This packed market in Quito’s Mariscal region holds some of the best souvenirs of Ecuador, and is just down the street from the tourist hotbed, Plaza Foch. Trinkets and clothes, line the booths from floor to ceiling. Alpaca blankets, pan flutes, Ecuadorian chocolate, bright paintings, woven bracelets, sun hats and leather bags are just some of what this market has to offer. The inundation of color and sheer volume of items can be dizzying in such a small area, but it would be hard to leave empty-handed. The vendors expect bargaining so don’t be afraid to shoot for a lower price than originally offered.
For more distinct products, take a trip over to Tianguez in Old Town, a store dedicated to fair-trade goods located under the Cathedral of the Plaza San Francisco. Although slightly more expensive than other markets, the artistry here is far more original and consistently made under fair conditions. With the Tianguez restaurant just outside, this shop is a perfect stop on a tour through the historic part of Quito.
Park El Elegido, also near Foch, does not have the quantity of goods offered in the artisan market, focusing rather on a dizzying array of art available for purchase. Only open at weekends this outdoor market lines the path with these eye-catching works and similar craft booths to those in the artisan market.
While Quito’s artisan market exhibits many Ecuadorian traditional goods, it cannot match the gargantuan market found it Otavalo. Known for the physical landmark of its large volcano as well as the sprawling market, this small town is a great place for a day trip as it lies only 2 hours outside of Quito. The hand-crafted products, such as textiles, jewelry and leather products, are made locally, most often by the indigenous people of Otavalo. Coffee shops and small restaurants can also be found within the market, so you can wander all day.
These shops can be found surrounding the famous Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) monument, at the celebrated equator line. The small ‘city’ shops feature a range of Ecuadorian handiwork that rivals the artisan market. Vendors display the many goods in the space outside the brightly-colored shops, inviting visitors to take a look. Alpaca sweaters, hammocks, and colorful textiles blow in the breeze of this peaceful area, making for a relaxing shopping atmosphere.
In lieu of trinkets, Inaquito is a bustling market full of fresh produce and spices that come in all colors and shapes. The famous hot pepper Aji, starfruit, and guanabana are just a few of the regional foods to try, even if they look a bit peculiar. While inexpensive, be prepared to bargain with vendors who might overcharge a visitor as prices are not commonly listed on individual items.