The colour and bustle of Mexico’s markets is hard to beat. Even if you’ve no intention of buying, half an hour is always well spent meandering through narrow aisles surrounded by heaps of perfectly ripe fruit and stacks of nopal cactus leaves (though stay away from the meat sections if you’re at all squeamish). In small villages, like those around Oaxaca, inhabitants still recognize one day of the week as the traditional market day.
Towns of any size will have a market, usually daily, an important centre of local life and source of cheap eats (San Cristóbal de las Casas and Papantla are good examples), while in the cities, each barrio has its own vibrant mercado: among the best are Mexico City’s La Merced and the arts and crafts-oriented Ciudadela. Markets in San Miguel Allende are also better known for arts and crafts, as are Oaxaca’s city mercados. Toluca is the mother of them all, Mexico’s largest market held every Friday.