As an avid traveller, thrifting connoisseur and a student of world culture, I have been exposed to many different types of retail options and I have discovered the marketplace to be my preferred method of shopping. Behold, the 6 that stand out from the rest.
Feria do Ladra- LISBON - This market is much bigger than when last visited in 2007. The sprawl is reminiscent of the way a hipster enclave in any given city gentrifies; it's tentacles snake deep into the labyrinthine streets of the Alfama neighborhood, creeping past the boundaries of the ancient church it sits beside. Do not make the mistake of venturing here on an empty stomach, the array of bric-a-brac will stagger you. Who knew there were so many reusable lighters in the world? Well, they have all congregated in Lisbon to face a congested death.
Other treasures the stalls hold are African inspired leather goods, piles of secondhand clothing for €2. And records, tons of records. Records specializing in 70's heavy and psychedelic music, way disproportionate to the other genres to be found here. Like everything else at the market, the vinyl was priced cheaper than their worth. And that could be said about the myriad of charms to be found in the city of Lisbon in general.
Marché des puces: Porte de Vanves - PARIS - When reading about Paris flea markets, most of the content is devoted to the atmospheric if overpriced, Porte de Clingancourt. But I prefer the lesser known Porte de Vanves.
Located like the other official markets on the peripheral of the city, Vanves is on the southern border in the 14th ème, and is "L" shaped, with Blvd Georges Lafenestre housing most of the antiques, and ave Marc Sangnier where the secondhand clothing vendors are situated.
In my experience, this market has been particularly great for finding vintage lingerie on the cheap. Shoes are also abundant here, I scored several great pairs for €5 each. The collectables were displayed and ranged in prices from dirt cheap in a box, happy digging, to really expensive wares presented accordingly. One disappointing note, the vinyl here was really overpriced, especially for French recording artists. I found the same Jacques Du Tronc 45 for €18, that I found in a Toulouse market for €4.
Still, one cannot visit the City of Light without time spent foraging it's flea markets, and for that I suggest this one. Bonne Chance!
Flohmarkt Mauerpark - BERLIN - This is Berlin's biggest and busiest market. It's located in the extremely gentrified, but still pulsating neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg, it's namesake park housing many activities that act as a respite from the chaos of the market. Flohmarkt Mauerpark is a shit show. This place is jammed with people, and it's grid-like formation with super congested aisles, lends a sense of claustrophobia to the affair. I very nearly have a panic attack every time, but i just can't leave. So. Much. To. Look. At. There will be no leisurely strolling through the stalls, as parents insist on traipsing their children, strollers, even tiny dogs about.
Maneuvering aside, I always have a blast here. For one, the people watching is amazing, and there are always good looking babes to meet. And the vendors are a mix of hardcore professionals and amateurs needing some extra cash or a cleaner closet. Berlin, once quoted as "poor, but sexy" from a former mayor, means that one can find great deals on items sold by people who just want to pay similar prices themselves, they are paying it forward.
Last time I scored some motorcycle boots from a dude that I hit it off with who just wanted to see his merchandise go to a great home. Then, there are the vinyl dealers who have excellent taste in music, and who are knowledgeable about the obscurity of their product. You'll be hard pressed to find any good record for under €20 here.
Mauerpark also has tons of jewelry vendors, from craftsmen selling their creations, to vendors selling amazing indian bangles and southwestern turquoise rings, to the guys selling the sterling silver and brass chunky rings that I Iove so much. In short, Mauerpark is full of deals and steals, if you can stomach the pushy crowds, and the possibility of stepping on a small child.
Pro tip- There are yummy food stalls there that can sate the hunger you've likely generated after such exhaustive shopping. Do get a doner kebab, don't get currywurst.
Mercato Via Sannio - ROME - The obvious choice in Rome is the Porta Portese Market in Trastevere, but I dig the little unknown market far from most tourist attractions called Via Sannio.
This market is fairly unremarkable, but for its profusion of vendors selling trachtenwear for super low prices.
If you went through a Balkan phase like me, or the idea of dressing like an extra from "A Sound Of Music" holds some appeal, then this is the market for you. Dirndls, Lederhosen (which look awesome on girls) galore, for about €7-10 apiece.
It always fascinated me to find this traditional German folkwear in Rome of all places. And that's about all worth finding at Via Sannio.
Medina - MARRAKECH - The medina (walled, old city center) of Marrakech is one gigantic open air market. Everywhere you turn, there is a merchant hawking his (the gender specific term is used purposefully, one rarely sees women on the streets in Morocco) wares, sometimes aggressively.
Marrakech is a warren of twisty turn-y streets with seemingly no signs to guide you, it's really easy to get lost.
In fact, you ought to relish getting lost or you will end up the victim of a "nice young man" who will offer to guide you to your destination. Only to stop within a half block radius, and demand a fee for his "service". You, of course, have no idea that you are a half block away, so when you refuse and he becomes belligerent, you succumb, and then later marvel at how deftly you were had.
So with that said, it is nearly impossible to recommend a certain part of the medina for shopping. You just have to wander and bask in your sense of discovery as you stumble upon that vendor selling the basket of amazing broken Berber pendants and charms for about $15. And forever live with regret because you passed on that bounty, and your dreams are haunted by throughs of magically stumbling upon the same stall during your next trip to Morocco.
Or, you happen upon that merchant who is very insistent on demonstrating on your person, how a hijab scarf is wrapped. Or the succession of shops selling leather poofs and bags, and amazing bejeweled renditions of that sacred symbol, the Hand of Fatima. There will be the proprietor that invites you to his carpet house for tea, only to be irate when you depart the premises sans rug. Even if you declined his offer to show you that yellow rug on the bottom of the stack, and he did it anyway. The store you go in looking for saffron, and end up with a bevy of scented sachets filled with "herbs" that you never knew you wanted or needed. And finally the House of Caftan, where you swoon over amazing vintage designs, and make that divine purchase you know you'll treasure forever as a memory of an amazing vacation and experience.
Pro-tip- If you travel with a guide, which isn't a bad idea if you are a reasonably attractive western woman, know that they have a racket where they will take you to all of their buddies shops because they'll get a cut of the sale if you purchase from the friend. They will try to dissuade you from shopping at other merchants, possibly claiming the product is inferior. Be polite but firm, and hold your ground, they'll usually give up when they note you are not so easily swayed.
Feria de San Telmo - BUENOS AIRES - Ah, Buenos Aires. Home of the Parilla, the Tango, and one of the best markets in South America. The San Telmo neighborhood where the market is situated, has tons of charm. And as the neighborhood has grown, so too has the market, spilling out from its main grid on Plaza Dorrego down all of the peripheral boulevards.
The official vendors set up in the grid, and the amateurs set up on the offshoot boulevards. The official vendors are not very cheap, but the quality offered is well worth the prices. The jewelry here is phenomenal, there were so many pieces that caught my eye. But when I saw the "one", all other rings ceased to exist. I decided to wait to purchase as I hadn't made one full round of the stalls yet, but I hurried out of stress, nervous my darling would sell right from under my nose. My fears were unfounded though, she sat glistening and angular, waiting for my 375 pesos to stake that claim. I will never forget that awesome find.
Elsewhere in the market, many vendors sell vintage siphons which are super rad seltzer bottles made out of colored glass, most with beautiful chrome accents. Another unique vendor was a gaucho guy, specializing in vintage Argentinian cowhand fashion and accoutrements. There were amazing ponchos, saddles, and the most impressive collection of gorgeously ornate knives.
Down the streets with unofficial vendors, there were gems to be had as well. I scored a sweet pair of oxfords that must have seen a tango dancehall in their lifetime, and a motorcycle jacket that fit me like a dream. The leather was stiff so the vendor priced it at about $15, but I managed to eventually condition it, with consistent coconut oil massages.
Bonus addition to the visual stimuli the stalls provide, a marching band with street dancers contribute entertainment to an already lively Sunday at the market in Buenos Aires.