The markets in Santiago, Chile are part of the vibrant culture of the city. For centuries, the city’s locals have shopped and dined in the warehouse-sized mercados. Shopping at Santiago, Chile markets allows a glimpse at the city’s traditions and regional fare. Visitors seeking local experiences – and some of the best food in Santiago, Chile – will want to make sure our four recommended mercados en Santiago are on their sightseeing list!
Markets in Santiago, Chile
Shopping, dining and entertainment? You can find it all at the best markets in Santiago, Chile!
#1 Mercado Central Santiago, Chile
The Mercado Central de Santiago is the most famous market in the city. The market building was constructed in 1872, using cast-iron and features a vaulted ceiling. Although the vendors sell a variety of produce – and even tourist trinkets – the Mercado Central Santiago de Chile is best known for its fresh seafood.
Fish Market Santiago, Chile
Before we entered the Central Market, we could smell the fish. Once inside, we knew why. Whole, fresh fish is appealingly displayed on ice by numerous vendors around the perimeter of the market. As we fought our way through the market at lunchtime, we passed one stall after another overflowing with seafood delicacies.
Restaurantes Mercado Central
As we moved into the center of Santiago Mercado Central, we caught a different scent: cooked, baked and fried seafood perfection. There are at least 10 seafood restaurants in the center of the busy market – and hungry tourists cram into the small space to feast. Under the glow of red neon lights, platters of razor clams, steaming pots of fish stew and fresh-made ceviche are delivered to tables.
Meanwhile, outside the market, small restaurants cater to a more local crowd. Plates of fried fish and other seafood is served at plastic tables…for much less than what they charge at the restaurants inside the market.
#2 Mercado de Abastos Tirso de Molina
Located north of the Mercado Central, across the Mapocho River, is one of the more typical markets in Chile: Mercado de Abastos Tirso de Molina. On the ground floor, there are gorgeous displays of brightly colored fruits and vegetables. During our visit, a band played Latin rhythms in the center of the market while patrons moved from vendor-to-vendor buying their groceries.
The food court on the second level of the Abastos Tirso de Molina Market, however, is the real reason to seek out this market. Guests can dine on Chilean and other South American fare that is prepared in the small food stalls.
The space is lively during lunch when cooks are busy in the kitchen and hostesses are courting hungry guests. While determining where we wanted to eat, we had numerous menus shoved in our hands and chairs pulled out for us to take a seat. All the food smelled delicious, so we recommend going with the flow and choosing the one that looks the best to you!
#3 La Vega Chica Mercado Santiago
The La Vega Chica Market is, perhaps, the city’s most dynamic market – and it quickly became our favorite. Incredibly crowded and aromatic, Mercado La Vega Chica is a maze of narrow aisles and makeshift restaurants. Although we are typically fascinated by heaping piles of produce and other wares for sale, we bee-lined it to the middle of the massive warehouse toward the in-house restaurants.
Tight on space, each restaurant seemed to fit in a dozen tables where there should have only been four. We squeezed our way through the eateries, catching the scent of simmering meat and fresh fish being prepared, until we found open seats.
Not even given a menu, our waitress simply asked what we wanted and gestured to the food pictures hanging on the wall. Eager to try seafood, I requested a dish of caliente mariscos (hot shellfish). I was uncertain, however, which meal exactly I ordered – and I waited in anticipation for it to be prepared.
What I got was an overflowing, flaming bowl of shrimp, shells, clams, crab – and one long, bone-in fish – in a steaming broth. The soup was incredibly delicious – and affordable, too!
#4 La Vega Central Market Santiago
A Santiago market tour wouldn’t be complete without visiting the largest food market in the city, La Vega Central. The market is more than 100 years old – and is often called by its nickname Feria Mapocho. More than 500 vendors sell goods in the 60,000-square-foot market.
As we approached the chaotic Mercado La Vega Central, we passed wooden carts of broccoli and cauliflower (neither of which I had seen in any modern Chile grocery store) and a small truck filled with hanging pigs.
Inside the market actually proved to be a little less on the sensory overload than the previous three, which was a bit surprising, but perhaps it was because we visited later in the afternoon. We still took our time perusing the market, enthralled with the products being offered, row after row, stall after stall. Exploring the markets is an excellent way to experience the culture in Santiago, Chile!
We want to know: Have you visited markets in Santiago, Chile? Which Santiago mercado was your favorite…and why? Tell us in the comments!
Looking for more Santiago things to do? Check out our list of the Top 10 Things To Do in Santiago, Chile – coming soon!
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