South America’s Top Traditional Markets

I love to travel, I love to experience the local culture, and I love to eat (though sometimes not necessarily in that order!). As such, visiting the local market of wherever new place I am in is always a priority. In addition, a part of sustainable travel is making sure the money spent goes back to the community, and there’s no better way to do your part in this than by supporting the corner vender or stall señora. Depending on the country, each market is always going to be a little different with its own sense of character and definitely unique offerings. Below, I’ll share my favorite markets in 3 of South America’s most popular countries.

MarketSurquillo Market – Lima, Peru: For a city of its size and population of over 8 million people, there are surprisingly few large-scale traditional markets in Lima. However, a gem in the sprawling metropolis is the Surquillo Market that borders the district of the same name and the affluent Miraflores neighborhood. This market has always been a favorite of mine because it carries an impressive variety of not only Peruvian ingredients, but also Asian and particularly Chinese items, and is less chaotic than the Central Market in Lima’s crowded downtown. On one corner you will find aji peppers commonly used in many national dishes, but on the other, you can find seaweed wrappers for sushi! From tropical Amazonian fruits to selections of some of Peru’s almost 4,000 types of potatoes, this is the place to go prepare for a picnic.

Feria de Mataderos – Buenos Aires, Argentina: There are a few markets in the center of Buenos Aires often visited by travelers, but the real deal is at the Feria de Mataderos on the outskirts of the city where you can really feel what it’s like to be Argentine. It takes place every week of the year except in January to March, and in addition to its incredible selection of everything from jewelry to live cattle to olives, this market is a social gathering place for the city’s most colorful residents. City and country meet here with no discrimination with regards to both the food and the people. Even better, there are frequent lively music and dance performances that showcase just how diverse Argentina’s cultural landscape really is. At this market, grocery shopping isn’t a chore, it’s a party!

GuavaIpanema Farmers’ Market – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: The farmers’ market in Ipanema held on various days throughout the week is a much more sanitized and structured destination than the markets in Lima and Buenos Aires, but it nonetheless has a sense of local spirit emanating from it. Here, you can find many foods rare in other parts of South America such as the famous Brazilian coconuts perfect for a session of fresh rehydration in the afternoon, and countless exotic fruits from the country’s blessed rainforest regions. Perhaps best of all, the market of Ipanema is just blocks from the sunny paradise beaches of Rio de Janeiro. In short, this place is convenient, cheap, and 100% Brazilian.

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