The Best Markets in Mexico City
Though big-box stores from the U.S. have popped up all over the city, local markets remain strong, and supporting them helps ensure their survival. From crafts and fresh produce to kitchen goods and spices, from furniture to magic spells, here are a few AFAR favorite markets.
S/N, Balderas, Colonia Centro, Centro, 06040 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
La Ciudadela has been the go-to market for handcrafts for nearly 50 years, and it features crafts and handmade objects from all over Mexico. Expect to find everything from textiles (blankets, tablecloths, and hand-embroidered clothing) to ceramics, plates, cups, and serving dishes. Other items to be had here include mirrors, furniture, jewelry and hair accessories, and all manner of small and large handcrafts, including hand-beaded masks. Toys, dolls, and stuffed animals made by hand by artisans from Chiapas are also on offer. The market is open daily.
Calle Ernesto Pugibet, Colonia Centro, Centro, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
You may not know it, but as you peruse the stalls of vendors at Mercado San Juan, you just might be rubbing shoulders or vying for the plumpest, prettiest chayote with one of Mexico City‘s top chefs. San Juan is the market for serious home cooks and pro chefs alike. Here, you can find everything from just-off-the-boat fish and seafood to wild game. There have even been rumors over the years (urban legend or fact?) that if you know who to ask, you can procure true exotics here, including tiger and bear meats. If you’re not in the market for any goods to go, you can let your nose lead the way to a stall where prepared hot foods are sold. And don’t miss trying chapulines, toasted grasshoppers, which are a Mexican snack specialty.
Delegación Iztapalapa, Canal de Río Churubusco S/N, Col. Central de Abastos, 09040 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
You have to be a little bit loco to want to visit Central de Abasto, much less actually go there, but it is the ultimate market experience. Central de Abasto is the market that supplies all of the other fruit and vegetable markets in the city and many others throughout the country. More than 30,000 tons of fresh produce enter and leave the market daily, or the equivalent of 80% of the fruits and vegetables consumed in the capital. It’s not for the faint of heart, though; this market is all business and hustle is the name of the game. Browsing and taking photos of towers of colorful vegetables are not recommended because aisles are crowded and fleet-on-their-feet workers moving hand trucks of goods don’t tolerate dawdling slowpokes.
419 Fray Servando Teresa de Mier
It’s been said you can find anything in Mexico City, as long as you know where to look for it, and if the “it” you’re looking for is strange, dark, or even, perhaps, otherworldly, you might just find it at Mercado de Sonora. This market is also called the market of the “brujos,” or witches, and its particular niche is supplying shoppers who are looking for goods to make spells, enchantments, and healing potions. Expect to see stalls whose counters are piled with heaps of roots, herbs, and leaves, as well as some odder, fairy-tale like fare, such as dried animal skins and bird wings, as well as skeletons and skulls, horns and teeth. Even if you’re not actively shopping yourself, it’s a fascinating place to browse and, especially, to people-watch.
Campeche 101, Roma Sur, 06760 Cuauhtémoc, CDMX, Mexico
All of Mexico City‘s neighborhood markets are fun to browse, with their rows and rows of colorful stalls and equally colorful characters, and you can’t go wrong ducking into any one of these mercados as you come across them in your wanderings. Mercado Medellín is particularly favored among expats from other parts of Latin America, as it specializes in foodstuffs from Caribbean and Central and South American countries. This is also a superb market to visit if you’re hungry. Vendors sell everything from Colombian ajíaco to Cuban ice cream, so don’t hesitate to graze your way through the treats on offer.
45 Guillermo Prieto
No, Customs won’t let you take them home with you, but that shouldn’t keep you from visiting Mercado de Jamaica to see the riot of colorful flowers lining floors and stalls. This market, which has been Mexico City‘s premier flower market for more than 50 years, is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year-round. In addition to chilangos stopping by to pick up an affordable bouquet for their home, expect to see vendors who specialize in gigantic funerary wreaths preparing dozens of impressive memorial displays.
Londres 161, Juárez, 06600 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
If you love antiquing or if you’re just searching for a Mexico City souvenir with a bit of history behind it, it’s hard to imagine a more pleasant way to spend a Saturday morning in the capital than visiting Plaza de la Angel, a giant antique market with dozens of galleries, located in the Zona Rosa. You can visit during the week, too, but on Saturdays, temporary vendors join those who have permanent spaces here to sell all sorts of wares, from postcards and pictures to religious relics, furniture, books, magazines, and handcrafts.
Mercado la Merced S/n, Centro, El Parque, 15960 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Plate-sized, Pop Art–colored lollipops. Candied and dried fruits rolled in chile powder. Crackling peanut brittle stippled with sesame seeds. Gelatins of every conceivable flavor. Names you can’t pronounce, much less decipher, even if you speak Spanish fluently. The Mercado de Dulces, a specialty section within the Merced Market, is a delight for all ages. More than 150 vendors hold down stalls selling dulces del país, candies made in Mexico. Even if you prefer savory over sweet, a turn through the market is an enjoyable experience.
Rosario 156, Centro, Merced Balbuena, 15100 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Mercado de la Merced, Mexico City’s largest traditional food market, is full of little neighborhoods. Wander the districts devoted to everything from nopales—sometimes stacked five feet high—to pyramids of limes and columns of banana leaves. For a quick snack, try tacos de guisado: tortillas topped with chicharrón prensado or mole verde. If you’re feeling more adventurous, sample the maguey worms or the ant eggs. Mercado de la Merced is located just east of the main zócalo, just a few blocks north of the boulevard Fray Servando Teresa de Mier.
Avenida Sonora 180 Local 6, Cuauhtémoc, Hipódromo, 06100 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
If you’re shopping for a foodie friend or you want to take some of the flavors of Mexico home with you, Bottega Culinaria is a one-stop-shop for food-related souvenirs. Here, you’ll find sal de gusano (sea salt mixed with ground worms from the Mexican agave) and Ancho Reyes, a chile ancho liqueur that’s perfect for cocktails. There’s also Mexican vanilla, chocolate studded with chiles, and other unexpected treats.
Plaza San Jacinto 11, San Ángel TNT, San Ángel, Álvaro Obregón, 01000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Once a separate municipality, San Ángel—in the city’s south, nestled into its western foothills—is a leafy, genteel enclave whose relative isolation adds a soigné feel (for better or worse) you won’t find in neighboring Coyoacán. Ground zero for promenading is quaint Plaza San Jacinto, whose cute parish church (and beautiful cloister garden) is a sort of spiritual last stand amid the surrounding area’s high-toned consumerism. That said, the plaza’s true spirit comes alive Saturdays, at the so-called Bazar Sábado, an artisanal market that fills the area with stall after stall of handmade jewelry, textiles, crafts, and accessories, plus a great deal of art—some finer, some less so—in styles that go from hippie to haute. Strolling musicians and performers add to the carnival atmosphere.