While their cultural differences may be vast, the principles shared by many marketplaces around the world – food, community and barter, to name a few – translate universally. From small neighborhood souks to expansive street fairs that shut down entire city blocks, you can quickly get to know a place by visiting its community market. Here’s a list of five markets around the globe that we love, and that particularly come to life at dusk:
#1: The Summer Night Market at Queen Victoria Market | Melbourne, Australia
Smack in the heart of downtown Melbourne sits the historic Queen Victoria Market, a sprawling open air complex filled with produce vendors, flower carts and artisan trinket stands that has been in operation for over a century. Known more colloquially as the “Queen Vic”, on Wednesday nights in the summer, this humming daytime market transforms into Melbourne’s most vibrant entertainment attraction with live entertainment, refreshing cocktails and of course, delicious food – it’s really just one big party that should be on every foodie and travel aficionado’s bucket list alike.
Another perk? This exclusively-summertime night market is actually held from November through March, given that it’s in the Southern Hemisphere. So if you’re looking for a quick getaway from the cold temps (okay, maybe not so quick), we suggest booking a ticket to the Land Down Under. After all, isn’t there just something so appealing about celebrating the holidays at bustling open air market in 75 degree weather? So find a travel buddy (or travel mate, rather) and make sure to revel in the live music, browse the endless alleys of handmade goods and sink your teeth into something tasty.
#2: Temple Street Night Market | Hong Kong
As the sun begins to set on the already frenetic corners of the Yau Ma Tei neighborhood of Hong Kong, out emerges one of the busiest flea markets in the world: the Temple Street Night Market. World famous for its colorful nooks and crannies, here you can browse a seemingly infinite number of eccentric stalls featuring electronics, antiques, jewelry and clothing – not to mention, some of the tastiest dim sum in the world.
Expert tip: Keep an eye out for hidden shops and stalls, likely not visible from the main streets. These clandestine vendors are often where you can get the best deals on second-hand goods and the most authentic local street food. This daily market is most lively from 9-11pm and a must-do while in Hong Kong, even if it’s just for dinner and the people-watching.
#3: Reffen | Copenhagen, Denmark
It was a heartbreaking day when the Danish Mecca of food truck gatherings, Papirøen, closed in late 2017. But rising from the ashes just a few months later was Reffen, an “urban playground” operated by the same team – and with this project, their sights were set even higher. More than just a street food market, Reffen is a multi-acre compound home to over 50 food industry startups that also hosts creative workshops, cultural experiences and community events, all while focused on their main tenet of sustainability.
What else makes Reffen so great? Not only is it a true melting pot of gastronomy (with a vendors serving everything from Thai curry soups to Greek gyros to Filipino kabobs), but Reffen also provides waterfront views of the Copenhagen Harbor, and is just a short 15 minute bike ride from the city center. During both the temperate summer nights and hygge-filled winter nights, Reffen plays host to countless events including concerts, bingo nights and holiday themed happy hours, all open to the public. It’s no surprise that even after just one year in operation, it has quickly become a destination for both Copenhageners and international tourists alike.
#4: The Night Market | Marrakech, Morocco
In Jemaa El-Fnaa, the main square of Marrakech, resides a dynamic public market filled to the brim with Moroccan culture and tradition. A true street bazaar with everything from exotic fruit to ceramic tiles, this market can be a gold mine for the professional bargainer – that is if you don’t get lost in it’s expansive corridors first.
Featuring Moroccan specialties such as fabrics, ceramics, lanterns and leather goods, the market is also home to many other unconventional street vendors such as snake charmers, magicians and fortune tellers. Chaotic yet invigorating, as night falls, the market fills up with both locals and tourists in search of dinner, be it a communal plate of couscous tfaya or savory bowl of rfissa.
The tastes, sights, sounds and smells of Jemaa El-Fnaa are something that are best experienced in person. But as with all international travel, you may want to wisen up to local customs before visiting. No taking photos without permission, for example, and make sure to always keep an eye on your personal belongings. Heeding these precautions however, the night market is the perfect destination to take in the stunning streetscapes and irresistible charm of Marrakech.
#5: Ratchada Train Market | Bangkok, Thailand
Arguably the street food capital of the world, Bangkok certainly has no lack of night markets. But the Ratchada Train Market may take the cake, boasting a sprawling selection of everything from delicious local dishes to rare collectibles. While often crowded, the energetic atmosphere and ubiquitous live music is certainly part of the draw. In fact, the market has become so popular, a second sister market recently opened just on the other side of town.
If you’re a som tum lover, hunting for the freshest vegetables or simply after Thailand’s spiciest pork skewers, the Ratchada Train Market should be atop your to-do list. There’s simply no better way to immerse yourself in the Thai culture than visiting this nightly bonanza, and browsing the endless stalls while sipping on a cheap local cocktail.
No night market list would be complete without mentioning San Francisco’s Friday night hot spot – Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center. The 2019 season is underway with tons of new offerings, along with all of your old favorites, and we can’t think of a better place to grab a bite, socialize with friends and start your weekend on the right foot – except maybe the five markets we’ve just mentioned above, of course.
Join us at Fort Mason Center every Friday night from 5pm to 10pm (rain or shine) through October 25th, and click here to view our weekly creator lineup.