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The historic Grove Arcade Public Market at 1 Page Ave. (tel. 828/252-7799; www.grovearcade.com) showcases some 50 shops and restaurants. The arcade is the largest commercial building in the city, and the market itself has been restored to its previous prominence. This 269,000-square-foot structure (ca. 1929), closed since World War II, was in its heyday a bustling part of the city landscape and one of the country's first indoor public markets. It is much in the style of Seattle's Pike Place Market, with food stalls, restaurants, crafts stalls, and more. One of the more popular shops in the Grove Arcade is Morning Star Galleries (tel. 828/350-8585). It stocks heirloom-quality replicas of armoires from the Victorian Age, Art Deco lithographs and prints, stained-glass lamps inspired by Louis Comfort Tiffany, lots of estate jewelry, and, perhaps best of all, a staggering number of handmade quilts imported from at least 20 different quilting co-ops in Kentucky and Missouri. A few even come from India and Eastern Europe.

Crafts are so important in the hills of western North Carolina that shopping for them is almost like sightseeing. In Asheville, sights and crafts shops are often combined. One of the foremost arts-and-crafts shops is the Grovewood Gallery at the Homespun Shops, which also enjoys the distinction of being a historical landmark.

Asheville is the home of more than 50 galleries exhibiting works by local and national artists, including folk art, Native American art, and antiques. A gallery worth noting is the Appalachian Craft Center, 10 N. Spruce St. (tel. 828/253-8499; www.appalachiancraftcenter.com). Hours are Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm.

A popular counterculture bookstore and gathering place is Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, 55 Haywood St. (tel. 828/254-6734; www.malaprops.com). This is the most interesting and most deeply entrenched independently owned bookstore in western North Carolina, a cultural beacon by anyone's standards and the subject of devoted loyalty from thousands of readers in the surrounding towns and counties. It's divided into more than 300 different subject categories, with specific emphasis on regional studies, Asheville lore, films and movies, women's studies, astrology, New Age philosophy, and more, with a distinctive interest in the liberal, countercultural venues with which Asheville has long been associated. The bookstore is open most nights until 9 or 10pm.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.