The Best Markets Across Cuba

A man sells secondhand books in Cuba | © PeterKraayvanger / Pixabay
A man sells secondhand books in Cuba | © PeterKraayvanger / Pixabay
Photo of Jack Guy
22 September 2017

Cuba is far from a paradise for keen shoppers, but those on the lookout for an interesting souvenir will enjoy sifting through the wares at these markets. While Havana is the most likely spot for shopping, there are markets in many other cities across the island.

Plaza de Armas Secondhand Book Market, Havana

Nestled in the Plaza de Armas in Old Havana, this secondhand book market is home to rows and rows of traders offering old magazines, propaganda leaflets, and plenty of Hemingway novels. While the writer did live in Cuba for almost two decades, there are more interesting finds among the posters, stamps and beer labels lying among the books.

Che Guevara features heavily in Cuban souvenir markets | © PeterKraayvanger

Almacenes San José Artisans’ Market, Havana

If art is your thing, Almacenes San Jose is a must-see. The two-story warehouse is home to works by a wide range of Cuban artists, from paintings and jewelry to hammocks. It’s a great place to find a souvenir that isn’t a Che Guevara hat or a fridge magnet, but be sure to certify that the art you’re buying is an original work.

Galerías de Paseo, Havana

A visit to Galerias de Paseo reveals a different side to Havana. While most locals shop in spartan supermarkets and choice is usually limited, this indoor market is home to high-end stores that sell mainly to foreigners and the small Cuban upper-class.

Orisha Market, Santiago de Cuba

Believers in the santería religion flock to this informal street market in Santiago de Cuba to get hold of the ingredients that they need to ask the saints, or orishas, for help. Even if you don’t want to buy herbs, eggs, holy water, or any of the other ingredients, the market makes for a fascinating stop as you explore Cuba’s second city. If your Spanish is good enough, you can ask the traders what they use the potions for.

Remember the vintage cars of Cuba with a souvenir replica | © maxos_dim

Pena Street Market, Trinidad

Several of Trinidad’s cobbled streets are converted into markets on a daily basis, but Pena is the pick of the bunch, as it tends to offer the widest variety of products. Lace is a favorite purchase with visitors, while you can also find clothing, wood carvings, masks, and ceramics. Fashionistas might want to pick up one of the iconic guayabera shirts to show off when they get home.

Varadero Street Market, Varadero

In amongst the all-inclusive hotels on the Varadero strip lies this large market packed with souvenir-sellers. Here you will find leather goods, ornaments, and jewelry, as well as tacky fridge magnets, number plates and Cuba-themed baseballs. While you will struggle to find anything truly unique, it’s a great one-stop shop for those who have forgotten to buy gifts for family and friends.

Guardalavaca Flea Market

Over in the east of the island in Holguin Province lies the sleepy beach town of Guardalavaca, which is also known for its flea market. Here you will find souvenirs at a fraction of the price they sell for in Havana, so stock up before you get back to the capital.

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