this particular market makes it a popular meeting point for the island's free spirited.
Other unique and unmissable shopping encounters include Art & Mercat in the lively resort of San Antonio for organic food, ceramics and leather goods, and Forada Market, which sells the aniseed-based local liqueur, Hierbas Ibicencas. The aromatic herbal mix is usually consumed as an aperitif or digestif, and has been produced here for generations, with families guarding their own secret recipe, some of which use up to 29 different herbs and botanicals.
The drink is geographically designated with its roots firmly placed in the Balearic Islands. Monks during the Middle Ages would cultivate herbs for medicinal use, but it wasn't until the late 1800s that liqueur production was fully fledged.
Málaga has more than its fair share of markets, from traditional fruit and vegetable offerings, to flea markets where you can pick up some rare vinyl or vintage finds.
The best part of market hopping in the city, is that plenty of them are situated in prime locations, close to beaches, marinas and street art exhibits, so you can easily fit in some browsing in between your sightseeing adventures.
As a hospital and an orphanage in its former life, today La Térmica is a multi-use creative space for the public with exhibitions, workshops, lectures, co-working spaces - its night-time flea market is just a small part of the events programme.
Their Cultural Night Market is worthy of a visit. Held on the first Friday of the month for people to buy, sell and swap, there are over 40 stalls here, with products ranging from antiques and limited edition records to recycled objects and comics.
But it's the entertainment that runs alongside the market that seems to upgrade the whole flea market experience.
Concerts, fashion shows, magicians, short films and seasonal ice skating are just some of the line-up, and you'll often find several exhibitions held here so you can truly relish the cosmopolitan vibes of this eclectic and modern city, while browsing for a holiday souvenir or two.
Elsewhere in the city, you can get ahead of the curve at Soho Market by purchasing a contemporary painting by an up-and-coming artist, or head over to Plaza Merced market for handmade goods and get a front-row seat to watch the world go by from a sunny terrace at one of the square's cafés.
Foodies and bargain hunters should waste no time visiting El Zoco de Muelle Uno on the second Sunday of the month, when stalls line the harbour front, and it's just a stone's throw from the beach and the city's major landmarks.
As well as gourmet produce to salivate over, including meats and olive oils, the street market carries fashion items, homeware and crafts.
Do you ever go on holiday only to find that the day you're leaving there's an event on that you're going to miss? Yes, I hate that too!
Fortunately Hévíz Farmers' Market takes place three mornings a week, so you won't miss out. Goodies on sale here include local fruits, jams, honey, spices, meats and cheeses. A selection of stallholders will let you try before you buy, so you can make it a whistle-stop culinary tour as you sample some of the key ingredients that form the rich base and depth of flavours typical in Hungarian cuisine.
Thousands of people descend here on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and the aroma of freshly baked breads, Hungarian sausages and delectable cakes soon lures everyone in as lunchtime approaches.
After a bite to eat, you'll be fuelled up to continue browsing the 144 stalls, and the eco-conscious shopper has lots to choose from with high-quality and chemical-free products. On other stalls, you'll observe a number of artisans hard at work, proudly displaying their finest crafts, including pottery, lace creations and even some odd curiosities such as corn-husk dolls.
Flea markets and thrift shopping are ingrained in Hungarian culture, so if you're a serious bargain hunter, try and make a twin-centre break out of your trip and spend a few days in Budapest to get your shopping fix.
Fashionistas should hot foot it over to WAMP Design Market where emerging designers sell their finest creations once a month at Millenáris Park. Scour the rails brimming with clothing and accessories, and you will easily be able to pick up something unique to flaunt back home.
As you wander the city, you may stumble upon some ruin bars - abandoned buildings which have found a new life as rustic drinking establishments. Anker’t is one of the most famous in Budapest and on Sundays it holds a Vegan Market, selling food, drink and beauty products. It also hosts cooking workshops and discussions centered on the vegan lifestyle.
Wherever you decide to holiday, be sure to make time to visit the local market, as it's the best opportunity to stumble upon something unique, as well as the chance to revel in authentic experiences as you exchange friendly conversations with locals.
Remember to research local cultures and customs before you visit, not only to check dress codes, but whether it's acceptable to haggle with gusto - in some places, such as Morocco, it's not only accepted but expected - so make sure you're in the know. If you're really after that bargain, visit a market at the start or the end of the day when vendors are most likely to slash prices. Happy holiday haggling!
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