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Shopping in the Dark: A Guide to the World’s Best Night Markets

Written by The Leap on 03 / 03 / 2015

Gap Year Advice

Night markets might seem like a strange concept at first. After all, why would you want to browse a market when you can barely see anything? But that doesn't change the fact that they're becoming more and more popular - visiting local night markets is something Leapers on our gap year programs often ask about.

Why? Because there’s something rather exhilarating about shopping in the dark. These nocturnal haunts have other several other upsides, such as the fact they’re cooler, less crowded and somewhat more magical than the markets that close their doors at dusk.

The night markets I’ve listed below are top spots for shopping, socialising, watching live entertainment and grabbing a bite to eat, while locals and travellers pass you by.

Ratchada Night Bazaar, Bangkok

Ratchada Night Bazaar, which takes place every Saturday night outside the Ratchadapisek metro station, started off as a place where people would come and exchange used scooters and classic car parts. Since then, it has expanded to a mini showroom that showcases vintage vehicles alongside fashion items, old cameras, posters and vinyl records.

But not everything here is pre-owned and there are plenty of new items available. As well as being an excellent place to snap up a bargain, Ratchada also provides an insight into Thai culture and makes for an interesting alternative to the city’s numerous shopping malls.

Opening Hours: Every Saturday from 6.30pm to 2am

Marrakech Night Market, Morocco

Every night in Marrakech, market vendors set up open-air food stalls serving an array of tasty treats. I recommend heading straight for the popular stall 100, where you’ll find a buffet of fresh, uncooked food so you can choose exactly what you want. Opt for the traditional pastilla filled with pigeon meat and almonds - sounds terrible, tastes amazing.

Whilst eating, you can sit back and savour the sights of the vibrant Jemaa el Fna, with its donkey carts, drummers, belly dancers and snake charmers. Then go and get your fortune told by one of the many fortune-tellers, or your hands covered in henna. This whole area really is a whir of colour, sounds, smells and activity.

Opening Hours: All night, every night!

Temple Night Street Market, Hong Kong

Another entry of interest for those travelling in Asia, this buzzing street bazaar is also known as 'Men’s Street Market' due to the abundance of suits, menswear labels, watches, electronics and even condoms on offer.

But there's so much more than this to discover at Temple Night Street Market. Think of any item off the top of your head and chances are you’ll be able to purchase it here! Each of these items are displayed across five blocks and lit up by a string of light bulbs that hangs overhead.

Haggle over Chinese memorabilia, watch the opera performances and hit up the food stalls for all sorts of delicious Oriental dishes. Make sure you stay alert though, as pickpockets and other shady types lurk in the darker corners of this rowdy street.

Opening Hours: Every day from 4pm to midnight

Suzuki Night Market, Melbourne

Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market transforms into Suzuki Night Market on summer nights, when Australians show up to party as only Australians do. Take advantage of the free-flowing alcohol and variety of culinary delights from all over the world - including India, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Holland and Spain. Naturally you’ll find a few typical Aussie-style barbecues on the go too.

As well as food and booze, there are some interesting artisan products such as watches carved from coconut shells, jewellery, and prints. There's even a health and harmony area, where you can enjoy a luxurious foot massage.

Opening Hours: Every Wednesday between November and February from 5.30pm to 10pm

Luang Prabang Night Market, Laos

This half-mile long night market is one of the best places in the country to find unique items at low prices. Hundreds of vendors come here to sell traditional painting and embroideries, and you’ll find stalls bursting with different teas and rare spices too.

However, whereas Luang Prabang Night Market might be ideal for picking up cheap souvenirs, if you want high-quality goods you’re better off shopping at one of Laos’ stores. Definitely make sure you avoid buying leather, ivory and other animal-based products too, as these are often made from endangered animals and I certainly don’t support that!

Opening Hours: Every day from 5pm to 10pm

Audrix Night Market, France

The Audrix Night Market - amazing review on gourmet.com here - is all about food, which probably comes as no surprise, seeing as French cuisine is definitely something the locals should want to brag about. Different foods that have been cultivated in the greater Périgord Noir region of southwest France are brought to this tiny square and sold to the residents.

Fan favourites tend to be stalls selling wine, lamb and products made with walnuts, which are fruitful in the area. Once you’ve bought your various bits and bobs, sit down at one of benches provided and tuck in it whilst soaking up the sights of this quaint location.

Opening Hours: Every day in July and August from 6pm to 11pm

How Was It For You?

So there you have it, my pick of the best! Have you been to any of these yourself? Did you manage to source some weird and wonderful souvenirs of your trip?

I'd love to hear which night markets you’ve been to, whether or not they’re on this list, and what you thought of them. Let me hear what you have to say in the comments box below!

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