A la orden sumercé. These words will no doubt bombard you when you visit any of the numerous plazas de mercado in Bogotá. A hub of gastronomical, social, commercial, political and cultural activity, these marketplaces provide everything from fruit and veg, meat and dairy to kitchen supplies, flowers or handicrafts – one even provides a space to take a break from the hustle and bustle with a good book. Mariana Rolón takes a look at some of the best Bogotá markets for getting immersed in Colombian culture.
Las Ferias: This plaza was officially built in 1964, although commercial activity has been taking place on the site for over 75 years. One of its founders, 87-year-old Inés de Cuncanchón has been working here for seven decades. Many of the traders come from different parts of the countryside around Bogotá, bringing fresh products to locals every day. People at Las Ferias are so committed to the environment that nowadays this plaza generates fertiliser through organic waste for the production of food, soil recovery and organic agriculture.
Calle 74b #69q-35
Siete de Agosto: Nothing feels better than being sure you’re buying 100% natural, which is what consumers can be sure of when going to one of the most crowded plazas in Bogotá. Siete de Agosto is famous for its farming, livestock and craftwork products. This market also goes green, producing fertiliser to increase the production of gardens in urban areas and donates cardboard, plastic, paper and pieces of glass to organisations of recyclers.
Calle 66 #23-30
Corabastos: Also known as the paradise of food, this is the biggest market in Bogotá. Just to give you an idea of its scale, this market moves 12,400 tons of food and mobilises 200,000 people per day (this includes buyers, sellers and transporters over a period of 24 hours). As you can imagine, it provides a huge variety of food, so if you are having trouble finding some specific ingredient for a dish, go to Corabastos, and if it is not there, it simply does not exist.
Carrera 80 #2-51
Paloquemao: This is the second biggest plaza after Corabastos, and going there means going to a universe full of nature’s rarities. Here you will find some of the most exotic fruits you can possibly find in Colombia, such as níspero, mangostino, agrás, borojó, arazá and plenty others; fruits that come from all regions of the country, from Antioquia to the Amazon. For a traditional taste of local cuisine, make a stop at one of the stands selling typical food from around the country and try the arepas, envueltos or tamales. You can also pick up flowers, kitchen supplies, glassware and more.
Calle 19 #25-04
La Perseverancia: After spending the morning tasting delicious food, buying some handicrafts and exploring the plentiful food and flowers, you may want to sit and read a good book in the second oldest plaza in the city, which offers a spot to read one of over 300 books from around the world (or take your own). Aside from that, one of the aims of La Perseverancia is to recover traditional Colombian dishes and customs, including cascanueces soup, a soup made up of vegetables and pieces of fried plantain and rompecolchón soup, made up of fish and coconut milk.
Carrera 5 #30a-30
Usaquén: Usaquén’s Sunday mercado de las pulgas has been around for more than 20 years and is a recognised symbol of the city as it promotes art, music and Colombian cultural diversity. Perhaps pricier than other markets in the city, you can be sure to find a whole variety of quality Colombian handicrafts, ranging from the more traditional to modern products.
Carrera 5 #120a-07 (although there are now a number of markets spread around the whole neighbourhood)
San Alejo: This is the perfect place to find ostensibly useless but fascinating objects from times gone by. Here you can find vintage cameras, swords, medals, old music, collector’s movies and magazines, books, documentaries, and more. San Alejo also puts on exhibitions by artists, artisans, collectors and curators.
Calle 24 con carrera Septima
By Mariana Rolón