Antigua Guatemala is one of the best places to shop in Central America, with unique art and intricately beautiful garments. Some of the best bargains and souvenirs are to be found in the city’s flea markets and thrift shops. If you love nothing more than a good old rummage for some hidden treasures, here’s a selection of the best places to shop.
Paca is the term used in Guatemala for large packages shipped in palettes – usually how secondhand clothes arrive in the country. It’s also the name that’s often used for stores that sell paca clothing, and one of the best places in town to find bargains is Antigua PACA. Here you can buy good-quality, attractive and name-branded clothes at surprisingly low prices.
Mercado del Carmen
Located next to the ruins of the Iglesia El Carmen, this market is much less crowded than some others, and you can find all manner of hidden gems here. The inside is chaotically laid out, and it can be difficult trying to find what you’re looking for, but it’s a great place to pick up some unique trinkets or souvenirs. On weekends, the activity spills out onto 3a Avenida Norte, where many of the vendors offer lovely textile accessories such as Mayan belts and headdresses for sale.
Wandering through the colourful, bustling Mercado is a great way to see the authentic side of Antigua, and you can buy everything here. At the north end of the market there’s the paca, a vast warehouse packed with secondhand clothes, T-shirts and vintage designer clothes. You can find unique bargains here at great prices. You’ll probably get lost navigating the maze of the market, but that’s part of the fun.
Dyslexia is probably the coolest used bookstore in the world. Located inside Café No Se, a trendily downbeat bar beloved by the town’s creative types, this is a bookstore for genuine book-lovers – you won’t find many generic crime thrillers here. It carries only respected books, you get a free beer with your purchase and you can return the book when you’re finished and trade it in for half the price. If you want to leaf through a novel in a speakeasy-style environment while sipping mezcal, this is the place for you.
Located on Antigua’s 5th Avenida, Nim Po’t is one of the best places to find traditional Mayan clothing and textiles. It’s a huge hall that serves as a cooperative for artisans, and you’ll find plenty of traditional and modern clothes here, as well as souvenirs such as traditional masks and wood carvings. At the back is a big collection of used books, from old paperback bestsellers to crime mysteries, classics and thrillers. There are also poetry, religion, self-help, travel guides and history books. Make sure you haggle!
Nim Po’t, 5a Avenida Norte, Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala, +502 78322681
To browse through a totally random and often bizarre selection of items, there’s La Patrona. This is the place to come if you love a good old rummage in weird thrift shops: the stuff on sale consists of antique (and often creepy) dolls and mannequins, old hand-carved furniture and traditional Mayan wooden masks.