Vancouver, British Columbia’s Richmond Night Market is certainly one of the culinary wonders of the world. This sprawling, 400-both market sees over a million visitors each year. As such, it is the largest night market in North America. But how did the market get so big, and so iconic? And what sorts of delicious foods does it have in store for hungry visitors? Let’s explore.
1. An Established Tradition
While the Richmond Night Market might be the largest in North America, it is certainly not the largest in the world. Nor was it the first. The night market tradition dates all the way back to medieval China, with the markets emerging under the Tang Dynasty. Today, night markets can be found all over East Asia, with Taiwan alone boasting over 700 night markets.
2. Humble Beginnings
The Richmond Night Market (named after the Vancouver suburb where the market is located) was founded in the year 2000 by entrepreneur Raymond Cheung. The original night market – located in Richmond’s Continental Centre – wasn’t nearly as big as the present market near Bridgeport Station. While attendance was modest (though respectable) at first, the market grew every year. Over the years, the market moved to several different locations around Richmond, to accommodate growth. In 2012, the market settled into its current Bridgeport Station location.
3. When To Visit
Unfortunately, the Richmond Night Market is not a year-round affair. It primarily operates on weekends in the summer, from late April until early October. Being a true “night market,” operating hours are between 7 p.m. and midnight. There is an admission to get into the market ($7, at the time of this writing, though seniors over 60 and children under 7 get in free), in addition to what each vendor charges. If you balk at having to pay a general admission fee on top of food and drink charges, keep in mind that the market features several live performances – from music and dance to martial arts displays – that are easily worth the price of admission.
4. What’s In Store?
Richmond, BC is one of the most Asian cities in North America: 75% of the residents in this city of over 200,000 are of Asian descent (with the majority being Chinese), according to the most recent census data. It should come as no surprise, then, that Asian street food accounts for most of the market’s delicious offerings. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, and Filipino food are all well represented, as well as cuisines from other parts of Asia and even the rest of the world (bratwurst and Belgian waffles can be had, if you know where to look).
5. Night Market Tips
A few tips can help you make the most of your visit to the Richmond Night Market. For one, bring cash. While most vendors accept credit cards, some don’t, and that can’t-resist dish might be cash-only. Second, scope out the places with the longest lines. Waiting in a long line might not be the most appealing activity, but – as I always say – places with long lines usually have them for a reason. Finally, speaking of lines, arrive early (before 7 pm) or late (after 10 pm) to avoid the long line at the entrance.