Looking to try the tastiest and most unusual cuisine in Taipei, Cairo, Marrakesh or Hong Kong? Head out after dark to one of these cities’ bright and bustling night markets, also known as night bazaars. With hundreds, sometimes thousands, of vendors selling everything from handmade shoes to pungent tofu, the markets are a gathering place for locals and tourists alike.
Most prevalent in Asian and Middle Eastern countries, night markets became a popular way for locals to do their daily shopping all in one place, avoid the often-scorching daytime heat and get together with friends after a long day at work.
“Decades ago, when most of the people in Hong Kong were working class, they had long working hours. The night markets were places where they could have a beer, some food and gather with friends,” explains Nicola Tang, associate director of advisory and transaction services for retail at CBRE Hong Kong. “This is why they stayed open so late—because a lot of people worked very late and at that time most of the shops were closed, so the markets became a place of gathering.”
As population density in Asian cities grew, night markets became a vital way for friends and families to spend time together outside the tight confines of their homes. Today, Hong Kong alone boasts over 10 night markets that inspire locals to get out and make use of the region’s few open spaces.
“In Hong Kong, we don’t have much public space and we live in very tight areas. Maybe in European countries or in U.S. cities there’s more space, so you can go to someone else’s home to meet with friends. Here, people really rely on communal spaces to gather,” Tang says.
As the prevalence of night markets increases, brick-and-mortar stores are joining the fray by staying open later to entice nighttime shoppers. By combining traditional retail with artisan vendors and hawker stalls selling unique local foods, night markets have become concrete city establishments.
Here are some of the most popular night markets from around the world.
Temple Street Night Market (Hong Kong)
Open daily, year-round, Temple Street Night Market is the most popular market in the city, largely because it stays open well into the night. Locals visit the market to enjoy a wide variety of cheap, traditional food—from seafood specialties to hot pot stews—while tourists flock to the market to pick up gifts, have their fortunes told or enjoy one of the market’s many Chinese opera performances.
Ladies’ Night Market (Hong Kong)
Named the Ladies’ Night Market because of the many vendors selling women’s clothing and accessories, this market is a lively place to haggle for the best bargain. While not as large as Temple Street Night Market, Ladies’ Market is still a great place to seek out unusual Hong Kong delicacies, including exotic fruits and vegetables.
Asiatique The Riverfront (Bangkok, Thailand)
One of the more upscale night markets on the list, Asiatique opened in 2012. It combines traditional night market shopping in old trading post warehouses—where around 1500 stalls are located in what’s called The Factory District—with modern restaurants, retail stores, sports bars, event venues and more.
Raohe Street Night Market (Taipei, Taiwan)
Looking for Taiwanese sausages, oyster omelets or pork feet noodles? You’ve come to the right place. Taipei’s Raohe Street Night Market is known for exotic food, including its famous pepper pork buns and Taiwanese shaved ice.
Jemaa El Fna (Marrakesh, Morocco)
During the day, this large public square in Marrakesh’s old city boasts a few vendors, medicine men selling homemade remedies and snake charmers meant to attract tourists. At night, the square transforms into a bustling marketplace, lined with dozens of food stalls, artisan wares, musicians and traditional henna artists.
Khan El-Khalili (Cairo, Egypt)
The Khan El-Khalili has been a local trade spot since the 14th century. While it isn’t a quiet and peaceful place to peruse—the market’s hundreds of pushy, fast-talking merchants make sure of that—it’s a great place to find unique, authentic Egyptian goods.