Cancun, Mexico is a popular Mexican destination for beach-goers, spring breakers, and everyone in between. From beautiful beaches to luxury resorts, Cancun has something for everyone. However, not many tourists take the time to experience the real Cancun, and on our most recent trip – we decided to do just that!
After reading about Mercado 23 on the web, we knew we had to make a stop on our next trip to Cancun. Upon arrival at Cancun International Airport, we took the ADO Bus downtown to Cancun Centro Bus Station, and from there we made our way on foot with our luggage in hand to the Market.
Mercado 23 is a reality check from the countless tourist destinations and attractions of Cancun, and it’s unmistakably authentic in every way. This is the first public market in Cancun, and upon arrival you will find yourself far removed from the big-box All-Inclusives of Cancun’s “Hotel Zone” and surrounded by the sights and smells of this vibrantly colored local market frequented by locals. Afterall, it’s hard to believe you are still in Cancun proper. This open-air market is where the locals go, and many of them reside in the neighborhood surrounding Mercado 23.
This is the place to find authentic Mexican cuisine, Mayan carvings, butchers, spices, fruits, vegetables, home goods, school supplies, pottery, religious artifacts, fresh flowers, and handmade apparel. You will also find a barbershop and a small area that offers auto repair. On this visit, we perused the market stalls in search of a few hand crafted souvenirs, and Janine came across a beautiful cross-body bag that she had to have (and carried for the remainder of our trip).
This is an authentic local market, and it is full of culture. Here you will not be bothered by overly pushy vendors trying to sell you tacky overpriced trinkets. At Mercado 23, you are able to leisurely shop and bargain with the locals for authentic goods. On this Saturday, even though we were two of the only Americans at the Market we never felt unsafe. We did meet one fellow tourist who was visiting from Australia, and he was enjoying lunch at a café that caught our eye.
Here we decided to have an authentic Mexican lunch prepared by one of the local vendors. This was a real treat for major foodies like us! We enjoyed the delicious local cuisine and some lovely local entertainment (and of course people watching).
Mercado 23 allowed us to see what everyday life is like in Cancun. We truly enjoyed interacting with the locals, vendors, and customers throughout the Market. This (and the food) was the highlight of our visit to Mercado 23. If you are looking for generous and friendly people, fantastically authentic Mexican food, and ridiculously inexpensive shopping with no pressure from the merchants, this is where you will find it.
However, if you are looking for a more tourist-like experience where everyone speaks English, Mercado 28 is the alternative where you will find many of the more mainstream knick-knacks and souvenirs.
- Cash is the preferred (and in some instances the only) method of payment. The American dollar is accepted, however we found pesos offered the best deal.
- The market is open seven days a week from the hours of 7:00 a.m. until dusk.
- We visited the market around 11:00 a.m. (local time), and we found the food to be fresh and the market not to be as busy as it had become by the time we left.
- Allow yourself at least two hours to explore the market and enjoy a quick bite.
- Many of the vendors speak only Spanish, so we recommend you take some time to brush up on your español before making the trip.
- While Mercado 23 is perfectly safe during daylight, many locals do not recommend spending time at the Market at night and we never have.
Have you been to or are you planning to visit Mercado 23 or another local market on your first or next visit to Cancun? If so, we’d love to hear about your experiences and plans!