When it comes to authentic South American markets, Paraguay has it covered with Mercado Cuatro – Asunción’s largest and busiest open-air bazaar. Nestled in a peaceful residential area, the colors and scents of this market explode onto the streets each morning. The tangled network of vibrant stalls offers curious travelers everything from knock-off electronics to knobbly fruit and veg picked from the local fields. If you’re seeking a bargain, head to the stalls peddling handmade crafts, hammocks and traditional clothes. Don’t miss the carts selling grilled beef skewers and chipá – washed down with an obligatory icy beer!
If you’re looking for an authentic piece of Paraguay to take home with you, start at Folklore. At this artisan’s workshop, you’ll find fine examples of carved wood and bespoke instruments, as well as leather handicrafts, lace clothing and mugs for tereré (traditional herbal tea). Be prepared to spend a pretty penny, though for this quality it’s well worth it.
The place to go for antiques and curiosities in the capital, Mercado de Pulgas is held every Sunday in front of Nueva Americana. Established by antiques dealers 14 years ago, this rustic flea market now specializes in paintings, instruments, rare objects and furniture. Browse through a delightful jumble of coins and photographs, clocks and weapons from the last century and test your haggling skills in Spanish. History buffs should look out for classic records, rare books and medals that once belonged to the heroes of Paraguay’s many wars.
One of Paraguay’s most beautiful traditional crafts is ñandutí, which means ‘spider web’ in the indigenous language Guaraní. Though the skill was introduced to Paraguay by the Spanish in the mid-17th century, its origins are interwoven with legend. It has since been adopted by locals as emblematic of Paraguay’s handmade tradition. The brightly colored lace is woven through a single piece of fabric in intricate, often geometric, patterns. The best place to buy ñandutí is at Ao P’oí Raity in Asunción’s Mburicaó district. This vivid store is full to the rafters with unusual crafts and delicated lace throws, tableclothes and quaint doilies – perfect as a souvenir.