Bountiful produce stalls, local-approved cafeterias, and vendor stalls selling everything from coffee beans to cowboy boots give visitors to San Jose’s Central Market (Mercado Central) a taste of real Costa Rican culture. Visit as part of an epic errand run or for a chance to look behind-the-scenes at everyday life in Costa Rica.
Whether you’re looking for free entertainment or you just forgot to pack your floss, most San Jose visitors will find themselves in the Central Market at some point during their stay in Costa Rica’s capital city. As the largest market in the city, the Central Market usually offers the lowest prices around town on every good imaginable, but with the highest hustle and bustle. Be prepared for sensory overload, and take your time browsing the maze of more than 200 stalls and eateries.
To learn about the many goods on offer, including products unique to Costa Rica, visit the market as part of a guided tour. San Jose walking tours and sightseeing tours sometimes include the market for a look at local culture, while niche local experiences such as food tours and art tours will help you explore the market from a distinct lens.
Things to Know Before You Go
Vendors are typically open to bargaining.
Ask permission before taking photos.
Avoid overwhelm by taking your time or visiting with a tour.
The Central Market is suitable for visitors of all ages.
The market is close to other attractions such as Mercado Borbón.
How to Get There
The San Jose Central Market is located in downtown San Jose just four blocks northwest of Central Park and bordered by Avenida Central and 1 and Calles 6 and 8. The market is most easily accessed in one of San Jose’s many taxis, and a handful of bus stops, including Leon XIII and Quesada Duran, are also within walking distance.
When to Get There
The Central Market is roughly open from sunup to sundown. Plan your visit for early in the day to avoid large crowds and fill up on a hearty breakfast with a sweet cup of coffee, or head over around midday for the full effect and plentiful lunch options. The market is closed on Sundays.
Though it may seem like a chaotic flea market, the Central Market unassumingly combines history and modern commerce, having served as a marketplace since 1880, though it was probably quieter back in the day.