Merchant City

Tropes! Get your tropes here! Tropes for sale!

"If it can't be had here, it can't be had on any world."
High Market flavor text, Magic: The Gathering

A city populated mainly by merchants, or known for its shopping opportunities. Tends to be a port or somewhere financially strategic. Usually has a Black Market and/or a Bazaar of the Bizarre. You can buy the best available items there, or at least have the most variety to choose from.

This is often, but not always the capital or Hub City.

On many occasions it will be the hometown of a Proud Merchant Race, and will be the favorite hangout of the Intrepid Merchant. Some are even ruled by Merchant Princes.


    open/close all folders 

     Fanworks! The best fanfic on the Internet!! 
  • In Written by the Victors, an SGA fanfic by Speranza, the main characters turn Atlantis into this as it's the only city that could protect an inter-planet market from the Wraith

    Fiiiiilm! Get yer film here! 
  • In Star Wars, "Mos Eisley was built from the beginning with commerce in mind".
  • Bartertown in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Trading is required to be able to enter, and holding on the deals is enforced by law.

    Literature, for free, and that's cutting me own throat! 
  • The entire dimension of Deeva in the Myth Adventures series.
  • The Free City of Braavos from A Song of Ice and Fire.
    • Also Vaes Dothrak, the sacred city of the Dothraki where merchants come from across the world to trade with each other under the protection of the Horselords who themselves have no concept of money.
  • Jackson's Whole from the Vorkosigan Saga.
    • Arguably, Komarr also.
  • The aptly named Trading Cities in Invisible Cities, although they play with the idea. One particular city trades stories, another, character roles.
  • Discworld's Ankh-Morpork is without compare. Invaders often find that within a few days they no longer own their weapons and are just absorbed into the general ethnic character of the city.
  • Gayjur in The Sparrow, and while it's due to his unfortunate life circumstances, Supaari is definitely a Proud Merchant Race Guy.
  • Vanity Fair of Pilgrim's Progress.
  • The entire Iskoort world in Animorphs was a giant metropolis where one can purchase anything he or she wants.

    Live-Action Television, you'll never find a better one anywhere else! 
  • The Star Trek franchise has Ferenginar, homeworld of the Ferengi. Being merchants is the Ferengi's hat, and it really shows. There are hidden fees everywhere, from entering someone's home, to using the elevator, to even sitting down in a waiting room.

    Tabletop Games, wouldn't you like some? 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Forgotten Realms has Waterdeep, Calimport, Raven's Bluff... Amn in general is known as "Merchant's Domain" — people there call the god of death "Black Forecloser" and that's not even a joke. Its capital city Athkatla (nicknamed "City of Coin") is so much of a merchant city, it's a Holy City of the trade goddess.
    • Syrania in fourth edition of Eberron.
    • The City of Brass, the Efreet capital. In Fourth Edition The City of Brass is stated to be the largest mercantile city in the multiverse.
  • Tredroy in GURPS.
  • The capital city of Mercadia, Mercadia City, from the Magic: The Gathering set Mercadian Masques.
  • Katapesh, and to some degree Druma, in Pathfinder.
  • Warhammer has the Free City of Marienburg in the Wasteland to the north of the Empire. There is also the far more upmarket High Elf version in Lothern and the Arabyan version in the Spice Port of Copher.
  • Extropia, the first and most populous asteroid colonized by the anarcho-capitalist Extropians, in Eclipse Phase.
  • Ironclaw has Triskellion, the capital of Calebria and by far the most cosmopolitan city on the island. A century ago the king handed over most governance to a council of trade guilds.

    Video Games! You want 'em, we got 'em! 
  • Mirage, a city in the Cleft of Dimension in Final Fantasy V. When it reappears in the real world it's full of merchants and some of the best items in the game can be bought there.
  • Byzel/Baizel in Seiken Densetsu 3 — a port city full of merchants, and has a Black Market that you can access by waiting for it to become night.
    • Ironically though, it's the only town in the game where you can't buy regular supplies.
  • Illium in Mass Effect 2 is a capitalist heaven: It is an independent planet outside the jurisdiction of any major government and while the planet is extremely rich, there are almost no rules on anything. During your stay, you are constantly bombarded with cheesy comercials and merchants making ridiculous claims to their customers.
  • Tradefair, Rogurd's hometown in Black Sigil, is a Merchant City and also has a Black Market.
  • In The Legend of Zelda games, the capital is usually like this, often named Castle Town or Windfall Island.
  • Pokemon has Celadon City, Goldenrod City, Lilycove City, and Veilstone City. One big department store for each region.
  • Constructable in Medieval II Total War is the Merchants' Quarter, which turns over an entire section of the city to trade.
  • Hong Kong in Deus Ex.
  • Quest for Glory II 's Shapeir has Katta in every square, selling all sorts of items, that's not taking into account the smithy, apothecary and the joke shop.
  • Varrock city in RuneScape is this for players, as it's where the Grand Exchange, a big facility that lets people put their items for sale or buy from other players without direct contact, is located. Ardougne, another big city with lots of stalls in the middle is this for NPCs.
    • Before the Grand Exchange was added, it was Varrock for free players and Falador for members, but only on certain merchant worlds.
  • The goblin-controlled cities Gadgetzan, Booty Bay, and Ratchet in World of Warcraft. As a Proud Merchant Race they are open to both factions and also provide access to the Neutral Auction House, the only method of cross-faction trading.
    • Shattrath and Dalaran used to serve as this when they were the main cities of their respective expansions. Having portals to each of the original capital cities, auction houses, high-end armor vendors, and close proximity to end-game content meant a high player density and trade.
  • The Carcino region from Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones comes to mind; it's the only nation of the six in the game that doesn't house a Mineral MacGuffin, in favour of being a mercantile state. That said, it doesn't have any particularly special items for the player party purchase ingame...
  • Secret of Evermore has Nobilia.
  • Guild Wars: In-universe, the Kodash Bazaar is considered this, being the capital of a merchant nation. In gameplay terms, though, it has a pretty average selection of merchants.
  • Breath of Fire I: Prima, which is also an Underwater City.
  • In Dragon Quest VII, one of the final forms for the immigrant town is the Bazaar, which has shops selling some of the best equipment in the game (including the Metal King Shield, hands down the best shield in the game).
  • Tales of the Abyss has Chesedonia. Located directly between Kimlasca and Malkuth (in spite of ongoing tension between the two nations), nearly all goods that cross the border pass through it, and since each country is heavily specialized (with Kimlasca producing weapons, armor and fontech, while Malkuth grows crops for food and medicines), consistent and well-managed trade is an absolute necessity. Notably, if you're somehow incredibly rich early on in the game (if you carried money over onto a New Game+, for example), you can buy weapons there that are ludicrously powerful for your level.
  • Any and every province designated a "Centre of Trade" in Europa Universalis III, including several of the real-life examples below.
  • The Republic DLC for Crusader Kings II introduces Merchant Republics ruled by families of Merchant Princes, including many Real Life examples.

    Webcomics! I got yer webcomics right here! 
  • In The Order of the Stick, Sandsedge. A town of tents, but one gathering traders from the whole Western Continent.
  • In Drowtales, "Chel'el'Sussoloth was built around the Klar'bol, the market section is literally the heart of the city".

    Real Life! While supplies last. 

North America

  • Although not full-fledged cities at first, many settlements, towns and cities in North America (and presumably other countries founded during the age of European colonization) were initially trading posts that grew with the prosperity of the colonies/countries.
  • All major American cities have at least one suburb known as a shopping haven, towns whose economy revolves around a ginormous mall and dozens of smaller shopping centers surrounding it. They're usually upscale communities, and political tension can rise when they draw businesses, shoppers, and their money out of the city proper.
    • This trope is seen on a very thorough level throughout urbanized America, actually. Each decently-sized city has its downtown area centered around commerce and trade, and given how large numbers of people commute to that downtown area to work every day (a central location makes commutes manageable for a person anywhere in or near the city, and is thus usually most efficient), businesses interested in trade want to set up shop there. Thus, the bigger the city, the more like this trope it becomes. Aside from the obvious series of large coastal cities on the eastern seaboard, San Francisco's unusual geography has turned that entire area in and around the bay into a single, stretched-out Merchant City. Various public transportation networks, along with a traffic infrastructure designed to manage such massive throughput of cars across huge bridges and dense downtown-area, make the Bay Area something of a Merchant City centered around its Hub City of San Francisco. Massive overseas trade into and out of the bay builds on this.
  • New York City. It seized the title for the US with the opening of the Erie Canal in the early 19th Century, as the canal made it easiest to ship stuff to and from the then-West (now Midwest) to the rest of the world (i.e., the Eastern Seaboard and across the Atlantic) through New York. Manhattan's Fifth Avenue is world-renowned for its high-end shopping.
  • Chicago. On the other end of that east-west overwater trade route from New York was Chicago, because of its location right on a portage (a land bridge where boats or their cargo can easily be transferred between two bodies of water) between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi Watershed - the Illinois and Michigan canal was later dug so that passenger, cargo, and ship could traverse together. When the rails began to be laid down, Chicago was the hub for many lines - this is probably the biggest reason for its growth into the Second City as being able to send goods easily in most any direction made it a great trading spot, whether they be the destination of many a Texan cattle drive (Chicago had many slaughterhouses, including the one in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle) or if you're selling stuff by catalogue and use the rails to ship your sales (i.e,. Sears). Chicago's answer to Fifth Avenue for luxury shopping is its own Michigan Avenue, specifically the Magnificent Mile north of The Loop.
  • Vancouver is home to a massive port and ships almost all of the goods passing from Canada to Asia and vice versa. As such, you can buy almost anything if you know where to look.
  • The Mall Of America, but not really the rest of the city around it.


  • Name a city-state from medieval or early Renassiance Italy and it's probably a Merchant City.
  • Paris, back in her early days. That's why the city's coat-of-arms displays a trim merchant ship in silver (representing money by commerce, not through the royal mint.)
  • Amsterdam
  • Lübeck, Hamburg, Danzig and the rest of the Hanseatic League.
  • London specialises in merchant banking these days, but is still a busy port.
  • Liverpool in the heyday of the cotton trade, much less so these days.
  • An upmarket area of Glasgow directly adjacent to the city centre is called actually called the Merchant City. (Commemorating the fact that before it was an industrial center, Glasgow was a commercial center. Let's not dwell too much on the fact that the commerce it specialized in was the transatlantic slave trade.)
  • Novgorod, in Russia, before Ivan the Terrible burned it down.
  • The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul - see the page pic. Both land routes (coming in from the east via Anatolia and west through the Balkans) and sea routes (from the Black Sea to the north and the Mediterranean to the south) converged at Istanbul.


  • Tokyo. Two different flavors, too - the modern, fast-paced, latest fashion stuff led by the huge corporations known the world over can be found in the western and southern parts of the city (especially Ginza, Shinjuku, Harajuku, and Shibuya); and the smaller shop mom-and-pop entrepreneurs to the north and east around the Sumida River (e.g., the long line of small shops leading to the entrance of the temple at Asakusa).
    • Akihabara can be thought of as a mix of these two things - it was a radio and electronic parts mecca after the end of World War II, where shops were small (and often black-market) but one could find parts for nearly anything electronics-related. Then just as the wave for futuristic parts passed, the anime explosion and the emergence of otaku culture starting in the 1980's revived the area, this time as the place where one could get all sorts of anime merchandise.
  • Historically, Osaka was this for Japan, as it wasn't until the Tokugawa shogunate was established in the late 16th Century that the center of power shifted east to the Kanto Plain. Being a port very close to the traditional center of power in Kyoto as well as being on the Inland Sea (so it wasn't as given to being trashed by tsunamis and typhoons), rice shipments (samurai were paid in rice) naturally congregated there and gave the otherwise looked-down-upon merchants (who traditionally were considered the lowest of the four classes in Japanese societynote ) economic power over the samurai by the time of the Meiji Restoration.
  • Dubai. Started out as an oil center, but what made it leap to the top of the global city list was early diversification into other industries like tourism, finance, and aviation.
  • Most famous Arab and Central Asian cities were this. Stuff was coming through all the way from China and India to the Meditteranean.
  • Singapore. Originally a British Crown Colony that thrived on entrepot trade between the East and West, today it is a cosmopolitan metropolis full of shopping centres and features one of the world's busiest ports.
  • Hong Kong. Probably the biggest factor in its growth is it sitting right next to China at a time when the latter was closed to Western investment.
  • Shanghai. The city historically has had greater commercial impact than the Imperial Chinese government gave it (it wasn't considered an official city until 1927, only considered a county seat for most of its history), but it was one of two major Western-financed centers of banking during the 19th Century until the Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War caused most foreign firms to flee for Hong Kong. The city managed to hold itself in the midst of the dearth of opportunities for growth until it was able to start growing again when China began opening up to foreign investment starting in the 1970's.
  • Mumbai for India.
  • The Old City in Jerusalem, Israel, due to the amount of tourism and pilgrims stopping there for religious purposes, is more or less filled to the brim with merchant shops on roads between churches, synagogues, and mosques.


  • Timbuktu during the 12th through 16th Centuries, as a major trading center of gold, ivory, salt, and slaves. In addition, the University of Timbuktu was one of the largest and most innovative centers of education (actually consisting of three schools centered around the Djinguereber Mosque, the Sidi Yahya Mosque, and the Sankore Madrasah), which further encouraged the spread of books along its trade routes.

South America

  • Sao Paulo for Brazil. High-end luxury brands looking to enter the Brazilian market usually start in the Jardins district.