Cities We Love: Best Places for Authentic Shopping

Snapshots are fine, but play it right and you’ll come out of the world’s best markets with a truly covetable keepsake, too.

Queens Rd
I happened upon this moment at a night market in Jaipur, India, which has some of the best shopping for beaded crafts, jewelry, ceramics, carpets and textiles. This jewelry stand in Johari Bazaar was crowded with women interested in the necklaces, bracelets, and trinkets on offer in abundance. Markets all over India are fascinating, colorful places and provide a great sense of nearly every aspect of the culture, whether it be the degree of religious devotion, the styles of dress and adornment, or the delicious gastronomy. Soak it all in, but give yourself plenty of time....
Riad Zitoun El Kdim, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco
The spaghetti explosion of lanes and alleys of the Marrakesh medina are seemingly designed to confuse the unwary visitor, but getting happily lost is part of the fun – you never know what might lie around the next corner. Strike out from the central square of the Djemaa el Fna to explore the many kissarias (covered souqs) and funduqs (courtyard caravan resthouses). The kasbah district contains the city’s royal heritage, while the ancient mellah still bears traces of Marrakesh’s Jewish population. If you do get confused, there’s always someone happy to offer directions, and a café selling mint tea (or shop with a tempting souvenir) is never far away).
Beyazıt, Kalpakçılar Cd. No:22, 34126 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Soon after conquering Constantinople and defeating the Byzantines in 1453, Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II commissioned the beginnings of the Grand Bazaar to reinvigorate trade with the city. More than 550 years later, the bazaar is one of the oldest covered markets in the world, with a labyrinth of 61 streets connecting over 4,000 shops selling all manner of treasures and souvenirs, from jewelry to silk carpets. Make a beeline for Sivasli Istanbul Yazmacisi, whose quality textiles are popular with interior decorators. Looking for currency exchange shops? You’ll find the best rates in Istanbul here.
Pl. San Jacinto 11, San Ángel TNT, San Ángel, Álvaro Obregón, 01000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Once a separate municipality, San Ángel—in the city’s south, nestled into its western foothills—is a leafy, genteel enclave whose relative isolation adds a soigné feel (for better or worse) you won’t find in neighboring Coyoacán. Ground zero for promenading is quaint Plaza San Jacinto, whose cute parish church (and beautiful cloister garden) is a sort of spiritual last stand amid the surrounding area’s high-toned consumerism. That said, the plaza’s true spirit comes alive Saturdays, at the so-called Bazar Sábado, an artisanal market that fills the area with stall after stall of handmade jewelry, textiles, crafts, and accessories, plus a great deal of art—some finer, some less so—in styles that go from hippie to haute. Strolling musicians and performers add to the carnival atmosphere.
Slip Rd, Nairobi, Kenya
The Maasai Market is an excellent spot to get all kinds of handmade crafts, jewelry, beads, woodwork, and art in the middle of Nairobi. My favorite items were the stacks of fabrics with Maasai prints, plaids, and Barack Obama screens. At this market you walk among aisles, head down, as the “booths” are made up of women sitting on the ground, their wares spread before them on blankets.
Tai Yuen St, Shek Yam, Hong Kong
Tai Yuen Street in Wan Chai is also known as Toy Market. One peek into the alley and you’ll see why—toys, from seasonal to mainstream to collectors’ items, fill the shopfronts. Head inside for a closer look at vintage robots, models of Hong Kong transportation, Japanese anime figurines, Hello Kitty handbags, and more. Although best-known for toys that will induce nostalgia in locals born before the 1980s, this is also the place to find festive holiday decorations. After you’ve perused the many trinkets and toys, check out the nearby wet market or hop on the ding-ding (tram) on Johnston Street to explore elsewhere.
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Journeys: Africa + Middle East
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