Spice markets around the world

The World’s Best Spice Markets

by | Feb 1, 2021 | Asia, Destinations, International, Resources, Travel, Uncategorized

Spice Market
Spice Market Photo

The Spice Trade

When the Spice Trade Began

About 1550 B.C., an Egyptian scroll called the “Ebers Papyrus” listed essential spices and plants used as medicines. Some of these were found in Southeast Asia and China and not Egypt, so it appears that the “spice trade” was active 3500 years ago. Thus, the beginning of the World’s Best Spice Markets.

As Desire Grows and the World’s Best Spice Markets Grow

The Arabs provided much of the early spice trade to provide highly desirable items for the Greeks. When Alexander the Great conquered Egypt, he established Alexandria as the port for the spice trade.

About 950 BC, spices in foods, medicines, and indulgent items such as lotions and perfumes expanded. Along with that, the desire for these items was so intense that people traded gold and silver in large amounts for spices.

The Romans

After the first century, Rome started a direct spice trade with India via the Red Sea. As a result, the Arab monopoly on the spice trade was broken. During this time, Rome introduced spices to the rest of Europe, where they became prevalent. However, with the fall of Rome, the spice trade in Europe stopped for about 400 years. Remarkably, it wasn’t revived until a much later date, and this occurred in part because of Marco Polo’s memoirs.

Europe searches for new spice trade routes to access the World’s Best  Spice Markets

In about the 14th century, Europeans began searching for water routes to the Orient in search of spices. For instance, countries such as Spain and famous discoverers, including Christopher Columbus, were actually looking for spice trade routes when they accidentally discovered new worlds.

The United State enters the Spice Market

The US entered the spice trade in the 1800s and is the largest spice importer and consumer in the world today.

Notes from an article by:

Penn State University Extension


Ten of the Best Spice Markets in the World

Mellah Spice Souk Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech Morocco

This smaller, quieter market in Mellah (the old Jewish quarter) is easier to navigate than the large, noisy, main Souk. The high-pointed cones of powered coriander, cumin, ginger, and anise are beautiful and aromatic.

Cairo Souk Cairo, Egypt

Khan el Kalili Market in Cairo Egypt
Khan el Kalili Market in Cairo Egypt

Ancient Egypt was the first culture to document its use of spices. Not only did they use spices and herbs in the mummification of pharaohs but also for medicines and perfumes. Additionally, they knew their health value. Therefore, they fed the temple and tomb builders a diet, including a lot of garlic, onion, and spices. This they believe would keep them healthy longer.

The Boqueria Market Barcelona, Spain


Barcelona is home to a gold medal-winning paprika, de la Vera paprika. This is one of the market’s central claims to fame.

Paprika, one of the most popular and versatile spices in the world. It is made of two peppers, capsicum, and annuum, which originated in Mexico. The Spanish imported these two spices and turned them into the spice powder we use today. Besides, Also, paprika is milder than most other spices. For this reason, it is used to add flavor without adding heat.

The Egyptian Bazaar Istanbul, Turkey

The Spice Souk in Istanbul, Turkey
The Spice Souk in Istanbul, Turkey

Without a doubt, this is one of the best spice markets in the World! It’s almost unimaginable that a market could have a wider and better variety. Indeed, The Egyptian Bazaar in Istanbul has a vast selection of spices. While the market was established in 1664, it is Ironically named the Egyptian Bazaar. Apparently, money was coming to the Ottoman Empire through early holdings in which Egypt funded its creation. Regardless, this market has been the central hub of the spice trade in Istanbul, which historically is one of the most important cities for the spice trade.

Here you will find every spice you can name and hundreds more you have never heard of. Take time to seek out some that might be new to you but favorites in Turkey.

Mehane Yehuda Market Jerusalem, Israel

Mahane Yehuda Covert Market
Mahane Yehuda Covert Market by Times of Israel

The market is best known as “The Shuk, Mahane Yehuda.” In fact, you will find more than 250 vendors at this famous spice market in Jerusalem. There are hundreds of herbs and spices available for sale so be sure to ask for recommendations. Sumac is an Israeli delicacy and would make a unique souvenir.

Kari Baoli Market

Spices in Delhi India photo by the Marriott
Spices in Delhi India photo by the Marriott

This spice market dates back to around 1650. It is the largest spice market in Asia. The bustling market is popular with local restaurants. The most popular spices in Indian food are cardamom, turmeric, brown cumin, mustard, and red chili powder.

Mercato Esquilino Rome, Italy one of the World’s Best Spice Markets for ethnic variety

Esquilino Spice Market in Rome
Esquilino Spice Market in Rome

Each area of Rome has its own market. However, The Esquilino market is the largest ethnic market. There are Indian stalls with large bags of spices, Chinese, Colombian and Peruvian stalls. This is the place to find fresh coriander and other spices.

Beringharjo Market

Beringharjo spice market

The Beringharjo Market was established in 1758. This is an old market in the city of Yogyakarta. In fact, it is one of the region’s best spice markets. However, be sure to do as the locals do and arrive early. Chiefly, so you can pick up the best deals while avoiding the midday crush of people. It is a vivacious place with thousands of visitors each day.

Tajrish Market

Iranian Spice Market
Iranian Spice Market

Located in the Tajrish Bazaar, this market is friendlier toward tourists and more visually attractive than the central Grand Bazaar. Furthermore, The Tajrish Bazaar in northern Tehran is a great place for shopping in general. Notably, it boasts vibrant sections selling fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as traditional Iranian specialties. Whereas other alleys in the bazaar peddle everyday goods, an area features beautiful and aromatic spices that will tempt your senses.

Dubai Spice Souk

Dubai Spice and Tea Souk
Dubai Spice and Tea Souk

Located on the other side of Dubai Creek is the Dubai Spice and Tea Souk. It is located in a more traditional part of town, away from the ultra-modern skyscrapers and malls. Furthermore, this district of Deira is home to one of the world’s best spice markets. In particular, you will be overcome by wonderful scents of cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, and turmeric as the deliciously fragrant spices waft through the air in this bustling souk. That said, you will have an irresistible urge to pick up one, two, or ten bags of delicious herbs and spices.


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