Navigating Street Markets Around the World

October 06, 2014

At Project Bly, we believe that a city is a living, breathing organism, and to get to know it you have to wander its streets, the veins that fork and converge and inevitably lead you to its heart—the marketplace.

The market is the first place we head to when we’re exploring a new city. Each city has a rhythm of its own and it’s in the market that the beat is the loudest. We love the smells, sounds, chaos and color of the marketplace. It’s where we learn about the people that make up a city, and about their daily lives and routines. And of course, it’s where we find the most interesting one-of-a-kind pieces to bring home.

Your first glimpse of a market might overwhelm your senses including your sense of direction. Where to start? And how do you navigate the chaos? Here are our top three tips on navigating markets around the world.

1. There is always a method to the madness. Every market has clear sections for different products from car parts to textiles.

In Kejetia Market, in Kumasi, Ghana one of the oldest open- air markets in West Africa, there’s an entire section for wax printed batik fabric.


Shop Batik Throw Pillows from Kumasi, Ghana.

In Mumbai’s Bhendi Bazaar, there’s an entire street just dedicated to stainless steel and brass.


Shop Vintage Brass from Mumbai, India

In Oaxaca, Mexico, Abastos Market might feel intimidating at first, but it’s organized by section including a section for woven baskets.


Shop Baskets from Oaxaca, Mexico.

2. Take your time to get oriented. Markets always have a focal point whether they’re laid out in a grid, a circle, or even a warren of streets that seem to make no sense.

For example, in El Alto, Bolivia, the large open -air marketplace has a main circle that you can always make your way back to.


Similarly, in Marrakech’s twisting souks, there’s the main square Djmma El Fnna as well as a smaller square, the Spice Square that can act as anchors and keep you from getting lost. One of the entrances to The Souk de Tapis (Carpet Souk) is off the Spice Square.


Shop Rugs from Marrakech, Morocco.

In Malacca, Malaysia, an old trading town that dates back over a thousand years, the Malacca River is a great way to get your bearings. Blacksmith Street is just West of the river.


Shop Cookie Molds from Malacca, Malaysia.

3. And finally, take your time, wander, observe, explore. Sometimes, it’s ok to get lost and wander without an agenda; it’s when you discover the little details of a place and its people.


Weddings are a big deal in Uzbekistan and we came across this young bride in the market with her mother shopping for her big day.


The Market under Long Bien Bridge in Hanoi, Vietnam starts as early as 3 am. One thing that struck us in Hanoi was how strong women were in this city—in every possible way.

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