Mercado Central is San José's oldest and largest market. It was established in 1880, and today occupies an entire block on Avenida Central, a popular walking street with an eclectic mix of shops and cafes. Mercado Central — Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonica
Hardly modernized since its inception, this indoor covered market is comprised of a complex of narrow alleys with more than 200 shops, stalls, sodas and inexpensive cafes. For both souvenir shoppers and window shoppers, Mercado Central offers the best selection of goods, as well as a traditional Costa Rican shopping experience, as many Ticos still buy their groceries here.
A wide range of meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, coffees and Costa Rican products are for sale, such as cowboy hats, snakeskin belts and Imperial emblazoned t-shirts. In addition, there are herbal remedies, flowers and huevos de tortuga, the banned turtle eggs that remain a commodity for some.
You may want to bring your camera to document your tour of Mercado Central, it's a welcome colorful assault on the senses that may or may not exist for much longer. Rumor has it that certain powers that be are threatening to tear down this shopping mecca in favor of a more modernized development.
Find Mercado Central in a one-story, brightly painted orange building 250 meters northwest of Parque Central, on Avenida Central in downtown San José.