While in the rest of the world, markets are being protected for their unique ability to spark urban revitalization, foster community diversity and improve public health, in Tashkent, markets still have to defend themselves against a government that finds them dirty and unsightly for tourists.
Some have died, but others have proved resilient: Chorsu, Yangiabad, Alay, Farkhad, Kuylyuk, Mirabad and Hippodrome bazaars are the biggest ones remaining.
Chorsu bazaar, Tashkent’s best-known market, is impressive both inside and out. Like a Pantheon for vegetables, its enormous aquamarine carapace sets the stage for the daily bustle of thousands of shoppers looking for the freshest ingredients.
Chorsu Bazaar should be a daily run for vegetarians looking for variety. In season, pomegranates, persimmons, apricots, grapes, strawberries and different types of melons overwhelm the bazaar. All ingredients for plov are sold here in the mountainous quantities wedding feasts require.
Bread, dairy products and rice are offered in caleidoscopic variety. Hawkers of colourful spices, nuts and dried fruits are the big charmers in the bazaar: watch out, they know how to sell. The selection of vegetables on Chorsu remains limited in range, still reflecting Uzbek nomadic heritage. Compare the relative leguminous quiet to the busy exchange over at the meat pavillion.
Outside of the dome, prices are lower, and shoppers multiply. For lunch, head to the back entrance, where a dozen chefs line up for a fast buffet-style meal on communal tables.
Tashkent is probably not the best place for traditional souvenirs, but you can have a look at the skull caps and traditional chapans in the Chopon Bozor near the Kukeldash madrassah.
Like its cousin in Almaty, the Green Market, Chorsu is an ecosystem. As you wander further from the main dome, different types of services start to pop up. Explore.
Yangiabad – Tezikovka
“There was also Tezikovka – the weekend flea-market. Anything from toilets and potted plants to dismembered fridges, second-hand books and pets were laid out on the streets for sale, and if you were lucky you could sometimes buy back your own, previously stolen, property. I bought myself a large red flag of Lenin covered in Communist slogans and then – in a moment of weakness – found myself the owner of a lime-green parrot who I named Captain Frederick Burnaby.”
– A Carpet Ride to Khiva – C.A. Alexander
Uzbekistan’s largest flea market first reached notoriety during the Second World War, when more than 1 million Russian refugees sold off whatever they had brought along. 10 years later, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, visiting for cancer treatment, wrote: “In Tezikovka you can buy everything!” The bazaar had a second golden age after independence, when the large Jewish population of Tashkent started selling off their possessions before departing for the promised lands of Tel Aviv or Queens, New York.
In 2006 authorities, always eager to “clean up” and control, moved the market to a new location in Yangiabad. It is no longer as glorious as it used to be, but the dedicated curiosa-hunter can still unearth treasures. Yangiabad reveals another side of Tashkent. Even if messaging apps have taken over as the main free haven for rumours and political expression, the market remains the quintessential public space (a Youtube impression).
Be careful: it is forbidden to take pictures on Yangiabad. Also, the areas surrounding the bazaar are some of the dodgiest neighbourhoods in Tashkent. Don’t stray too far.
- On the map: OSM / Gmaps
- Yangiabad bazaar only opens Saturday and Sunday. It is busy.
- Bus #26 runs here from the Toshkent metro stop. A taxi will cost around 8000 sum.
Alay bazaar is another big produce market in Tashkent. Centrally located, it’s more upmarket than the other bazaars: quality produce, higher prices and soft-sell sales tactics. Although it has lost a lot of its charm after reconstruction in the 90’s and again in 2016, it’s still worth coming here for exclusive foods you cannot find elsewhere.
Although it also functions as a bazaar, Chigatai is known in Tashkent for its food. Main specialities are shashlik, slow-cooked chickpea and lamb soup (nokhat shurak or gushtnut) and non bread with walnuts and raisins. They work until late and start serving very early in the morning. Perfect for pre-party and after-party munchies.
- On the map: OSM / Gmaps
- Near the crossroads of Farobi and Talabalar streets. Metro stop Tinchlik
- Right across from the Chigatai cemetery (see walking Old Tashkent)
Farkhad and Kuylyuk bazaars
Farkhad and Kuylyuk bazaar, located on the edge of town, are real farmer’s markets, with food sold in bulk a large part of the trade. They thus have some of the lowest prices in town, attracting a different crowd to Chorsu or Alay.
Near a military hospital, Mirabad bazaar is also known as the gospitalniy bazaar. Reconstructed in 2016, the roof that made all the produce look an unappetizing jungle green is gone and now it is a standard, large bazaar. Lots of Koreans have set up shop in the surrounding area, selling you Korean food, Korean massages and flight tickets to Korea.
Very big bazaar for clothes and household items. Almost all of it is cheap Chinese production. The least interesting bazaar for tourists.