Fish sellers in Izmir's central market, Turkey

We talk about visiting markets a lot, and in many cases, they may all look the same from the surface. The real reason local markets are always top our “explore” list is because of the culture and insight you can gain just by walking through. You don’t have to talk to anyone or buy anything to get a sense of the people who live here, the traditional goods they produce and the culture prevalent in the city. When you can connect with a place on this deeper level, you don’t need guidebooks to tell you a place is special or unique—you will know firsthand.

One such market is Kemeralti Market in Izmir, Turkey. Located in the western extremity of Anatolia, the lively city of Izmir is the perfect holiday destination for someone interested in learning about and experiencing Turkish culture. The pulse of the city can be, and always has been found, in Kemeralti Market. The market was meant to surround the once inner, shallow bay and when the shallow parts were filled in, it was expanded to encompass the full area.

The expansive shopping market is an adventure for the senses. Smell the fresh food offerings, hear the loud salesmen peddling their goods, see the brightly coloured flags flying in the wind and feel the smooth, beautiful pottery for sale. This traditional atmosphere is the perfect place to pick up a few souvenirs from your holiday. With the variety of goods and products available, everyone is sure to connect with something in Kemeralti.

Speaking of goods in the market, you can find slick leather goods, colourful, traditional clothing, and locally made authentic jewellery. If you are a fan of jewellery, don’t forget to check out the bead market—the variety and expansive size of the bead market will have your head spinning and your hand reaching for your wallet. It’s a crafters’ dream.

There is also a flower market on premises that is worthy of your business. You may wonder why you would want to pick up flowers during your vacation. After all, they will be sitting in a vase in your hotel room while you are out exploring the corners of this exciting city. While that may be true, adding a personal touch to a hotel room can do a lot for your mood when you get home.

If you find yourself thirsty while wandering the market, you can also grab a cup of traditional Turkish coffee. For those interested in the “otherworldly” and astrological, be on the look out for someone who will “read” your coffee grounds—the Turkish version of a fortune-teller.

If your stomach is rumbling, opt for a more filling and rich treat. Locally made Baklava dessert is unbelievably delicious and is made with sticky, sweet honey or syrup inside flaky, phyllo layers.

Another exciting part of being in Turkey is the cultural influences from both Europe and Asia. In the market you can find items from Silk Road in China and traditional, Asian urns.

If you want to step away from the noise and people, head to the Hisar Camii, the city’s largest mosque, right in the bazaar. As long as prayers are not in session, you will be able to enjoy the quiet and beauty of the mosque away from the noise and bustle of the market.

As we mentioned above, each market has it’s own allure for visiting. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul gets a lot of attention due to its long history and massive sizes, but Kemeralti Market holds its own. While not as extreme as the Grand Bazaar, Kemeralti Market has a more enjoyable environment and experience. You won’t be jostled nearly as much and you will find a diversity of products and services on display for visitors.

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Image courtesy of Flickr user Ken and Nyetta