Avoid These Tourist Trap Markets If You Want A Local Experience

Debunking the 'authentic, local' market experience

By Journy Admin

3 August 2018

For every market that makes us feel like a local, there's another that makes us feel like a tourist sheep about to be herded and sheared. While markets tend to be thought of as local and authentic, the truth is most of the ones touted by guidebooks hawk more cheap plastic fans than one-of-a-kind finds. We've rounded up the worst offenders.

Amsterdam's floating flower market. | Wikimedia Commons.

Locals Don't Really Purchase Tulips From The Amsterdam Flower Market

Although Amsterdam's Flower Market, or Bloemenmarkt in Dutch, is the world's only floating flower market, you won't find locals scouring for a bargain on tulips. That's because the market caters almost exclusively to tourists looking to take home a piece of Amsterdam's famed flower history—or at least spruce up their hotel room.

If you're looking for a more authentic flower shopping experience, head to the flower auction, which sees the majority of the world's cut flowers pass through on their journey to your table. It's geared toward wholesale, not consumers, but it's an experience that you won't have elsewhere.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. |Tapoma.

Head To Thailand's Damnoen Saduak Floating Market For The Novelty

Some travelers praise the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market as a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Others find the experience of being guided in a boat through different market stalls akin to being herded like a flock of shopping tourist sheep.

That being said, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and something that's an intriguing experience, if no longer untarnished by tourism.

San Lorenzo Market in Florence. | Travel & Truffles.

The Prices Are For Tourists At Florence's Mercato Centrale And Mercato San Lorenzo

The ground floor of Florence's famed Mercato Centrale was recently renovated and re-opened to the public in 2015. While the market now offers everything from craft beer to gourmet pizza, the new photo-ready space doesn't exactly promise a local experience.

The prices will be higher than you'll find at local haunts and, while we don't doubt the quality, eating here feels more like eating in any market place around the world as opposed to a uniquely Italian experience.

Outside, you'll find the Mercato San Lorenzo, which is filled with everything from overpriced leather bags to plastic tourist trinkets. While you might be able to haggle a bit, the prices are still over marked for relatively shoddy merchandise.

Instead, head for Florence's Scuola del Cuoio (literally "leather school"), where you can take a tour to learn about traditional leather making techniques, and buy a 100% Made in Florence purse, notebook or other small piece.

If you're interested in sampling contemporary Italian food, book at table at Essenziale. Located in Piaza Cestello, the restaurant offers a variety of dinner tasting menus and turns traditional Italian dishes on their heads. If it's available during your visit, try the cacio pepe e cozze which adds mussels, Sichuan peppercorn and celeriac to the classic cheese and pasta dish.  

Chelsea Market. | Rice And Bread.

Crowds Might Ruin The Experience At Chelsea Market In New York City

Thanks to its High Line-adjacent location, Chelsea Market swarms with tourists day and night. The food stores range from the fascinating imports at Buon d'Italia to overpriced restaurants like Giovanni Rana.

That being said, there are a few gems worth braving the throngs. Tucked away on the side you'll find Dizengoff, the hummus bar from Philadelphia chef Michael Solomnov, as well as some of NYC's best tacos at Los Tacos No.1.

If you're really looking to get away from the tourists, consider a visit to the Grand Central Market, located in the iconic Grand Central Terminal. Hidden away behind the tracks, even some locals don't know about this hidden gem.

Crowds at Camden Market. | KERB Food.

Hang With Tourist Teens At Camden Market In London

While Camden Market gained a reputation for being a gathering place of the counterculture in the 1980s and 1990s, the popularity of the market has eclipsed its nitty-gritty past and turned it into a veritable tourist center in its own right. The market swarms with young and old looking to pick up mass-produced Union Jack t-shirts or plasticky Doc Martens.

If you're intent on visiting, head to the indoor area, where you'll find a few more local producers. During the summer street food fair Kerb sets up shop, which offers an opportunity to get some local food that to help you deal with the crowds.

But really, this is all distraction from London's most delicious market: Borough Market. Head to the iconic Southwark attraction for everything from London's best cup of coffee to a seriously indulgent French sandwich.

Ubud Art Market. | IndoIndians.

Haggle For Tchotchkes At Bali's Ubud Art Market

Ubud's sprawling art market has fallen into hands of Bali's burgeoning tourist economy. So-called exotic souvenirs of every kind can be found among the stalls, and most priced at a premium for tourists.

If you do spot something you just have to have, try haggling to get the price down to a more reasonable amount.

For a more local-driven experience of the market, walk over to the eastern section. There handicrafts giveaway to meat, vegetables and other necessities. True, you'll find less to take home with you, but your suitcase will thank you for it.

Paprika for sale at Budapest Central Market. | Have You Packed The Camera.

Pick Up Souvenirs At Budapest's Central Market

Budapest's sprawling Central Market is lined with stalls offering classics of Hungarian cuisine. There's plenty of sweet paprika, pálinka and mass-produced embroidery to go around. Depending on when you go the market hall may or may not be packed with other travelers, but the restaurants hawking English language menus on the street leading straight to the market hall will give you an idea about just how non-local the atmosphere is.

Fortunately, there are plenty more markets geared for locals as opposed to tourists in the city. A Journy favorite is the weekly farmer's market held in Szimpla Kert, the famed ruin pub.

Daily Dozen Doughnuts at Pike Place Market. | The Curated Travel.

Experience Pike Place Market As An Icon, Not A Local Haunt

A stop by Pike Place is a must for any serious food lover on their trip to Seattle, but it's not exactly an everyday hang out for locals. After all, the lines at the original Starbucks are sure to make even the most devoted fans consider if they really need to a sip a cappuccino at the chain's first location.

If you are interested in paying a visit, take some time to seek out the city's local producers. We particularly like to swing by Daily Dozen Doughnut Company for a smattering of their warm, mini doughnuts slathered in cinnamon sugar, Rachel's Ginger Beer for a spicy soda and Ellenos for Greek yogurt made according to a family recipe.