Travel

The 9 Best Night Markets Around the World

For the best noodles and spices, go to the source.

Keitma/Shutterstock
Keitma/Shutterstock
Keitma/Shutterstock

Asia’s night markets exemplify the true meaning of organized chaos. Just ask any traveler strolling down a packed street at primetime for the first time-all the crowds, humidity, and haggling can certainly make a new visitor feel like they’re in a scene from The Human Centipede.

Yet, it’s an experience that’s magnetic again and again. Night markets are a powerhouse potpourri of delicious smells, bright colors, and buzzing sounds-and they’re a fascinating window into a destination’s particular culture and history. These hubbub attractions are renowned for street food, shopping, and live entertainment.

What started in China during medieval times spread to other countries like Thailand and Taiwan, and especially grew after World War II. In the ’80s and ’90s, the bazaars became less like traditional wet markets and more bent on commerce (think pirated movies and luxury knockoffs, plus the typical street food). Thus, younger and more international crowds started being lured in and there you have it: a nighttime hullabaloo.

These days, night markets across Asia-and other places around the world-are diverse cultural melting pots blending old and new, foreign and local, into a truly global cultural phenomenon. Here are some of the world’s most captivating Asian night markets.

Fotokon/Shutterstock
Fotokon/Shutterstock
Fotokon/Shutterstock

China

China, believed to be the ancestral home of the night market thanks to a sudden lift of rules on nighttime activity during the Tang dynasty, China is still where you’ll still find plenty of happening ones. The capital city of Beijing lays claim to busy, flashy night markets like Nanluoguxiang, a lane (known locally as a hutong) lined with teeny, old-world shops and restaurants. Or there’s Shuang’an, where vendors wheel and deal everything from fresh seafood on ice to tripe.

A centerpiece of trade is xiaochi, or “small eats” in Mandarin. These light meals, like soups or dumplings and rice dishes, are derived from traditional banquet dishes and served for gobbling to-go or at folding tables.

Tooykrub/Shutterstock
Tooykrub/Shutterstock
Tooykrub/Shutterstock

Thailand

Thailand is synonymous with some of the world’s loudest and showiest night bazaars. Bangkok’s Patpong, a notorious night-market-cum-red-light-district, gets its name from the Chinese family who first purchased the property. In the ’60s, it proliferated with bars and restaurants as a so-called “R&R stop” for U.S. military officers stationed during the Vietnam War. These days, it’s a pretty touristy market with counterfeits and souvenirs you can get for half the price in other places.

Thailand’s nocturnal markets range from more traditional walking streets like those in places like Chiang Mai and Phuket to modern concepts like the Greenway Market in Hat Yai or Cicada in Hua Hin, where gourmet food and handmade pieces by young artists are respective focal points. Overall, you’ll get in-your-face grill smoke, loud twangy music, and shopping ranging from glittery Muay Thai shorts to handmade soaps and iPhone cases.

The motherlode of all markets, though, will always be Chatuchak, the world’s largest open-air weekend market in Bangkok. “You see it, you buy it-because you’ll never find it again” is the motto in this labyrinthine indoor-outdoor maze of stalls selling anything and everything you can think of, including furniture, pets, second-hand clothing, and more. It’s mostly a daytime affair, except for the Friday Night Market, which is lovely for bargain hunting with a cool breeze.

For an under-the-radar night market experience, look out for what’s known as a temple fair. These celebrations held for annual Buddhist holidays usually last for a few days up to a couple of weeks and combine street food, shopping, and carnival rides against the backdrop of sparkling shrines and pagodas.

Kwan1st/Shutterstock
Kwan1st/Shutterstock
Kwan1st/Shutterstock

Malaysia

In Malaysia (but also Indonesia and Singapore, too), night markets are known as pasar malam. When dusk falls, these typically small, open-air bazaars fill up with a smorgasbord of stalls selling clothes, home-cooked meals, and decorations, to predominantly neighborhood crowds.

Pasar malam often takes place at the same time every week, allowing vendors to build a circuit across different locations. In the capital Kuala Lumpur, visitors can check out the food cart-heavy Happy Garden on Saturday nights and the Connaught Market on Thursday nights.

Baiterek Media/Shutterstock
Baiterek Media/Shutterstock
Baiterek Media/Shutterstock

Taiwan

Taiwan may just be Asia’s epicenter of night market culture, with more than 700 night markets packed onto a small island about the same size as Maryland.

Night markets in Taiwan really took off, especially with foreign workers, thanks to all the business after the war. The capital Taipei’s night markets are diverse and can be quite monumental, like the popular Shilin (dating back to 1899!), a foodie hotspot with over 500 xiaochi vendors. More controversial is the half-century-old Huaxi market hall, a former red light district turned xiaochi haven (sometimes called Snake Alley for reptilian dishes once served there).

haryanta.p/Shutterstock
haryanta.p/Shutterstock
haryanta.p/Shutterstock

Indonesia

Indonesia’s pasar malam rotate across different communities to a variety of places: streets, open fields, or city squares (known locally as alun-alun).

Many traditional night markets are held on Islamic holidays and observances, like the annual Sekaten festival celebrating the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. In Javanese cities like Yogyakarta and Surakarta, a week-long celebratory night market features parades in ceremonial attire and amusement park rides, plus all kinds of sweets and local snacks.

Artorn Thongtukit/Shutterstock
Artorn Thongtukit/Shutterstock
Artorn Thongtukit/Shutterstock

Singapore

Singapore’s night market vibes come in the form of hawker centers-sometimes described as “community dining rooms” bringing all stripes of people together.

Contrasting the city-state’s glistening megamalls, these pseudo-food courts (among the most famous are the Adam Road Food Centre and Amoy Street Centre) are all about plastic bowls, tissue rolls, and waggly stools that test your posture while digging into hearty staples like Hokkien noodles and laksa. There are more than 110 hawker centers on the island, and some of them have also been showered with gourmand awards-be prepared for potential queues!

Food is the focus, but hawker centers will often also feature stalls selling curio like clothes, souvenirs, and electronics. More straightforward night markets, with additional shopping and sit-down greasy spoons, can be found near the city center predominantly in enclaves such as Chinatown, Little India, and the Arab Quarter.

Dragoncello/Shutterstock
Dragoncello/Shutterstock
Dragoncello/Shutterstock

Vietnam

Strung up in glowing lights and lanterns, Vietnam’s night markets are known for their bright hues. Luminosity leads the way to canopied tents of vendors folding and frying snacks, and locals masterfully bargaining over colorful jewelry and beautiful weaves.

Many Vietnamese night markets are laid out as walking streets, often along beachy boardwalks or in historic city neighborhoods. Perhaps the most famous is the night market in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, but cities such as Nha Trang, Ha Long, Hoi An, and Phu Quoc offer sea breeze and coastal scenery along with ample perusing.

Keitma/Shutterstock
Keitma/Shutterstock
Keitma/Shutterstock

South Korea

Night markets in South Korea are typically tucked into tiny alleys or spread al fresco along big sidewalks. Squeezing through with a bottle of soju may be the only way to overcome the social anxiety of milling bodies on a busy night.

Night markets are an important element of Seoul’s city-never-sleeps identity, as is the famous clothing market Dongdaemun. Opened in 1905, the market was destroyed during the Korean War and built again afterwards into a multi-story, mall-like industrial building for mostly wholesale buyers (dusty fabrics and steel staircases are something of a shopping hazard).

Dongdaemun, along with many of Seoul’s night markets like Namdaemun, opens around dinnertime and closes at the same time as many nightclubs do-in the wee hours around 5 am.

PradeepGaurs/Shutterstock
PradeepGaurs/Shutterstock
PradeepGaurs/Shutterstock

India

India’s centuries-old night bazaars are lovely bedlam-bodies milling about, blaring Hindi pop music, hot oil flying from karahi pots, and sellers seeking out the attention of buyers by any means possible. India’s incredible cultural, ethnic, and language diversity means that each night market’s characteristics can vary wildly, depending on where you are, but clothes, accessories, spices, and a plethora of local snacks will usually be the standard offer.

In New Delhi, the bustling Mangal Bazaar and Buddh Bazar Mandawali are typical night markets bursting at the seams of tiny streets. These boast endless stands of bold fabrics and fresh produce, plus narrow shops for peeking in and finding unexpected treasures. The Khan Market, meanwhile, runs more upscale and is where you’ll find long-lasting gifts and souvenirs.

Many night bazaars across the country only come alive around 9 pm and function for different kinds of commerce during the day. A bit off the beaten track in Indore is the Sarafa Bazaar, a sprawling jewelry market by day and outdoor food court by night. Meanwhile, ​​the Manek Chowk market in Ahmedabad changes hands from vegetable sellers in the morning to a bullion market for precious metals in the afternoon and a street-food hotspot in the evening.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Barbara Woolsey is a Canadian journalist based in Berlin, formerly Bangkok, whose travels span over 40 countries. See more of her adventures and storytelling on Facebook and Instagram.

Travel

Airbnb’s New Tool Makes it Easy to Discover Homes You Didn’t Know Existed

And provides comprehensive protection in travel, included for free with every stay.

airbnb new features

We’re living in a new world of travel, which means we’re looking for new destinations and new ways to find places to stay. Airbnb is one of the most popular booking platforms for travellers, and for the first time in a decade, they’ve launched their biggest change yet.

The new tools help travellers find unique homes and provide more options for longer stays.

“The way people travel has changed forever. We’re introducing the biggest change to Airbnb in a decade,” said Brian Chesky, CEO and Co-Founder of Airbnb.

Airbnb Categories

Millions of people are now more flexible about where they live and work. But travel search has been the same for 25 years—you enter a location and dates into a search box. Most of us can only think of a few dozen cities to type into the search box, but there are Airbnbs in 100,000 towns and cities worldwide.

When you open Airbnb, you’re presented with 56 categories that organize homes based on their style, location, or proximity to a travel activity. When you search for a destination, your search results are also organized by categories relevant to that destination. As you view different categories, the map intelligently zooms to show you where the homes are located.

Airbnb Categories uses machine learning to analyze titles, written descriptions, photo captions, structured data from Hosts, and reviews from guests. Airbnb’s curation team members review listings and hand-pick featured photos—so if a listing is in the Amazing Pools Category, the first photo shows a pool. Then, each category goes through a final check to help ensure consistency and photo quality.

The 56 Airbnb Categories include more than 4 million unique homes that are made possible by Hosts all around the world. Airbnb Categories organize homes by what makes them unique, which helps people discover places they wouldn’t have otherwise found. This can help alleviate over-tourism by redistributing travel to new locations beyond the same popular destinations.

Split Stays

In the last three months, nearly half of the nights booked on Airbnb were for a week or more trips. Split Stays is an innovative new feature that splits your trip between two homes. With Split Stays, you will typically see around 40% more listings when searching for longer stays.

When searching a specific destination, Split Stays automatically appear in your search results. They also appear within 14 categories—including Camping, National Parks, Skiing, and Surfing—to inspire you to stay in two destinations as part of a longer trip. For example, when browsing the Skiing Category, Split Stays might suggest a pair of homes near Thredbo and Mt. Hotham.

When viewing Split Stays on a map, an animated line visually connects the two homes to show you the distance between them and the sequence of the stays. Once you select a Split Stay, you’re guided through an easy-to-use interface to book each stay, one home at a time.

MORE: These Are Australia’s 10 Most Wishlisted Airbnb Stays

Aircover for Guests

This northern and southern winter, millions of people will travel for the first time since the pandemic’s start. AirCover is the most comprehensive protection in travel. AirCover is always included and always free, and it represents the biggest upgrade to Airbnb customer service in a decade.

With AirCover, you’re covered by four protections every time you stay on Airbnb:

  • Booking Protection Guarantee – In the unlikely event a Host needs to cancel your booking within 30 days of check-in, Airbnb will find you a similar or better home or refund you.
  • Check-In Guarantee – If you can’t check into your home and the Host cannot resolve the issue, Airbnb will find you a similar or better home for the length of your original stay or get a refund.
  • Get-What-You-Booked Guarantee – If at any time during your stay you find your listing isn’t as advertised—for example, the refrigerator stops working and your Host can’t easily fix it, or there are fewer bedrooms than listed—you’ll have three days to report it and Airbnb will find you a similar or better home or refund you.
  • 24-hour Safety Line – If you ever feel unsafe, you’ll get priority access to specially-trained safety agents, day or night.

AirCover has been designed directly into the Airbnb app and website, making it easy for you to contact an agent and resolve issues quickly. There is a team of specially trained agents for last-minute rebooking assistance. Airbnb also has significantly expanded its 24-hour safety line to cover 16 languages.

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