When I first moved to Guadalajara in 2009 I was very lucky to land in a house that was three blocks away from Mercado de Abastos. Back then you could get breakfast for $35 pesos. I was willing to pay $35 pesos just so I didn’t have to wash the dishes. I slowly got the know the different types of food in the market and realize the food stalls that were always packed had the best food. The markets have better produce than the supermarkets and I could get my watch fixed while I was eating, shoes shined, and a guy with a dolly to roll my ridiculous purchases back to the car. What started as a cheap breakfast turned into a masterclass on the food and culture of Mexico.
I was hooked on the traditional markets. Besides Mercado de Abastos, I was travelling all over town to see another specialty market or a cute neighborhood market that somebody had recommended.
After reading an article about the best cities for shopping in the world, I am thinking about this blog entry as a love letter to the traditional markets around Guadalajara. I want to show you what makes Guadalajara special and truly a world-class destination.
As Pablo Neruda once said, “Mexico is found in her markets”. There is no better place to start learning about the popular cultural of this beautiful country than in her traditional markets.
This is the big leagues. Mercado de Abastos is the regional wholesale market. There are about 3 or 4 blocks of retail stores but the vast majority of the market is dedicated to the wholesale trade. There are trucks coming in from the provinces 24 hours a day with produce that is straight off the farm. The quality of that produce is consistently superior to the produce you will find in the local supermarkets. In fact, a lot of the supermarkets buy their produce at Mercado de Abastos.
Inside the retail section of the market there is an exceptional food court. You will find some of the best examples of regional cuisine along with some international options. Many of the food stalls are family run businesses that have been in the market since it opened in the 1960’s. Mercado de Abastos is one of the best places to eat in Guadalajara because they have access to the best ingredients in town.
Mercado Libertad or Mercado San Juan de Dios
This is one of the largest indoor markets in the world and the market every guide book recommends visiting. Personally, I am partial to Mercado de Abastos because the food is better. Mercado San Juan de Dios has a produce section and food court but the largest section is dedicated to retail goods of all sorts. There is a fashion section, hardware section, pirated movies and tv shows. The area that I like the most is the leather goods section. There are still a lot of cowboys in Jalisco and the saddles, boots and belts are authentic and mostly handmade.
Mercado San Juan de Dios sits on the edge of downtown that starts to get rough. The guys selling phones in front of the market can be aggressive and I would recommend keeping your wallet in your front pocket. I have never had a problem here but I don’t want to push my luck.
Mercado de las Flores or Mercado Mezquitan
While you are able to buy a bunch of flowers at the stoplight on any number of main intersections, there is nothing like strolling the wholesale flower market. Not only are going to to save some money (usually 50% cheaper than a small neighborhood florist) but you get to see what is available in Guadalajara at any given time. The flower market is located across the street from a 19th century cemetery, the Panteón Mezquitán.
Mercado del Mar
There are a couple of seafood markets but the one that I like the most is in Zapopan on the northern part of the metro area. The traffic has been horrible for the last couple of years as they are building the third line of the light rail but that should be finishing soon.
Guadalajara is close enough to the coast that the seafood can be on your plate the same day it was caught. In some cases the cost of shrimp is lower than it is on the coast. A friend from Boca de Pascuales was blown away to see shrimp from Sinaloa cheaper in Guadalajara than what he pays at the beach in Colima. Make sure to ask around. Many of the best cuts may not be out in the open. As always, there are plenty of restaurants taking advantage of the supply of seafood and serving up regional fare.
Mercado Santa Tere or Mercado General Manuel Avila Camacho
The community market in Santa Teresita is one of the best examples of the neighborhood markets of Guadalajara. Lot long ago Santa Tere was considered a rough neighborhood. Today it is considered a pueblo (little city or village) within the greater region. It is an excellent neighborhood to walk with all sorts of small businesses. You will find some of the best examples of regional cuisine and many have been there for decades.
I don’t do a lot of shopping in the Santa Tere market but I do eat here regularly. When Guillermo del Toro is in town this is where he comes to eat. Fonda Mariquita and Fonda Amadita are both incredible options. The juices at Las Titas are famous. The matriarch of the Las Titas dynasty is a very well put together older lady who sips chardonnay while working the register, classic!
Mercado Alcalde is a downtown market that feels like it is a lot older than it is. The current building was built in the 1980’s but I saw a 19th century map that said this block was designated as a market going back at least a hundred years. Most of the customers are a little bit older because the neighborhood is a little bit older.
I started coming here a lot when I was working on visa stuff at the immigration office a couple blocks away. There is a birrieria run by a father and son duo that is worth the trip alone. And if you are going to get a birria you might as well get a cold pressed pineapple juice while you are at it. If you are in the neighborhood it is worth checking out.