You know what those white tents mean.
Market season. Whether you call it a bazaar, a flea, a carnival – it’s time for delicious food and drink, handmade goods of every sort, local art, games, music and much more.
In Medellin, the City of Eternal Spring, local markets sprout up every day in the perfect weather. This makes walking around your favorite neighborhood into a fun, stumble-upon game. And these opportunities pop up more than you might think. Curiosities, attractions, collections – all are a part of the Medellin market scene.
Here’s a quick guide to the most popular bazaars in Medellin, including where to find them and what you can expect to discover.
#1 El Pulguero – Llanogrande
El Pulguero happens four times a year on the third weekend of March, June, September and December. It’s certainly the biggest of the markets and by far the local’s favorite. Held outside of Medellin in the lush and relaxing Llanogrande area, this is an opportunity for many Paisas and expats to get out of the city for a three-day weekend extravaganza.
Held at the Plaza Cantarrana park, many families and groups choose to camp out for the duration. To get here, simply take Via La Ceha San Antonio for 5 kilometers and you’ll find the massive green on your right.
The trip is worth it. Upon arrival, the park splays out in front of you; row upon row of stalls with the best of local vendors and their wares. Ribbons and banners in a myriad of colors flap and sway in the light breeze, waving visitors down the cheery aisles. An open garden occupies the center, prepped for the nonstop musical and entertainment showcases that await.
Soothing solo violinists, guitar players, classic Colombian bands, DJs and salsa trios fill out the agenda each and every day. Later, there’ll be picnicking around the stage. Once the strings of party lights go on overhead, it’s a whole new environment.
When you first arrive, stroll around and shop a bit. This year, Prince (may he rest in peace) was a celebrated figure in the local artists’ stalls, represented in still life through vivid purple and fuschia oils, pale-fade watercolors and wood-hewn busts.
You’ll find both domestic-made finery and imported textiles from India, Chile and Argentina in the clothing stalls. Gorgeous woven tapestries of silk, lacy shawls adorned with shells and beads as well as trippy sundresses full of cosmic swirls vie for your attention and pesos.
Local jewelers are out in force. Beaded bracelets of every color and pattern are on display as are forged copper, silver and other wrought earrings and necklaces. Streetwear, footwear and leather designers of every flavor fill out the tents. If you’re looking for something less than contemporary, browse the antiques vendors.
The Paisa carriel, that classic accordion-esque carryall, can be found in multiple styles. From simple, quality leathers, to ornate fur and gilded patterns, these mini satchels make a statement: Colombian and proud of it.
A word to the wise: The event attracts the best of the best, so don’t go easy at the ATM if you’re planning on spending money.
Waffles with cacao syrup, strawberries, caramelized bananas and powdered sugar are the favored walk-and-talk dessert or snack. A soft serve ice cream stand supplies eager mouths with vanilla and chocolate swirls of creamy splendor. Or partake of peanut butter and almond blueberry gelato.
If you’re not much of a dessert-first person, head over to the line of food trucks for ceviche, a chicharron and avocado brioche sandwich with caramelized onions or sample the delicious empanadas con aji.
Or observe the Italian tapas cooking demonstration … with samples (yummy).
The younger crowd is sure to enjoy the troupes of face-painted animal-actors, performers and unicycle entertainers, jugglers and tricksters that make their rounds.
There’s also a petting zoo. Plus, the event is pet-friendly. There’s a dog training competition; how well behaved is your pup? Find out!
Be sure to bring a blanket to stretch out on and relax. If you’re planning on returning the same day, and you don’t have a car, perhaps arrange for a cab or Uber driver to wait for you to drive you back into the city later that night. Otherwise, getting a ride back could prove troublesome.
#2 Vía Primavera – Lleras
Held on Primavera Street in Poblado, this is hyper-hip outdoor bazaar that takes over the avenue running between several of the best cafes and restaurants. It stretches around the corner and down the street into the street bordering the Charlee Hotel and Parque Lleras.
Touted as an “Art, Design, and Gastronomy Celebration,” this Sunday-long event never seems long enough. Perhaps because the scheduling is sporadic. But the “unknown” factor is perhaps what makes this such an enjoyable time.
You’ll hear Vía Primavera before you see it. This year, there a pair of violinists played popular and classical favorites in the center of the block. With the music, the tree-shaded expanse of the streets and the mild hum of contented voices punctuated with the chirps of laughter, it was certainly an afternoon well spent.
Sit outside at the perennial favorite cafes, Pergamino and the adjacent Velvet, to engage in serious people watching. Velvet offers European wines, Belgian chocolates, sandwiches and salads for those wanting a nice sit-down meal. Opt for brunch at Pergamino with their newly-introduced breakfast menu.
The Mediterranean food truck is another foodie favorite. Whether you go for the roasted chicken schwarma wraps, the lentil curry plate with garlic cous cous or the falafel and hummus tray with sautéed vegetables, just have a seat on the upcycle pallet furniture nearby to enjoy your meal.
All the seating, trucks and stalls are set on a rolling “lawn” of faux grass, stretching across the asphalt in the street. It feels like you’re strolling down the greatest mini-golf course ever conceived.
Crowds mill up and down the sidewalks to the music, perusing local designers and artisan crafters. One of the standout accounts is Colombian shoe collaborative, SYOU. Featuring exceedingly creative prints (coffee leaves and berries, anyone?) and hand-carved soles, these shoes are the pride of the Medellin trendsetter.
For the fashionable man, Mon & Velarde offers up “cut and sew” dress casual wear, sunglasses, accessories and leather shoes dyed in various ways. They also offer an array of felt hats to protect you from the sun.
At the end of the day, whether you’re out for artisanal interior decor, handmade soap, locally-sourced rose lotion or just a fun way to pass a Sunday afternoon, don’t skip Vía Primavera.
#3 San Fernando Plaza – Poblado
Located just off of Avenida Poblado, this mid-size flea market is another regular, albeit intermittent, fixture in the calendar of Medellin residents. Those that stroll the Sunday Ciclovia on Sundays between Envigado and Poblado enjoy a prime opportunity to stop off and sample the goods this local showcase has to offer.
Refreshing drinks, fresh-baked cookies, fried plantains and other confections are available in abundance.
Relax and enjoy a back massage under the misters. Or recline for a pedicure and foot massage, if you prefer. This market certainly caters to physical comforts; lotions, creams, salves and herbal tonics are aplenty.
There’s also organic sunscreen for sale. Who knew?
Plenty of New Age retailers are present as well. If you want tarot cards, a palm reading, crystals (raw or refined) and minerals – this is your stop.
You’ll also find a dizzying array of charms, bracelets, necklaces and earrings of all varieties. From handwoven to gemstone, metals to beads, there’s lots here for the ladies wanting to accessorize.
#4 Envigado Flea Market – Parque Principal Envigado
Set up in the beautiful Parque Principal in Envigado, this monthly flea market is the most distinct and authentically Colombian of them all. Everything from the Paisa carriel, the traditional paisa hat – a sombrero vueltiao – to woven shawls, serapes, ponchos and handmade hammocks are on display.
Many handmade leather goods such as woven belts, bracelets, hats and wallets can be purchased, ranging from the very simple to the ornate and pricey. If you’d prefer something more solid, wood craftsmen are actively carving, dyeing and finishing pieces at a stall in the plaza center.
They’re designing chess boards, yo yos, spinning tops, salt and pepper shakers, bowls – you name it and they can make it – that get dyed a mild indigo purple or mahogany brown with natural wood dyes. The workflow is an entrancing experience in and of itself.
When you get thirsty, try the sugar cane drink known as guarano, freshly-ground and processed in front of your very eyes. Maybe share an aguardiente with the locals and a few friends if you’re feeling the need for a bit of an herbaceous, botanical tonic.
Vendors are also selling slabs of cut pineapple, wrapped and ready eat, as well as cups of mango cut long and seasoned with lime. If something more substantial is an order, a bowl of Colombian chicken soup, sancocho or a plate of bandeja paisa will surely put your stomach at ease.
Dip into the real Colombia and stop in for this authentic local experience.
These are the four best outdoor markets Medellin has to offer. Right now, that is. This city certainly loves throwing a party, so it’s reasonable to expect more to pop up across the city. There’s always a fresh and rotating stock of goods, services, food, drinks and entertainment to experience. Those who live here know not to miss out.
If you can’t get your fill with these four markets, be sure to stop down to Parque Poblado and Ciudad del Rio sometime soon. These areas also host flea markets, food trucks and local fun. But that’s enough for now. Have a visit and let us know what you think in the comments section below! Cíao!