Markets in Global Cities

Apr 27, 2016 1:30:00 PM / by Stephanie Sadler

“Connecting Global Cities” is a monthly column written by Colin Speakman, Resident Director for CAPA Shanghai.

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We have already looked at shopping areas in global cities in a previous column. They were often huge shopping malls or prestigious shopping streets with famous name brands. Yes, there are sometimes sales but shopping there on a regular basis requires a chunk of money. So what about the vital workers who keep a city going on modest incomes and need affordable places to shop? For them the city's traditional markets might be the solution. 

Some of these markets are tourist attractions, but others are hidden away and frequented by locals who know where to find them. Who shops at them depends on what's being sold, produce markets dominated by the local community and antique markets attracting the out-of-towners. 

London has many markets so those looking for a wide variety of cheap yet quality eats might go to Borough Market or nearby Maltby Street market whereas tourists will be very familiar with the central Covent Garden Market with fancy restaurants, crafts and jewelry. I will get to my favorites in the London section below. 

Photo: An artist at work in Covent Garden Market by Stephanie Sadler

What about Chelsea? Surely this is a rather upmarket area of London for a cheap market? Fooled you! I have moved on to Chelsea Market in Manhattan, New York. This market in fifteen years has become one of the greatest indoor food halls of the world - a global feast-in! A neighborhood market with a global perspective and a fitting one to mention here. 

Now here's a capital idea: let's look at Beijing, where locals used to flock to the Beijing Zoo Market with floors of very affordable local clothes, shoes, bags and more. Sadly they now need to flock to the neighboring province of Hebei as the authorities moved it out of the city last year to ease local congestion. Foreign tourists prefer the Silk Market and the Hongqiao Pearl Market which offer bargains for the reason that goods are not usually the genuine brand. A friend of mine once said "respecting copyright is the best policy, but with my income, I cannot afford the best."

Photo: The Silk Market by Colin Speakman

So which markets are the best for a bargain around our global cities? Read on! 


One of the pleasures of Buenos Aires Aires is its open-air markets (called mercados) or fairs (ferias), many of which combine shopping with entertainment. The bargains you'll find are often accompanied by the wonderful, romantic sights and sounds of tango. I recommend Recoleta Fair which takes place Saturday and Sunday in front of Recoleta Cemetery from 10am until sunset and offers every imaginable souvenir and type of craft in addition to food. This has become one of the city's largest fairs, completely taking over all the walkways and then some in the area. Even the Iglesia Pilar, Recoleta Cemetery's church gets involved.

Video: Recoleta Fair by DelCarmenArtesanal


There are many small markets here, but I will take the liberty of recommending Liberty Market in Dublin's Fair City! This market is by far the most famous of these small Dublin city markets. It is located near the historic Christ Church Cathedral where shoppers will find great bargains. It has most things shoppers are looking for from clothing and jewelry to toys and garden supplies.

Video: Liberty Market by Liberty Market


I have to recommend the famous San Lorenzo Markets - plural because there are two parts - the outdoor market and the indoor one. The outdoor section runs along several streets surrounding the Mercato Centrale. Vendors sell pottery, clothing, souvenirs and are famous for their bags, belts, wallets and jackets. The Central Market is a two-level food market making up the second half of the San Lorenzo Market. The building, the Mercato Centrale is beautiful with cast iron and glass all around. It's a great place to spend an afternoon in Florence.

Video: Mercato Centrale by Elizabeth Minchilli


Partly because of its large size and partly because I used to spend a good amount of time there, I am recommending Camden Markets in London, not far from some of the CAPA student accommodation. It is an area popular with locals and tourists alike and is the 4th most popular tourist attraction in London. There are around 200 stalls in the narrow alleyways off Camden High Street/Chalk Farm Road. Shoppers can find club wear, fashion accessories, shoes, alternative clothes and food. Many of the stallholders sell their own jewelry and clothing designs. 

Video: Camden Town by Viewgraphy Studio


Like Beijing, Shanghai has a fake goods market, located under the Science and Technology Museum - hidden but easy to find just right of the metro stop. I am recommending an equally hidden market that is rarely found by foreigners unless they're guided there on a CAPA program. The Dongxing Road Market is well-hidden and bustling beyond back streets and comprises many cheap produce stores and a few general goods stores that serve the hardworking locals. 

Photo: CAPA students at Dongxing Road Market by Colin Speakman


I am going for the biggest and best in Sydney with Paddy's Markets - located in Haymarket and Flemington - which specializes in the sale of fruit, vegetables, fish, clothes and gift ware. Flemington is the larger site. Go there for fruit and vegetables. Haymarket is also located in Haymarket (surprise) beside Chinatown and is more like a traditional flea market specializing in cheap imported clothes, gift ware and also has a small section for fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood. It's good for the locals and the Haymarket site also sells souvenirs which makes it popular with tourists!

Video: Paddy's Market by GaelJacob

Thanks Colin!

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Topics: Global Cities