Street markets can make a fantastic day out for all the family and allows you the opportunity to discover unique items or try new food.
If you’re thinking of going to a street market and want to get the most out of your visit, then read on.
Here I’ll be offering advice on what to expect at street markets, tips on how to find a good deal, and recommendations of the best street markets in Canada.
What Are Street Markets?
Street markets are outdoor public markets that are set up on specific days or at certain times throughout the year.
They usually occur on streets (hence the name!), but they can also be found in parking lots and market squares.
What to Expect on Street Markets
Learn the Lay Out
Street markets can be extremely busy places, especially on weekends.
As they’re usually rather crowded, it’s worth trying to learn the layout of the area to help you keep track of where things are.
Make a note of the stalls you’d like to visit or any vendors that you left paid purchases with so you can collect them later on.
Additionally, you could check to see if a map is available for the market as this will help make your shopping trip go much smoother.
Beware of Thieves & Pickpockets
Due to the amount of foot traffic in a street market, it’s incredibly important you stay safe at all times.
Keep your money, card, keys, phone, etc., in your front pocket or a zipped-up waist bag.
Pickpockets often bump into people as a cover for snatching their valuables.
Make sure any bags are zipped-up securely and place your hands over your pockets when moving through big crowds.
Take Care of Yourself
Last but not least, bring water, bandaids, snacks, pain relief medication, and any other items you think you might need during your visit.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to cut my street market trip short due to a painful blister or migraine.
Anywhere with a lot of people is likely to get rather stuffy, so you must stay hydrated.
A lot of food and drink stalls can have long queue times, which means you’ll have less time to shop and look around.
If you need to take a rest from shopping, then scour the market for areas where you can take a break.
On my last visit to a street market, there was a lovely little park nearby that I had a wander through when the crowds got a bit overwhelming.
What Can You Find on Street Markets?
Street markets normally consist of independent vendors who sell their homegrown/crafted produce or products.
Common types of products you may find are furniture, medicine cabinets, handmade gifts, artwork, food and drink, fashion, and arts and crafts.
One of my favorite finds at a street market I went to a couple of years ago was a gorgeous antique French style side table, adorned with delicate engravings.
It was a bit beat up, but after a good scrub and a new coat of polish, it looked stunning.
Street markets are packed with rarities that you just don’t see everyday.
Tips to Find a Great Deal on Street Markets
Street markets often contain unique, one-of-a-kind items, but they can sometimes be a little pricey.
That is why it’s a good idea to do a bit of mental planning before you visit a street market to help you find the best deal.
From personal experience, I’ve found these tips very helpful for finding a bargain at street markets.
A lot of people will tell you to arrive early at the street or flea markets so you’ll have the first pick of the best items.
However, it’s unlikely you’ll get something at a reduced price so soon after a street market has opened.
Most sellers won’t decrease their prices until much later on in the day.
If you can, try to go to a street market a few hours after it has opened.
This’ll give you plenty of time to look around and increase your chances of scoring a good deal.
Buy Multiple Items
If you purchase a few items from a seller, they may offer you a small discount or even throw in an extra item.
Vendors like to bundle their products, so use this to your advantage.
Even if the seller does not knock a few dollars off the total sum, there’s no harm in politely asking if they do discounts or bulk purchases.
Do Not Forget The Back-row Stalls
Another tip for bargain hunting is to visit the last row of the market first.
Stalls in the front row will have more traffic, so their prices will usually be higher as a result.
The back row may be more likely to cut you a deal as they may not be as busy with potential customers.
While paying by card is more convenient, a lot of vendors prefer cash as they don’t have to pay any fees to credit card companies.
Try to pay by cash if you can as the vendor is more likely to offer you a discount or be willing to haggle.
Don’t Overlook ‘unattractive’ Items
Just like the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”, don’t automatically dismiss items that seem a bit past their prime or require some TLC.
Furniture or antiques can be scrubbed up and cleaned to be given a new breath of life. Wooden ones can be refreshed if you have a nice sander at home.
Besides, you might be able to get a markdown on account of the product being too unattractive for most buyers.
Editor’s Choice of Markets
Now that you know a little more about the type of wonderful and unique items street markets offer, you’re probably pretty eager to visit one!
Here are some of the best street markets in Canada that are well worth checking out…
Toronto Christmas Market
Considered one of the best Christmas markets in the world by Fodor’s Travel, USA Today, the Toronto Christmas Market is a place you should visit during the holiday season.
Located in the Distillery District, this market offers a wide range of vendors and things to do for all ages.
There are dance performances, music and carols, family-friendly activities, European street-style food, and Canadian holiday treats.
Quench Your Thirst
You can even relax and enjoy a hot or cold beverage in the many beer gardens available.
One of the best butter tarts I’ve ever eaten was at the Toronto Christmas Market, washed down with a luscious glass of eggnog. Delicious!
If you’re looking for an exciting trip that’s full of magic and sure to get you in the Christmas spirit, then the Toronto Christmas Market is a must.
Richmond Night Market
The Richmond Night Market in Vancouver runs from May until early October.
It is known as the largest night market in North America, consisting of over 200 retail stalls and over 500 food options available – that’s a lot of opportunities to find some stellar items and produce!
The food offered at the market is primarily Asian inspired, with menu items such as delicate dumplings, gourmet grilled octopus, fabulous fish sticks, tantalizing taiyaki, and takoyaki.
Not Just Shopping
In addition to having plenty of stalls to look around, the Richmond Night Market also offers carnival games, live performances, and even a Dino Park when you fancy a break from shopping.
I’ve always enjoyed going to carnivals, fairs, and arcades, so I particularly appreciated the huge amount of games the Richmond Night Market had to offer when I last visited.
In fact, I think I spent more time playing Hook a Duck and Balloon Pop than I did shopping!
Aberfoyle Antique Market
Located at Aberfoyle in Guelph, Ontario, the Aberfoyle Antique Market is Canada’s largest outdoor market for finding vintage collectibles.
The market runs every Sunday from April to October.
As an avid antique collector, I really like the Aberfoyle Antique Market because there are so many items and vendors to choose from. I also found my favorite odor eliminating candle from there!
Lots and Lots of Options
There’s more than 20 acres of cabins, stalls, and barns to explore, with over 150 vendors and dealers.
If you’re looking to add more antiques to your home or fancy a fun but relaxing day out, then this market has plenty to offer.
If you’ve never been to a street market before, I’d fully recommend going to one, especially if you’re on the lookout for an item that is a little different than the usual outdoor sectional to add to your home.
I’ve found so many unique and lovely things at street markets – and at a fraction of a cost than what I’d normally get at my local stores!
Hopefully, these tips and tricks will help you stay safe and save a bit of money on your next street market visit. Happy shopping!