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From vintage dolls to tasty treats, open-air markets are the treasure troves of antiques, souvenirs, delicious food and fond memories. For a traveller, they also offer an opportunity to get intimate with the culture of a foreign land. Combining a variety of settings – from large cavernous halls to cobbled alleys and expansive public squares – outdoor markets make for a fantastic day trip, combining shopping, sightseeing and sampling the local cuisine. From the fragrant spice markets of Turkey to the vintage book shops of Paris, we've rounded up some of the best open-air markets in Europe.

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open flea market vrijmarkt in amsterdam

Photo Credit- (c)Akemi, Flickr 

For those who love to haggle, there’s no better place than Amsterdam’s Vrijmarkt to pick up a good bargain. Every year, on King’s Day (Koningsdag), Amsterdammers gather in various key locations in the city to sell their second-hand wares. From cast-off toys to fancy kitchen gadgets, the choice of items is impressive. Loved by bargain-hunters and window shoppers alike, Vrijmarkt is the mother of all flea markets in Europe. While typically it is a daytime affair, for an overnight shopping experience head over to Utrecht, where festivities continue till the following evening.

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Famous bookseller boxes in Paris

In a world where people automatically turn to tablets and smartphones for reading, it's sometimes nice to return to the comforting presence of physical books. For centuries, the bouquinistes (book sellers of Paris) have been selling second-hand books, old journals and canvas prints along the banks of the Seine. Here, you can pick up a vintage copy of the iconic Le Petit Journal or lay your hands on a well-thumbed copy of Balzac’s La Comedie Humaine. Also on offer are beautiful prints and postcards of some of the iconic monuments of the French capital - a perfect keep-sake.

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San Lorenzo market in florence Italy

Looking for a leather jacket to team up with your favourite pair of jeans? Try out San Lorenzo Market in Florence, where you can get some of the best leather goods in Europe. From bracelets and trinkets starting from a couple of euros, to trendy jackets costing a fortune, San Lorenzo is the utimate destination for all things leather. A portion of the market is located in the iconic Mercato Centrale, a late 19th century iron-and-glass structure, which houses some of the best food stalls in the region. From the cured meats of Parini’s to the Florentine wine of the Chianti, this outdoor market is a sheer delight for gourmands.


vegetables in raspail market paris

Frequented by the who’s who of Parisian gliterati, The Raspail Market (Le Marche Raspail), situated in the uber-chic 6th arrondissement of the city, is a great place for gourmet delights. Teeming with shops where local farmers sell succulent fruits, fresh garden vegetables and speciality meats and cheeses, this 150-stall market exudes Parisian charm and sophistication. Don’t forget to try out the delicious fare served by a selection of high-end food trucks, which roll out every Sunday morning.

For more traditional bites, take a look at our guide to eating your way around the city.


Misir Carsisi spice bazaar Istanbul turkey

With a history that dates back to the 17th century, the Misir Carsisi (Egyptian Bazaar) is one of the largest spice markets in Turkey. Originally built to fund the construction of a mosque, the bazaar today is famous for not just spices but also traditional handicrafts, essential oils, medicinal herbs, ornate ceramic wares, dried fruits and sweet treats. As you meander through the labyrinthine market, taking in the heady smell of saffron and Baharat (a spice blend for meats), don’t forget to pick up a bottle of itr (perfume) or some of the fragrant hand-crafted soaps, made from exotic flowers and essential oils.

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Christmas market booth berlin germany

Scents of warm mulled wine and sizzling curried bratwurst beckon you to one of the most iconic night markets in Europe – the Berliner Weihnachtszeit, located in Alexanderplatz. While there are various iconic Christmas markets worth visiting in Europe, none can match the Berlin Christmas Market in its sheer pageantry and grandeur. From the twinkling ornaments, which dot the central Christmas tree, to the handmade products on sale and the sumptuous food stalls selling everything from white chocolate milk to mouth-watering cheeses - this open-air market is not to be missed.

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el rastro flea market in madrid spain

Crowned as one of the oldest markets in Europe, El Rastro in Madrid offers a medley of treasures. A significant chunk of the market is dedicated to clothes and jewellery, while the back alleys sell quirky art, antiquites and odd curiosities, which are sure to pique your interest. Good things to snap up here include old Flamenco posters, colourful folding fans, prints of Spanish masters and football souvenirs - all the classics!

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