8 Flea Markets Worth Travelling For

Photo: Alamy.
When you travel to a new city, chances are you'll visit all the major landmarks, hit up different neighbourhoods, and sample famous local cuisines. Another way to get a true sense of a city's culture and identity? Exploring its flea markets. Picking up a few one-of-a-kind items — from vintage housewares and clothing to locally made accessories and crafts — can help ensure that a piece of your trip lives on, well after you've returned home.

While there's no shortage of amazing flea markets peddling all sorts of wares, we’re always on the hunt for finds that are specific to the locale — like the teas produced in the mountains of Myanmar and sold in local bazaars, or the lacquerware made by Thai artisans that is displayed in the markets of Chiang Mai. Bargaining can also be a memorable part of the experience, and some of the best travel tips can be gleaned through friendly conversation with vendors. Ahead, eight of the world's best flea markets, and what to look for at each.
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Photo: Alamy.
Les Allées De La Liberté, Cannes, France
Les Allées de la Liberté market in Cannes takes place every Saturday and Sunday, outdoors near the marina. One can score antique finds like golden framed mirrors, vintage 17th- and 18th-century replica paintings, and European-style lamps, along with resale designer clothing, accessories, and other household goods. The market is a great place to mingle with locals and vendors, and maybe pick up some useful tips about the glamorous city of Cannes. The boutique Hôtel Splendid, located one block away, was the first hotel to open in Cannes in 1871.
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Photo: Alamy.
San Ignacio Farmers' Market, San Ignacio, Belize
The remote San Ignacio Farmers' Market is run by locals on Saturdays and Tuesdays, and offers goods such as Belizean textiles and masks depicting jaguars and local animals. The vendors enthusiastically bargain with tourists for their one-of-a-kind pieces. A 10-minute walk from the market is the San Ignacio Resort Hotel, where you can have brunch while bird-watching on the terrace — if you're lucky, you might spot a few colourful toucans, Belize’s national bird. To get close to nature, visit Butterfly Falls, a remote waterfall located a 20-minute hike inside the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.
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Photo: Alamy.
El Mercado De Artesanias, Antigua, Guatemala
Located in the small city of Antigua, the indoor flea market sells almost every type of clothing imaginable. Textiles are created by Mayan women from over 200 villages spread throughout Guatemala, and each village is identified by the design or trademark seen in those patterns. The symbols can range from Mayan coordinates to suns, birds, or colours seen in nature. (For instance, the village of Santiago Atitlán, or “Place of Birds,” is known for intricate bird embroidery.) A short walk from the market is the boutique Hotel Mansión de la Luz, with colonial-style architecture and local textiles featured in the lobby. Visitors can also take photographs under the yellow 17th-century Santa Catalina arch in the downtown area.
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Photo: Alamy.
Greenmarket Square, Cape Town, South Africa
In its former incarnations, the flea market at Greenmarket Square was used as a slave market, a fruit-and-vegetable market, and for a while, it was even a parking lot. Today, a wide range of informal traders sell batiks, beadwork, sculptures, and merchandise from many African tribes (like the Masai and Xhosa). Situated in the middle of Cape Town's Central Business District, the market is just steps away from the Castle of Good Hope, the oldest surviving building in South Africa, and the Iziko Museum, which showcases natural-history exhibits.
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Photo: Alamy.
Shwe Inn Thein Paya Market, Inle Lake, Myanmar
Myanmar’s tea plantations are located at high elevations in places like the northern Shan State, where the cool climate is well-suited to tea growth. At the Shwe Inn Thein Paya Market, you can purchase some of these green-tea leaves, which are grown organically, without fertilisers, and pay only £1 to £2 for a large quantity. The market also sells local clothing, jewellery, and other accessories under the covered walkway leading up to the 17th-century Shwe Inn Thein Paya pagodas.
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Photo: Alamy.
Mercantic Market, Barcelona, Spain
Known as one of the best places to visit on a Sunday morning in Barcelona, Mercantic sells a variety of antiques, collectibles, and vintage wares from as many as 300 dealers. Some vendors operate shops and stands on the outdoor patio, while others maintain stalls inside a former ceramic factory. A major highlight of the market is the El Siglo bookstore, where you can take in concerts while browsing a staggering 150,000 antique and used books. When you finish at the market, check out the monastery of Sant Cugat, which is a nice 20-minute walk away.
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Photo: Courtesy of Adrienne Jordan.
Westheimer Flea Market, Houston, Texas
Locals and visitors alike flock to Houston's 19-mile-long Westheimer Street for vintage, thrift, and consignment finds. Many of the most popular stores (like BJ Oldies and Joybird Furniture) are located near the Westheimer Flea Market, which has been in operation for several decades. There, you'll find vintage housewares; furniture like chairs, bookcases, and desks; and even taxidermy — this is Texas, after all. Stop by the nearby Guild Shop for vintage clothing and accessories, and after a day of shopping, reward yourself with a mani-pedi at hipster nail shop Dripped.
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Photo: Alamy.
Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, Chiang Mai, Thailand
The old walled city of Chiang Mai comes alive after dark at the famous Night Bazaar, where vendors (half a mile of them) sell handmade goods and inexpensive Thai street food. Peruse wood-carved furniture and decorative items; lacquerware with golden designs; and Saa paper products, derived from the mulberry plant, which are used for delicate stationery, lanterns, and umbrellas. Get ready to bargain by treating yourself to a massage at the COMO Shambhala Urban Escape spa, located nearby.

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