Located in the center of downtown San Jose, Mercado Central is the largest market in the city. It was founded back in 1880 and contains over 250 stores catering to all manner of shoppers from locals to tourists.
Of particular joy to me, is that the local component of the market is its strongest, as it is definitely more of a local destination than a market that has given into tourists (like some have in London).
In this brief blog post, I’m going to share pictures of the market and several of its highlight for non-locals like myself to go and support some of the vendors and enjoy what the market has to offer.
Mercado Central – San Jose, Costa Rica
Upon entering the market, one is greeted by small passageways that draw you in to see what lays beyond. At first, it may seem to just be touristic items (although to be fair, some of these did seem more artisanal) and iPhone charger cables, but this drops off very quickly to what you’d hope and expect from an active and lively market in Central America.
With all the small passageways, it can be easy to get a little turned around. The market occupies a full city block, so although not small it’s not overly large, and hard to get truly lost in. So enjoy exploring.
Food: Fruits, Spices, Meats & More…
I’ve been to markets all over the world, and it’s always a pleasure to see things I’ve never seen. I saw fruits, roots, and other items I’m not even sure what they were!
And others I have too, like butchers and fishmongers.
Some Market Highlights I Personally Enjoyed
During my time in San Jose, I took a custom walking tour with Nury a local guide. At the end of my tour with her, we stopped at the market for lunch. Below are some of the highlights from that visit that I got to enjoy.
Cafe Central – Local Costa Rican Coffee
Having been to several Central American countries, I always try to pick up some locally sourced and roasted beans.
Nury, my tour guides highly recommended Cafe Central as the best place to get coffee in San Jose.
Soda Tala – Great Local Lunch Spot
The term “Sada” refers to a cheaper local restaurant. But don’t let the low prices fool you, the food was honest, wholesome and very flavourful. Not to mention giving a taste of more local dishes.
Costa Rica, in general, has surprised me with respect to the higher cost of food at restaurants and supermarkets than I’ve come to expect/enjoy in other Central and South American countries. This Soda Tala restaurant in the market was the one exception to this. The four main courses, with drinks, cost under $10 including a tip!
Helados de Sorbetera – Ice Cream Since 1901
Founded in 1901, this is a must-stop before you leave the market for the day. The ice cream is only offered in one flavor. It is a unique sweet, savory, and slightly spiced with cloves amongst others. Well worth a taste.
Final Thoughts On Mercado Central, San Jose
Overall I was very impressed with Mercado Central and would encourage anyone who is visiting San Jose to go and enjoy all that the market has to offer.