San Jose, Costa Rica’s Mercado Central, or Central Flea Market

Central Market (Mercado Central)  Flea and Street market. Bordered by Avdas. Central and 1 and Cs. 6 and 8 Barrió La Merced San José, Costa Rica San Jose,

Costa Rica’s Mercado Central, or Central Market, is the largest marketplace in San Jose.

The Central Market is more than a common sale place. It is a congregation place, which city life passes day by day. It is a maze of shops and eateries and not for the claustrophobic.

Here one literally rubs elbows with locals. Everyone has a smile and there is no carnie hacking. Every time I’m in San Jose, I look forward of going here, it is usually the day before I leave because I get  gifts and stock up on about twenty kilos of fresh ground coffee from various regions.

If you had to see one item in San Jose, Costa Rica, no doubt the Mercado Central would be it. Located almost in the heart of downtown pedestrian only street, Av Central and 6th street it is one of the best displays of Costa Rica culture and society.

While souvenirs and local handcrafts can be found here, the downtown market is mainly stocked for San Jose locals, and is a great destination for sampling some authentic urban culture in Costa Rica. Shop for some sweets, enjoy an empanada, watch your coffee being freshly ground by local growers, and buy a Costa Rica-themed beach towel for that trip home. It has it all.

Founded in 1882, the Central Market is on one square block and has several doors that flow out into the surrounding main streets and avenues that are the environment of the capital city. So if you do not have a GPS or first-timer, it makes it easier to lose your sense of direction and one can literary get lost in this claustrophobic maze.

One of the things it is most famous for is its, food courts, where fast food is served cheap and in various delicacies, like legendary Lolo Mora´s ice cream, tamales and chocolate from Soda Tapia. Both restaurants have more than 50 years serving great Costa Rica food.

Just about all the eateries serve in “cosmopolitan tradition” without losing the native taste of seasoning. Costa Rican style of “casado” (national plate with rice, beans, salad, meat, chicken or fish, cheese and tortillas) and/or just the simple “gallo pinto” (rice with beans) with a good glass of “agua dulce” (water with special national sugar candy) or Imperial beer are common to see on tables.

The Central Market is warm and everyone feels submerged in the tenderness of daily life. Before walking in, you can smell the aroma of the delicious tortillas, made by charming girls, with a bit of fresh cheese to give them the definite flavor of an exquisite delicacy, only seen in Costa Rica. For those who like and love tidbits there is guava marmalade, figs in syrup mangoes, special desserts: rice and milk, sugary bananas and the delicious fried plantains which have been a part of the traditional food for almost a century in the whole country.

The market has its own life and opens from dawn till sunset 24/7 –  and attracts more than fifty – 75 thousand people daily, all of them looking for things to buy, window shopping or just visiting to greet friends. It is Costa Rica’s #1 social gathering place.

Tico Times note: Because of the tight quarters, it is also know as a haven for pickpocketers who target foreigners.

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  1. Roy García Granados says:

    It's the most typical and traditional market: it get on own municipal security, but is'nt enough; pay atention to your stuff if you don't want to loose it by a speedy hand. Watch the people near to you to check that you are not folling by a thift.

  2. Manuel Villegas says:

    Un video del Mercado Central de San Jose (COSTA RICA) y de fondo musical “Morena De Mi Corazon” (la cancion del mariachi)

    Tiene que ver algo esta cancion con Costa Rica?

    • admin says:

      La primera vez que fui al Mercado Central, esta canción se está reproduciendo … cada vez que escucho esta canción, pienso en el mercado


  1. […] Café Brit. I need to get through the day with a limited budget. I spent my weekend at the Central Market to try my luck on bargains. I also want to feel the vibe of San […]

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