How to visit La Merced Market (and survive)

The La Merced market in Mexico City is located a few blocks east of the Zócalo. Commercial activity has existed in the market area since colonial times, but activity has declined since 1980. That’s when the wholesale market portion was moved to a new market (the Central de Abasto) outside the city centre. This helped ease congestion in the Centro Historico, but La Merced remains the busiest retail market in Mexico City. We’ll show you how to visit La Merced (and survive the crowds).

Crowds at La Merced market in Mexico City

Crowds at La Merced market in Mexico City

We arrived at La Merced by subway (station La Merced), which was an interesting experience. The market has completely consumed the subway station, and when you exit the station, you immediately–and without warning–join the sea of people in the busiest portion of the market (shown in the photo above).

Crowded market stalls

The market consists of crowded market stalls covering several city blocks, and no space is wasted. The buildings have grown into each other, and stalls extend vertically well above your head. Paths twist, turn and wind making it impossible to get your bearings.

Endless dried chilis at La Merced market

Endless dried chilis at La Merced market

To survive La Merced, you need to embrace the chaos, and go with the flow. Enjoy the cacophony of sights and sounds.

As you wander, you’ll discover the different sections of the market. The busiest, by far, is the clothing section surrounding the subway station. Other areas include fresh produce, fresh meats, housewares and kitchen supplies, even an area devoted to artificial flowers and decorations.

Food stalls can be found at various places, so when something smells good, stop for a bite to eat. We stopped and enjoyed some delicious tacos birria (stewed goat or lamb).

Freshly-prepared tacos birria at La Merced market

Freshly-prepared tacos birria at La Merced market

When you feel like you’ve explored La Merced to your heart’s content, I suggest leaving by foot. I doubt you’ll be able to make your way back to the subway stop within. Make your way to the Zócalo and take the metro from there.

Organized stacks of meat at La Merced

Organized stacks of meat at La Merced

Fresh fish at La Merced market in Mexico City

Fresh fish at La Merced market in Mexico City

Pig heads and other meats at La Merced

Pig heads and other meats at La Merced

Preparing nopales (cactus pads) and banana leaves at La Merced

Preparing nopales (cactus pads) and banana leaves at La Merced

A friendly butcher at La Merced market

A friendly butcher at La Merced market

The meat market at La Merced

The meat market at La Merced

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