Markets in Cartagena have been around for centuries and have come a long way since trading was done with beads and trinkets. To holidaymakers they're a fun morning out and offer the chance to snap up some bargains to take home. To many locals though, they're still the main source of their weekly fresh produce shopping. Yes, it's fun to watch the matriarch of the family haggling furiously with stall holders and berating them for poor quality goods. However, it's not just about fresh produce these days, as markets also offer all sorts of non consumable products.
Practically every town and city in Spain will have at least one central market (mercado central). These are usually open daily, some closing for siesta (2pm – 5pm) and others closed on Sunday. By and large these predominantly feature fresh produce and are held indoors to protect goods from the sun. Some are located in beautiful old buildings, others withing lively plazas where further stalls and cooked food wagons set up. What they all feature, is superb fresh produce.
Stalls groan under the weight of colourful fruit and vegetables. Often there is the choice of loose unwashed produce or washed and pre-packed goods. Buying loose fruit and vegetables is always cheaper. However, if you leave it up to the stall holder they will load a bag as full as possible. Try asking for a bag and choose your goods yourself, and always ask for a receipt. The variety of marinaded olives and other pickled vegetables is excellent. These guys though are renowned for tempting you with tasters then trying to offer you their largest container filled to the brim.
They will act extremely busy to make customers feel bad for haggling or asking for less items. Don't be conned, marinaded olives do not come cheap and you have the right to request as much or as little as you want. This is really the ‘rule of thumb' for any stall holder offering free tasters, as subconsciously this makes us feel obliged to buy. A cash saving tip with fresh produce is to browse all the stalls before deciding, as many sell the exact same produce just at different prices.
Central Market Products
Cartagena has a central market located on Calle Juan Fernandez and called Market St. Florentine. It is open daily from 8am – 3pm except for Sunday when it closes. Although rather small, the market has a picturesque setting and well stocked stalls. Much of Cartagena's regional produce is featured here and prices are generally good value. Aside from fruit and vegetables there are dried and tinned goods, butchery and delicatessen counters, and the fishmongers in particular receive rave reviews. For a great bargain to take home, try the superb varieties of extra virgin olive oil.
If you are a market ‘junkie' and willing to travel, you could practically visit a different weekly market each day. Weekly markets in general are open from 9am – 2pm but may differ slightly from one to the next. Some are street markets, some held in industrial parks and others located in the countryside. Nearly all will have fresh produce, delicatessen stalls and cooked food vans. Apart from this they usually offer new and used clothing, underwear, shoes, leather goods, table linen and embroidery, scarves and sarongs, fake designer wear, cosmetics, jewellery, trinkets, accessories, electronics, toys, gadgets, arts & crafts, DIY, homeware, gardening and flowers.
These are sometimes referred to as hippy or arts & crafts markets. Most start at sunset and go on till after midnight. They can range from a few ‘illegal' pavement pitches to rather more elaborate affairs. These are fun to browse while enjoying the cooler evening weather, and are sometimes accompanied by street performers, musicians and live bands. There will always be some sort of cooked food on the go, snacks, ice creams and beverages. They predominantly feature trinkets, hand crafted goods, art, hippy clothing and accessories, fake designer wear and clothing. Please beware, when night falls, crooks, scam artists, pickpockets and druggies tend to ply their trade.
Cartagena Market Itineraries
Daily Central Market – Market St. Florentine on Calle Juan Fernandez.
Monday – Barrio Peral district in Cartagena city.
Tuesday – Los Belones residential area in Mar Menor.
Wednesday – Calle Ribera de San Javier in Cartagena city centre.
Thursday – Cartagena's surrounding areas of La Palma, Los Dolores and La Aljorra.
Friday – Urbanisation Mediterráneo, Pozo Estrecho, Llano del Beal and El Algar.
Saturday – Playa Flamenca in the resort area of Orihuela Costa.
Sunday – San Cristóbal district in Cartagena and Las Dunas Shopping Centre in Cabo De Palos.
It's worth noting, some weekly markets are only open during the peak summer months. Others are open all year round. Markets may also close during Spanish holidays (Red Days). For further information on market locations and times, contact the local Tourist Information Bureau.