One of the best ways to explore a country, experience day-to-day life and discover hidden gems is through markets. In Mexico in particular, exploring the array of markets really opens your eyes to what the country has to offer. They provide a taste of delicious regional food and allow you to sample a variety of what’s on offer. Here, Culture Trip has selected some of the best markets to visit throughout Mexico.
La Merced, Mexico City
Not normally a tourist hotspot, the Merced Market is one of the best and most wide-ranging food markets in the capital. The market is the size of eight football fields, which provides enough space to sell almost anything and everything. Countless food stalls offer all of Mexico’s most well-known dishes: tacos, pancita, deep-fried tamales, quesadillas and tacos de cabeza (head tacos). To visit, go along with a local guide and be wary of pickpockets.
Mercado Alternativo Pochote Xochimilco, Oaxaca City
Oaxaca City has become something of a renowned foodie destination in Mexico. An organic weekend market is held in the plaza in front of the Santo Tomas church, aiming to support locals, whether they be farmers, designers or suppliers. The market offers a slightly different take on traditional Oaxacan cuisine, in a good way. You can find whole-grain, homemade organic bread, refreshing organic tejate, homemade barbacoa and tostadas, all in a setting that transports you out of the hustle and bustle and into a food-drenched dream.
20 de Noviembre Market, Oaxaca City
Also situated in what can likely be classed as the food capital of Mexico, Oaxaca City hosts this market that offers local produce that has been carried to the market through the city’s canal. This is a classic venue for eating some of Oaxaca’s most popular food items, in particular pan de yema (egg bread) and traditional Mexican hot chocolate. This market is a bustling breakfast and lunch spot with traditional regional cuisine (mole de olla, Oaxacan tamales) as well as other favorites like chilaquiles, guisados and fixed, three-course menus (comida corrida).
Santiago Tianguistenco, Mexico State
Popping up out of what seems like nowhere is an outdoor market just outside of Mexico City. Every Tuesday, the Santiago Tianguistenco market turns this area into a unique world, hidden under multicolored tarps that drape over the array of stalls. Wandering through this market allows you to experience the handwork, craftsmanship and positivity of the people behind them. The vast options can be overwhelming, and we can’t guarantee you will find the most hygienic environment at every stand, but look for the crowds and dig in.
Mercado Municipal, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero
An abundance of fresh fish in every shape and color awaits you in Zihuatanejo’s municipal market, as well as tropical fruits like mango, papaya and dozens of citrus fruits. The market, which used to be one big, outdoor area, has now been divided into a covered produce area and an area with food stalls. With so much to see, be sure to try some of the regional dishes at the stalls and a cup of steaming hot café de olla. That said, it’s the breakfast here that can’t be beat.
Tianguis de Viernes, Chalco, Mexico State
A classic tianguis (market) in the town of Chalco, this market completely takes over the center every Friday. Local farmers buying and trading fruit, veg and livestock make it a real adventure with lots going on. There are dozens of stalls to peruse and an abundance of delicious food on offer. Quesadillas, barbacoa and rabbit are specialities in the area and worth a try.
La Lagunilla, Mexico City
This traditional market happens every Sunday in Mexico City. Known as the weekend market, it is the place to go for antiques and crafts, and is perfect for those who want to return home with something unique. Next to the antiques is an outdoor market with clothing, accessories and a food section. Here, you can sample Spanish paella, Argentine choripán, Mexican pulque and finish off your trip with American-style barbecue chicken wings. Come to shop, stay to eat.
This market isn’t for the faint-hearted, as livestock are butchered on-site and buyers are able to take the meat home with them immediately. But Tianguis Campesino is a great place to find northern delights, like semitas turcas, regional cheeses, salsas, flour tortillas and, of course, cabrito, the Monterrey speciality. The market is also known for the sale of herbs and medicinal plants.
The Fresh Markets of San Juan
In the historic center of Mexico City are a set of four markets known as the the Fresh Markets of San Juan. The markets are rich in history and a key point in the transport of merchandise, and unfortunately this once included slaves who were sold here. When considering the history, it can be a little dark and food may be the last thing on your mind; however, experiencing the cuisine of San Juan is essential, and the market is the best place to do so.
Described as a magical neighborhood, Coyoacán is an incredible place in Mexico City with a lot to offer, and this market certainly steals the show, famous for its color and traditions. For special dates and occasions, the market offers romeritos, sweets and piñatas around Christmas time, flowers and costumes for the Day of the Dead, and for national holidays there are flags and decorations. There are the standard stalls offering vegetables, meat and groceries, but the snacks, local food and smoothies alone are worth a visit or become the perfect addition to exploring the winding streets.
Mercado Roma is a gourmet market, where the community sits around a table to share good food and wine while supporting new talents and producers and creating a platform for new dishes made with local produce and traditions. Described as an avant-garde gourmet market, the gastronomy is entirely based on the quality of ingredients combined with the unique dishes, culinary trends and artisan flare of each dish. The market has a positive impact on the local community and economy and will leave you with fond memories.
Central de Abasto, CDMX, Mexico City
A wholesale produce market, Central de Abasto was originally constructed to be a meeting point for producers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers. Located in the eastern borough of Iztapalapa, it has become just what it was intended to be. One of the largest markets in the world – shifting over 30,000 tons of produce every day – there is sure to be something here to suit your fancy. Whether you’re looking to cook at home (hello, Airbnb) or want some souvenirs for relatives, there is an array of food, fresh and dry, as well as street food stalls to tempt you as you wander through the maze.
Additional reporting by Vanessa Gainford.
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