Shopping in Europe
From Rådhuspladsen to Kongens Nytorv, Copenhagen
The main shopping strip in Copenhagen is Strøget, a car-free pedestrian street lined with brand shops and department stores. Its full length is 1.1km, which apparently makes it the longest pedestrian shopping zone in Europe, and it is made up by four separate streets (Frederiksberggade, Nygade, Vimmelskaftet and Østergade). Strøget starts and ends at two of the main city squares (Rådhuspladsen og Kongens Nytorv) and pass through two others (Gammel torv/Nytorv and Amagertorv) on its way. If you find Strøget too mainstream and touristy (many Danes do) explore the side streets for independent fashion stores and trendy cafes.
Don't let the bustling market area outside Central Market distract you for a visit inside the giant halls, for it's absolute fabulous. Just the building itself is worth a visit. The roof is constructed of five huge, used zeppelin hangars, giving the indoor market an very airy fell. Each hall deals with one kind of food products like meat, fruit, dairy, fish and pastries. It's all fresh stuff, straight from the farms, making the neighbouring supermarket's range looks a bit sad. It can get packed and vendors can seem a bit reserved even unfriendly at first, but it's possible to get a smile from them.
Partizanskaya metro station, Moscow
This big market is a wonderful mix of souvenirs, antiques, old Soviet knickknacks, fur hats and anything in between. It is wonderfully diverse and the non-tourist section still has an adorable Soviet-feel to it with old babushkas offering random selections of things you would not think sellable. The top floor is occupied by genuine antique vendors with things that probably need export permission. The prices are fairly fixed and the vendors are mostly friendly, though the military stalls can collect quite some characters. Inspect the goods carefully and don't take any sales pitch about quality, origin and age too seriously. Come during the weekend when more vendors come in.
Kapali Carsi, Istanbul
The impressive covered bazaar with more than 4400 shops (we haven't counted) is one of the largest in the world. The first souq dates more than five hundred years back and has been extended and rebuild several times since then. The beautiful streets take their names from the goods that was made and sold here. Today it's less grouped but carpets, pottery and leather still have their own areas. Several hundred thousands people pass by here every day, and the prices of the nice goods have ascended with the massive flow of tourists on tours. Hard bargain is expected and some might find the buying pressure from the wily stallholder too intense. Keep in mind that this is the place, where they invented catch phrases like "looking for my shop" and "can I help spending you money".
The area around Brick Lane has become a very groovy place with fashion stores, markets for up-and-coming designers, trendy clubs, artistic cafes, cheap food stalls and endless rows of curry restaurants. Originally, the area was favoured by Jewish immigrants and was home to the Old Truman Brewery, whose chimney still stands today. Later, Brick Lane became a hub for London's Bangladeshi community, which led to all the curry houses the street is now so famous for. Then within the last decade, the indie art and design community has slowly taken over the area. Come on a Sunday, when the indoor markets are open and the street is lined with an eccentric selection of hawkers and street performers. You literally have to push your way through the alternative crowd to get down Brick Lane.
Camden Punk Market
Camden Town, London
Camden Town used to be the alternative scene of London. Here misfits, freaks, and punks hung out among shops with Dr. Martens and stud belts. Today Camden Market is still big on punk and goth shops including infinite number of tattoo parlors, but the edge has worn off. The few punks you do see are professionals and pose for pounds, the rest of the people are grownups hoping for a shock and Euro kids on school trips.
Camden Punk Market is only one of several markets near Camden Lock. The others are focused on food, clothes, independent design, home art and other knick-knacks.
Old Spitalfields Market
Though the original Spitalfields market dates back to the 13th century, today's market is a very contemporary affair. The beautiful Victorian market hall is still in use, but in addition to the stalls there are also trendy retailers, restaurants and coffee shops along the sides, so even on quiet days the place is buzzing with life. Since the market is covered, it makes a great escape on one of those rainy days. The hall is open every day, while markets are on from Sunday to Friday. The big market days are Thursday (antiques and vintage), and Friday and Sunday when the hall is filled with boho chic designs, fashion accessories, handmade jewelleries and arts - and, of course, food stalls.
Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London
Portobello Market is another of those famous London markets. It is a bit of a mix of fashion, second-hand clothes and small cafes at one end and cute boutiques packed with antiques (and semi-antiques) at the other. On Saturday, it becomes insanely crowded when Portobello Road is lined with antiques, jewellery and fruit stalls attracting a constant flow of tourists and Londoners alike - don't expect a bargain!