Now let’s talk about the traditional shopping markets of Managua. This is real urban adventure travel, bar none!
First off, I want to acknowledge a great Spanish resource for this information, a local tour company that specializes in urban adventures! Managua CityTours is your place if you want to check out these spots in safety. See more at: http://www.citytoursmanagua.com/mercados.htm
The mercados are spread around the city, and all of them have bus service including out to the departments. While we won’t cover every market area, let’s start with the biggest ones, starting from the east side of town and working our way west.
Near to the Augusto Cesar Sandino International airport (MGA) is the Mercado Mayoreo. This is the main wholesale (mayoreo) market in the country for fresh fruits and vegetables. There are also what I would call old fashion grocery stores too that have canned goods, all the basic grains, dry goods, personal care items, etc.
Miranda and I go there to buy our weekly fruit and veg, and on rarer occasions, we go there loaded with fruit from the farm that we sell or trade. It is really nice for us to do this, as we feel like we are getting things for free! Livin’ off the land baby!
Not too far from the Mayoreo is the mercado Ivan Montenegro. This has the usual mix of items and services. Everything from grocery and vegetable/fruit items to barbers and shoe repair jobs can be handled here. Seems a bit tiny in comparison to the larger markets.
A fun and relatively safe market to go to is Mercado Huembes. Huembes is more centrally located then either Mayoreo or Ivan Montenegro and is not a bad alternative to going to the Masaya artisan’s market if you have in mind to buy some souvenirs to take home but don’t have the time or the transportation to get you out to Masaya.
Now the biggest, baddest market in all of Nicaragua and in all of Central America is the Mercado Oriental. This place is huge, something like 52 hectares in size. If you cannot find what you are looking for here, then it probably cannot be found in Nicaragua! However, one must use caution as it is not very safe; it is not a place to go on your own as a tourist without some serious backup and local guides. Lots of Nicaraguans will tell you they would never go there because it is too dangerous.
Getting to the street or area where the product you are looking for can be complicated, but it can be a good experience. Just take precautions; get in and get out, and don’t wander about. It is a location to get to know many of the country’s virtues in one place. Colorful and idiosyncratic, the background of reggaeton music, the heat, the piropos, the vendors offering their products, the trash, the organization in the middle of chaos, the vendor’s running commentaries, etc. this brings us an idea about the vital social-economic life that pulses in Nicaragua.
Also, eating a plate of boho there is a tasty lunch treat that is not to be missed!
Finally, the market on the west side of town, on your way out to Leon, is the Mercado Israel Lewites. This is a busy market, and has the transportation to Leon, Chinandega and beyond pretty well covered.
Okay, I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about the commercial markets in Managua!