Markets are the beating heart of Mexico City. Whether you are interested in delicious eats or treasure hunting for Mexican artisanal goods, this guide has you covered.
Where there are supermarkets in the United States, there are traditional markets in Mexico.
Even in ultra-metropolitan Mexico City, it’s more convenient to shop for groceries at your neighborhood market than at a grocery store. I’m actually convinced that Mexico City is just one giant market (and neighborhoods like Tepito actually are).
Inside these markets, you can find some of the best food and shopping anywhere in the city.
Best Markets for Food in Mexico City
Neighborhood: Historic Center
What You’ll Find: Gourmet produce, edible flowers, high-quality butchery, and exotic fare.
What to Eat: Cheese & charcuterie at Las Tapas de San Juan, fresh tuna sashimi at the seafood stalls, scorpions (!)
Mercado de San Juan is a traditional food market in Mexico City’s historic center that has evolved into a gourmet food destination frequented by chefs and gourmands across the city. Entering the market rewards you with aisles and aisles of beautiful produce, fresh seafood, meats, cheeses, international ingredients, and…scorpions?
Yup! You read that right. Mercado de San Juan carries an assortment of edible creepie crawlies (think spiders, ants, crickets, and worms) and has several restaurants boasting the sale of lion, ostrich, armadillo, and more exotic meats.
Baby was peer pressured into trying her very first Madagascar cockroach on a food tour gone wrong, and she is still super traumatized from the experience! (Eating a cockroach would make you talk in the third-person too 😭)
If vegetarians haven’t gathered already, this market will be hard for them to swallow. Creepie crawlies and exotic meats aside, the butchery section of the market is pretty intense. We came across a crate of skinned deer, mountains of baby pig carcasses—heads still attached, eyes closed—and lines of baby goat carcasses hanging on hooks. Maybe just stay towards the entrance of the store with the fruits, vegetables, and dried goods if you have a soft heart.
Neighborhood: Historic Center
What You’ll Find: Baffling quantities of every food product you can imagine
What to Eat: Migas, caldo de gallinas, pancita, quesadillas
Mercado La Merced is one of the largest markets in Mexico City. Vendors sell baffling quantities of pretty much everything you can imagine, from fruits, vegetables, and meats to crafts and clothing. There’s even an entire section of the market dedicated exclusively to candy.
A word of warning: I’m a pretty seasoned market-goer and this one was intimidating. I have no regrets going and I’ve never been anywhere like it — it’s an experience you should have in Mexico City. Still, it’s best to take some precautions during your visit. Here’s what we learned:
- We were a bit tense in La Merced because we attracted a lot of attention with our high-quality camera. Learn from our mistakes, leave your fancy electronics at home, and try your best to blend in.
- Make an effort to orient yourself as you explore. La Merced gets very maze-like at times and is very, very crowded. Keep note of the nearest exit to avoid getting lost.
- Petty theft is not unheard of in this market. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t bring any valuables if you can avoid it.
- Don’t visit the market at night. La Merced is a prostitution hot spot with working girls lingering outside at all hours. While the energy feels normal during the day, it’s best to avoid the area at night as things can get seedy quickly.
Oh, and if you’ve seen the Mexico episode of Parts Unknown and are curious to try the migas Anthony Bourdain ate in Tepito, you can find it at La Merced.
What You’ll Find: Beautiful produce, meats, dried goods, crafts, textiles, food stalls.
What to Eat: Carnitas, tostadas.
A traditional Mexican market in Frida Kahlo’s old neighborhood that sells everything you might expect. If you end up here on the weekend, do yourself a favor and try Carnitas “El Charro,” a stall that has been in the market since 1956. It’s a fried pork fiesta involving all parts of the pig.
Fun fact: Folklore has it that Hernan Cortes invented the first variation of carnitas in the Coyoacan neighborhood, near where the market is located, during a banquet celebrating the fall of Tenochtitlan and the Aztec Empire.
True? Not true? What do you think?
Tostadas — crunchy deep-fried corn tortillas with various toppings — are another common dish at Coyoacan Market that are ubiquitous and worth a try. You’ll find numerous stalls inside that offer seafood, meat, and vegetarian variations.
Neighborhood: Roma Sur
What You’ll Find: Fresh flowers & plants, pork products galore, beautiful produce, products from around Latin America, dried goods, traditional food stalls
What to Eat: Cuban ice cream at Helado Palmeiro, Carnitas Meche y Rafael
Located in the La Roma neighborhood, Mercado Medellin is known for being one of the only markets in the city that sells goods from other Latin countries. There are lots of good eats here, including a tasty Cuban ice cream shop called Helado Palmeiro and Carnitas Meche y Rafael (is my obsession with carnitas quickly becoming clear?).
If you can fight through your fullness, check out the restaurant section of the market serving moles, enchiladas, rice-bean-meat plates, and more traditional Mexican goodness.
Best Markets in Mexico City for Shopping
Mercado Artesanal Mexicano is a two-story building that sells all the Mexican crafts, clothing, and jewelry your heart could desire. The leather goods, locally-made jewelry, and ceramics really stand out at this market — even more than the oft-recommended La Ciudadela — and you’ll definitely leave with a good haul.
6. La Ciudadela
Neighborhood: Historic Center
La Ciudadela is a massive artisanal good complex selling traditional Mexican crafts. You’ll find everything from Oaxacan textiles and Chiapan ceramics to leather goods and jewelry. I bought a beautiful pair of leather flats from here and could not be happier with them. A must for picking up souvenirs!