Oaxaca’s bustling and colorful markets are a great way to get to know the culture through its cuisine and handicrafts. Here, grocery shopping becomes an enjoyable daily ritual instead of a chore and shopping for a gift means a handmade work of art. All of these markets offer your daily basic needs for cooking at home, plus a little something else that makes each one stand out in a special way. Here’s a list of Oaxaca’s best markets and what they have to offer.
Most Traditional: Tlacolula
About a 45-minute drive from the city center, this Sunday-only market is well worth the journey. As the largest food market in the region, the staggering array of fresh produce and specialty food items like quesillo and mole draw huge crowds from the entire Tlacolula Valley. In additional to foodstuffs, the Oaxacan artisanal goods don’t disappoint. You can find woven wool rugs (tapetes), painted skulls, and the colorful painted animals called alebrijes, all for a hard to beat price. Make sure to bring your appetite, locals flock here for the famously flavor packed barbacoa, a slow cooked goat meat stew.
Best Eats: La Merced
Trust me on this one, here you will find the most ridiculously delicious chilaquiles (fried tortillas in chili sauce) of your life. Pick your poison, salsa rojo or verde, and then either eggs, chorizo sausage, chicken, or tasajo, thinly cut steak. The closest equivalent to brunch in Mexico, these chilaquiles arrive still boiling in a large clay bowl, topped with a more than generous amount of quesillo, a Oaxacan cheese similar to a mozzarella. Wash it all down with one of the many a fresh squeezed juices from the stall next door.
Best Crafts: 20 de Noviembre
Probably Oaxaca’s most renowned market, for a good reason. You’ll find loads of handicrafts from the distinct regions of Oaxaca. From hand-embroidered blouses, to loomed cotton house linens, clay cookware, leather bags and woven baskets. Don’t miss the huaraches, a traditional leather woven sandal that you will find yourself wearing every day. After your shopping spree, finish your visit with some nieve, a shaved ice that comes in all of Mexico’s tropical fruit flavors.
Most Local: Teotitlan del Valle
Come here to witness the beautiful Zapotec culture of Teotitlan del Valle. This intimate market thrives in the mornings, when the women sell their wares and shop for day’s necessities. They have the traditional braids tied in ribbons down their back, embroidered aprons covering their dresses, and baskets resting in their hands. Everyone here knows and greets one another, and receives visitors with welcome and curiosity. Make sure to arrive early, this market runs daily from 8-11am.
Biggest: Centro de Abastos
If you’re shopping for well … literally anything at all, Abastos is the central market that offers absolute best deals, but you’ll have to find it first. Come to Centro de Abastos prepared to wander aimlessly amongst the locals until you stumble upon or forget what you were looking for. Along the way you’ll find treasures for change. Like a bag of three pre sliced champagne mangos for less than one US dollar. Abastos is big, busy, and has a reputation for pickpockets, so leave your valuables at home.
Is there any must-see markets we missed? Let us know!