As we always say, one of the best ways to explore a place is to mingle with the locals at the market, and that’s especially true in a dynamic destination like Mexico City. Locals Leigh Thelmadatter and Alejandro Linares Garcia share their insider market guide to Mexico City.
“I went from market to market for years, because Mexico is in its markets.” – Pablo Neruda
The beauty of Mexico City’s markets lies in the diversity. From antiques to livestock to authentic cuisine, there’s something for everyone.
For the foodie …
At the more food-centric markets, you will find small dishes called antojitos (cravings) which include tacos, quesadillas, filled tortillas, local specialties like barbacoa, huaraches, Mexican-style shrimp cocktails, fried bananas, fruit salads with tropical fruits and fresh squeezed juices, even beer and aged tequila.
This is the second-largest seafood market in the world, behind Japan’s Tsukiji. Stall after stall of fresh seafood is available here. There’s everything from the sea bass and shrimp to the shark and manta ray.
Look out for the city’s best chefs, like Alejandro Fuentes, roaming these stalls in the early morning.
MERCADO SAN JUAN
This is the city’s high-end food market, offering the freshest produce and the widest variety of fine cheeses and meats. With imported and domestic products, there’s everything even exotic meats and seafood like ostrich, alligator, manta ray, snails and more. Fine bottles of aged tequila can also be found and chefs roam the stalls daily.
Located in the upscale La Condesa neighborhood, shoppers can find everything from traditional antojitos to upscale ethnic food such as sushi and Argentinean sausage.
Learn more about Mexico City’s food culture with this video: Mexico City Chef Shares Secrets of Local Cuisine & Farmers Markets.
For the generalist …
One of the city’s of the oldest, and the largest of the traditional markets, is in the old La Merced monastery. From food to housewares, this market offers a variety of goods.
The market sits near what used to be the docks that received most of the foodstuffs from all over the Valley of Mexico, when it was still filled by five lakes and the city itself was an island.
For the shopper …
Spend some time strolling this flea large market, located just off Paseo de la Reforma, in search of some traditional gifts to take home. It has three buildings, one dedicated to furniture, one to clothes and one to food.
Today, it is best known for its Sunday market, especially the section dedicated to the sale of antiques and collectables.
For the art lover …
This market houses the craftwork of Mexico City’s artists: painted dishware, Luchadores masks, handmade jewelry and wall art are all on offer. And the prices can’t be beat! (Note: please ask permission from the vendors before taking any pictures.)
It was constructed in the 1930s as a “new” and “modern” style of market.
Its merchandise is basic, but it houses mural paintings that were done under the supervision of Diego Rivera and were restored for the country’s 2010 bicentennial.
For the horticulturist …
Jamaica is pronounced ha-mai-ka, and named after the hibiscus flower. It is one of the largest vendors of produce but is best known as the city’s and country’s largest cut-flower and ornamental plant market.
For travelers seeking the bizarre …
This market specializes in live animals (including some illegal species), dishes and party supplies.
However, what makes this market notable are the aisles dedicated to herbal medicines and the occult, including paraphernalia related to Santeria and a skeletal figure known as Santa Muerte (Saint Death).
Travel tip: Most of Mexico City’s main markets are all in oldest parts of the city, which can be a bit rundown and off the beaten path for tourists. However, all are in heavily trafficked areas, particularly on weekends. Watch out for pickpockets and, if possible, visitors unfamiliar with the area should visit the market with a local or a hotel guide.
To learn more about Mexican food, history, and culture, check out:
- Mexico City Chef Shares Secrets of Local Cuisine & Farmers Markets
- The Truly Local Restaurants of Cabo San Lucas & San Jose Del Cabo
- Is Mexican Travel Safe? Peter On The O’Reilly Factor
- Mexico & Central America Travel
Text by Leigh Thelmadatter for PeterGreenberg.com. Photos by Alejandro Linares Garcia. Leigh and Alejandro are a couple living in Mexico City, and are founding members of Wikimedia México, an affiliate of the Wikimedia Foundation.