Travel Tip: Hit the Street Markets

One of my favorite things about travel is exploring street markets. No matter where we go, you can bet I’ll be looking for a good market. If you’re a regular reader, you know we hit the German Christmas markets HARD in November.

I’m no expert, but I think Paris has the most beautiful shopping stalls. So lovely.

The Complete Package is a big fan of the Petaling markets in Kuala Lumpur. He likes to spend quality time browsing there when he travels to KL for business.

I loved the markets on Amsterdam’s canals and squares. Oh, the glorious cheese!

And I have very fond memories of a farmer’s market in McMinnville, Oregon and the dry-roasted hazelnuts, huckleberry syrup and artisan cheese I bought directly from the hard-working farmers who produced them. Let’s not forget the Pike Street Market in Seattle. Give me a grande Starbucks vanilla latte and a tub of Beecher’s cheese curds, and I’m a very happy camper. I really love Seattle.

But one market we BOTH loved was Camden Lock northwest of London. If I had to choose a favorite street market right now, this would be it. Hands down. It’s indoors and outdoors. It’s old and new. It’s also fun, funky, and wildly popular.

There really is a lock at Camden Lock. It regulates boats along the Regent’s Canal as is runs through the heart of Camden Town. The markets can be found along several streets, along the canal, and in the old Camden Stables. The heart of Camden Town has been home to one type of market or another since horses pulled boats to the Thames in the 1800’s. Old meets new here in an exciting way.

While you browse, don’t forget to take advantage of the food stalls. We followed our noses to a small stand where morning orange juice is squeezed to order while you wait. Then we followed our stomachs to this little Chinese food vendor for lunch. And a few days later, we followed them back to eat there again.

Camden is also known for its dynamic music scene and numerous pubs. If an English pub crawl is on your “to do” list, you may want to consider jumping the Tube for the short ride from London. Think of it as your public designated driver. While you’re there, keep an eye out for Amy Winehouse. She is known to frequent the pubs of her hometown. Who’s surprised? Anybody? No? {crickets} Here’s a photo of my favorite resident of Camden Town. Little tough guy.

The thing I loved most about the Camden Lock market is the atmosphere. It’s so far removed from the sedate, conservative lives we live at home. It’s not just fun, it’s funky. And it’s not just outrageous, it’s totally over the top. Camden is exciting, and gritty, and exotic, and fascinating. If variety is the spice of life, the markets of Camden are a multi-sensory feast. And this is one party you’ll want to attend over and over again (if you’re of age & behave responsibly, of course).

I'm pretty sure Sexy Goth are two words that will never be used to describe me.

I'm confused. Are they selling scorpions or shoes? It's Camden, so it's probably both.

I'm not going in there, but that facade is definitely a work of art.

There are so many markets I haven’t seen yet – the grand bazaar in Istanbul, the wet markets of Bangkok, the historic downtown market in Philadelphia. There are far too many to list. It’s a big, wide world out there, and I intend to see as much of it as I can before I ring the bell at the Pearly Gates, if I get that lucky. So, please share your suggestions. Where do you go when you “hit the streets”? I’d love to add your favorites to my list!



Filed under Travel Tales

5 responses to “Travel Tip: Hit the Street Markets

  1. Amy

    You have been everywhere! So jealous.
    I’ve been to New Orleans many times and always love browsing around the French Market there. It’s been ages since I’ve been (went a few years after Katrina) and I can’t wait to go back.

    • Oooooo….I love New Orleans, especially during December through March, when it’s not as hot. Thank you for reminding me! I love browsing the stores around the French Quarter, and riding the street cars out through the Garden District to see all the beautiful old houses. If you love the muffalettas from New Orleans, you should check out the recipe I posted last week. Now if only I could master those beignets from Cafe du Monde! I hope you make it back there soon. It’s such a magical place.

  2. Rhea (clabbergirl)

    I love this post, Nana. It really got me thinking about all of the wonderful places I have been in my lifetime- certainly not as extensive as your travels, but just as eye-opening and enjoyable. My favorite market in California is the Thursday Night Farmer’s Market in San Luis Obispo. For the past three years, we have gone up on the weekend before Halloween. There are a gazillion kids dressed up in costumes collecting candy from a gazillion vendors. It is such a wonderful way to spend a fall weekend. Just up the coast is San Simeon and the elephant seals. The central coast wineries are incredible if you are traveling without kids. Moonstone Beach and Cambria (sort of a nice little artist’s colony) are always worth the drive. I l also love the drive up through the San Joaquin Valley- pistachios, and carrots, and green. Beautiful.

    However, I think my favorite market/strolling area was in Morelia. I backpacked around Mexico for several weeks in my early twenties. Mercado de Dulces y Artesanias is an incredible place. The candy selection is unbelievable. I bought a hand-knotted hammock and some sandals made out of tires. The thing that makes me love it the most was the kindness and warmth of the people in Michoacan. After Morelia, we stopped over in Uruapan for the falls and the colonial architecture before heading over to ride up Paricutin on horseback. I cannot put into words the beauty of the area and its people. I wish Mexico wasn’t so volatile right now. I’d love to take my kids there.
    Thank you for sharing! The world is such a beautiful place!

    • What an awesome comment, Rhea. Thank you for sharing not only places, but such great detail about why you loved each one. Your fall market in San Luis Obispo sounds wonderful, especially since fall is my favorite season. Other than the very northern tip (seen in a few hours) and San Francisco, California is one place I’ve never really visited (but should). And The Complete Package and I talked for years about exploring more of Mexico, especially the central and western areas. We’ve been to Cancun, Cozumel and the eastern edges, but never the heartland. Now I wish we’d done it when we had the chance. It’s sad that Mexico is in such turmoil right now. So much of their economy depends on tourism, and it breaks my heart that such warm, beautiful people are suffering from the actions of a few.

      You’re right. The world is a beautiful, wonderous place, and I think seeing it is the greatest gift you can give yourself. My favorite travel quote is used by Joseph Rosendo on his Travelscope programs on PBS.
      “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” -Mark Twain

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