The Best Street Food Markets in Mexico

Santiago Tianguistenco │© Lydia Carey
Santiago Tianguistenco │© Lydia Carey
One of the best reasons to travel through Mexico is to get a taste of the wide-ranging and delicious regional food. One of the best ways to do that is to seek out neighborhood and citywide markets (both covered and open-air) and move from stand to stand sampling what’s on offer. As long as you follow the rules of following the crowd and using your own good logic, street food doesn’t have to be a scary endeavor. Here are some of our favorite places to sample local fare throughout Mexico.

La Merced, Mexico City

With a shady rap that means lots of tourists (and locals) don’t venture here, the Merced Market is one of the best and most wide-ranging food markets in the city. Besides being the size of eight football fields and selling everything under the sun, it has dozens and dozens of delicious food stands—tacos, pancita, deep-fried tamales, quesadillas and tacos de cabeza (head tacos). Best to go with a local guide so you don’t get lost in the labyrinth.

Early Morning Hot Chcolate the Merced Market │ © Lydia Carey

Mercado Alternativo Pochote Xochimilco, Oaxaca City

Oaxaca City’s organic weekend market held in the plaza in front of the Santo Tomas church is a slightly different take on traditional Oaxacan cuisine, but in a good way. You can find wholegrain, homemade organic bread, refreshing organic tejate, homemade barbacoa and tostados, all in a setting that transports you out of the hustle and bustle and into a food-drenched dream.

Tejate at the Xochimilco market │ © Lydia Carey

20 de Noviembre Market, Oaxaca City

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).

Mercado 20 de Noviembre │ © Lydia Carey

Santiago Tianguistenco, Mexico State

A massive, ambling outdoor market just outside Mexico City, the Santiago Tianguistenco market is a unique world under kilometers and kilometers of multicolored tarps. The vast quantity of food 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 to regional cuisine.

Santiago Tianguistenco │ © Lydia Carey

Tianguis de Viernes, Chalco, Mexico State

A classic tianguis in the town of Chalco, this market takes over the center of town every Friday and has stands where local farmers buy and trade vegetables, fruits, and livestock, both alive and as meat. There is also a whole bunch of delicious food stands, with mouth-watering quesadillas, barbacoa and rabbit—a speciality in the area.

Mercado Municipal, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero

An abundance of fresh fish of every shape and color of the rainbow awaits you in Zihuatenejo’s municipal market, as well as tropical fruits like mango, papaya and dozens of citrus fruits. The market, that was once one big, outdoor area, has now been divided into a covered produce area and an area with food stalls. Be sure to try some of the regional dishes at the stalls and a cup of steaming hot café de olla. Breakfast here can’t be beat.

Zihuatanejo market │ © Lydia Carey

La Lagunilla, Mexico City

The weekend Sunday market in Mexico City is known to the outside world as a place to buy antiques and crafts, but locals know its real gems are the dozens of incredible food stalls that set up every week. Here you can taste Spanish paella, Argentine choripán, Mexican pulque and finish off your trip with American-style barbecue chicken wings. Come to shop, stay to eat.

La Lagunilla market │ © Lydia Carey

Mercado Campesino, Monterrey, Nuevo Leon

Not for the faint at heart, this market mainly trades in live animals that get butchered on site and are sent home with you still warm to the touch. But if you can get past the intense animal trade, the Tianguis Campesino is a great place to find northern delights, like semitas turcos, regional cheeses, salsas, flour tortillas and, of course, cabrito, the Monterrey speciality.

Mercado Campesino │ © Lydia Carey