A nostalgic look at marketplaces in the era of social distancing

Text by Travel Purist

Images by Travel Purist, Unsplash Images

There’s no better way to acquaint yourself with a place than by visiting the local marketplace. Bustling with people and products both familiar and unusual, markets are where humankind’s most primeval scenes are played out and replayed, across the ages.

Markets are more than mere places where goods are bought and sold; they are integral to the social fabric of any culture. In addition to serving as venues for the sale of fresh produce, daily essentials, vintage memorabilia, among other things, they are places for interactions and experiences that add to the theatre of life. In ancient Greece, the Agora was a public space and a marketplace that was at the heart of Athenian commercial, cultural and political life. A venue for the performing arts, festivals, sports events and political activity, it was also the birthplace of democracy.

Markets are what bring a place alive. They are where relationships are forged, and where ideas and stories are born.

Flea Markets

There’s nothing more gratifying than rummaging through old collectibles and accessing a piece of someone’s life or personal history. From objets d’art and trinkets to quirky vintage memorabilia ranging from comic books to kitchen accessories, kitschy home décor, old movie posters, antiquarian books and just about anything under the sun, flea markets are, in our opinion, the most interesting kind of markets.

Bric-a-brac on display at the Monastiraki flea market in Athens, Greece. Image by Travel Purist.
Chor Bazaar or ‘Thieves’ Market’, the iconic flea market of Mumbai, India, is being demolished to make way for modern highrises. Image by Travel Purist.
Vienna’s Naschmarket is the Austrian capital’s most popular market. 1.5 km long, it has everything from antiquarian items to edibles and fresh produce. Image by Travel Purist.
The mercat or market just outside the Catedral De La Santa Creu in the charming Barri Gotic area of Barcelona, Spain, is a great place for bargains. Image by Travel Purist.

Fresh Produce

The most universal feature of any neighbourhood, the local vegetable and daily essentials market is always a colourful, vibrant place that includes a smorgasbord of items and a wide cast of characters.  

Fresh fruit and vegetables for sale at the Monday market in Mirepoix, France. Mirepoix is also a culinary term that refers to a mixture of chopped, cooked vegetables used as a flavour base for sauces. Image by Travel Purist.
The vendor of a variety of meats and cheeses turns up his nose. Also in Mirepoix. Image by Travel Purist.
A vendor counts her earnings at the local market in Kampot, Cambodia. Image by Travel Purist.
Fresh catch for sale in the seaside town of Chania, Greece. Image by Travel Purist.
The Mapusa Friday Bazaar in Goa, India, is an eco-system all on its own. Here, you can buy fresh vegetables and fruit, flowers, fish, Goan chorizo, spices, pickles, artefacts, furniture, clothes, and more. Image by Travel Purist.
Flower markets exude a fragrance all of their own and the Gariahat flower market in Kolkata, India, is no different. Image by Travel Purist.

For Flâneurs

Marketplaces can be great places for bazaar lurkers who visit merely to observe people and places. Leisurely visits to the local market are integral to travel; they often throw up interesting surprises and these unusual, chance encounters can make for the best gifts, both material and experiential.

Musicians entertain shoppers at the local market is Ventspils, Latvia. Image by Travel Purist.
A man sharpens knives at the Monday market in Mirepoix, France. Image by Travel Purist.
The Great Market Hall in Budapest, Hungary, is spread across 3 floors and is a great place for people watching. Image by Travel Purist.
A wine seller regales passersby with stories behind the vintage of his wine in Mirepoix, France. Image by Travel Purist.
Riga Central market in Riga, Latvia, is Europe’s oldest market and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Image by Travel Purist.
Europe’s Christmas markets are destinations in themselves and we hope that they are able to make a comeback soon. Image by Alisa Anton, courtesy Unsplash Images.