If you want to do some market shopping while in Chile, you’re in luck. Fresh produce overflows at the farmers’ markets here, showcasing local specimens such as chirimoya (custard apple), tuna (prickly pear) and lúcuma (native Andean fruit), while you can shop for leathers, alpaca wool and wooden crafts at the artisan fairs. Here’s our pick of Chile’s best markets.
Brimming with fresh fruit and vegetables, La Vega is best to visit at the beginning of the week and in the mornings before the most tantalising produce has been sold. Be sure to shop around for the most competitive prices, although they tend to be roughly similar – you can buy around seven small avocados for $1,000 (US$1.60), which is an absolute treat. On the second floor, you can find cheap eats which are extremely popular for lunch.
This is Santiago’s most famous market, found in the centre of the city and renowned for it’s fish, you can find plenty of great catches here. What’s more, you can also dine in the restaurants here and try local dishes such as the typical paila marina fish stew. Chileans actually believe seafood is a hangover cure!
Feria de Santa Lucia
Located just off Santiago’s main road, Avenida O’Higgins, is the popular Santa Lucia market, where you will be able to find a present for nearly every occasion, with colourful leather belts, alpaca socks, silver jewellery adorned with lapis lazuli and toys for children, plus many more trinkets and goodies.
Pueblito Los Dominicos
This market is located next to the metro station, Los Dominicos, on the red line (line 1). It is a great place to see local artisans at work, as well as buying unique treasures ranging from handmade wooden crafts through to ceramics, as well as homemade food and preserves, alongside tribal artwork and alpaca wool items – all of which show Chile’s rich culture and heritage.
This market makes our top ten due to its proximity to the sea and its abundance of fresh seafood. Be sure to taste a curanto, a typical dish from the south of Chile, which consists of seafood, meat, vegetables and potatoes, all of which are cooked in a pot over hot stones then covered with leaves.
Support the locals by purchasing one of their hand-crafted goods or handmade clothes made from alpaca wool. For something a little different, take a look at Chile’s favourite quirky indio picaro (‘kinky Indian’) wooden carvings. They reference the Mapuche people, with a broad smile showing gleaming teeth – though lifting the statue reveals a naughtily erect penis underneath!
The best of both worlds, La Recova provides both fresh produce alongside artisan crafts, meaning you can buy all your fruit and vegetables at the same time as a pair of alpaca wool socks to keep you warm during the winter months. In addition, homemade products are also sold, including an interesting collection of papaya products.
Mercado El Cardonal
Head to the market in Valparaiso for fresh fish, fruit and vegetables, of which this enormous building is absolutely teaming with. The building itself is an impressive feat – although its exact date of construction is unknown, it suffered quite serious damage after the 1906 earthquake that rated 8.2 on the Richter Scale.