MARKETPLACE AS A CONVERGENCE ZONE: Making public markets more meaningful public spaces

Markets as public spaces worldwide.

More than just a place for shopping for daily essentials, public markets are the windows of a city’s soul. It is a shared space for the community and a living connection between the past, present, and future reflecting how the city and its people continue to evolve.

A visit to the markets gives one a close view of everyday life and a taste of cultural heritage through the food, crafts, produce, and commodities offered to shoppers. These retail spaces are also a hub for small businesses as well as homegrown brands and local products.

The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey Stock photo from
The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey | Stock photo from

Countries around the world are leveraging their local markets as destinations as part of their tourism strategy. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul Turkey, for example, is often cited as one of the oldest enclosed markets in the world, dating to the 15th century. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985 and remains to be a must-see attraction in Istanbul, drawing over half a million visitors every day according to Istanbul Tourist Information. This market features more than 4,000 shops offering a wide array of goods from oriental carpets, antiques, textiles, jewelry, leather, silk & fur products, handicrafts, Turkish sweets, and herbs and spices, to name a few.

Mercato La Boqueria, Barcelona | Stock photo from
Mercato La Boqueria, Barcelona | Stock photo from

Another example is the Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona, touted as one of the most iconic attractions in the city and is regarded as among the best fresh-food markets in the world. Most famous among food lovers and frequented by top chefs, the market packs in a huge assortment of fruits, vegetables, seafood, meat, the best Jamon, local cheeses, handicrafts, farmer shops and so much more. Always vibrant and pulsating, La Boqueria attracts more than 44,000 visitors daily, mostly tourists who want to experience the heart of Barcelona. Its architecture is also a marvel for tourists, specifically, its main entrance in La Rambla marked by an art-nouveau arch. Over the years, this market has gone through continued redevelopment to adapt to the evolving needs of customers.

Tsukiji Market, Japan Stock photo from
Tsukiji Market, Japan | Stock photo from

In Asia, Japan’s Tsukiji Market is the “Food Town” where locals and tourists can relish traditional Japanese food. It’s the best place to buy fresh seafood, meat, Tsukiji Uogashi, kitchenware, and more. Here you can also find charming restaurants and eateries offering hearty servings of sushi, sashimi rice bowls, oden, onigiri assorted skewers, oysters, scallops, uni. Tsukiji Market always ranks high on travelers’ bucket lists and is a must-see destination for every visitor to Japan.

Chatuchak Market, Thailand Stock photo from
Chatuchak Market, Thailand | Stock photo from

Also very popular is Thailand’s Chatuchak Market, dubbed as the World’s largest Weekend Market. Chatuchak Market welcomes over 200,000 visitors every weekend to get the best finds in fashion, food, art, and more. Known as a paradise for bargain hunters, a lot of Filipinos also come here to shop for unique and affordable items that they can resell. Chatuchak Market was built around 1942, a time when the Prime Minister of Thailand, Field Marshal Plaek Pibunsongkhram, envisioned that every town must have a flea market to boost the local economy and provide a place for local trading.

The Philippines is also home to some of the most interesting public markets however, the sad reality is that the majority of these retail infrastructures need major improvements so they can better serve local communities and become strategic tourism destinations as well.

But a number of progressive cities across the country are taking action to make their public markets cleaner, more organized, and better equipped to address the needs of market goers, vendors, and other stakeholders.

The Iloilo local government, for one, in its bid to transform and beautify public spaces and create more opportunities for economic activities, is bent on modernizing public markets. The rehabilitation of La Paz Market, home to the famous Ilonggo batchoy; the Jaro Big Market and the Arevalo district Public Market, the go-to destination for daily essential needs, are currently underway. For Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Trenas, the redevelopment of the public markets will deliver greater convenience for customers while vendors here will be more competitive.

Ilonggos can also look forward to the redevelopment of the Iloilo Central Market and the Iloilo Terminal Market through a public-private partnership between the city government and SM Prime. Soon these markets, popular for affordable Agri products, unique Ilonggo delicacies, handicrafts, specialty shops, and more, will be able to offer an elevated market experience for all.

Iloilo’s redeveloped markets will soon be well-positioned to become more meaningful public spaces that provide better access to fresh and healthy foods and quality commodities, foster livelihood and economic opportunities, promote tourism, and proudly reflect the vibrant Ilonggo way of life.

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