Ok – I didn’t say that these things were totally free, just that they are easy on the pocket, and if you go to the street markets there is no onus whatsoever on you to buy for goodness sake! Mind you, if you do, it’s going to dent the budget far less than the posh shops in Costa Adeje or Santa Cruz :=) I am addicted to markets, even though, in general I don’t like crowds strangely enough, and pushing my way through heavily perspiring people who seem to have no concept of “personal space” gives me the creeps. Somehow or other, maybe because it is so big and sprawling, the Sunday Rastro in Santa Cruz always seems to stop well short of feeding my phobias.
It meanders around the streets leading to the permanent agricultural market of Nuestra Señora de Africa, and it really is the sort of day out where you can wander around the stalls, looking at things and not buy, and still not get bored. This comes from me – who hates window shopping! You are also far more likely to find local crafts, original items from different countries and antiques than in any of the other markets.
The long car park which runs alongside the docks, is virtually empty if you get there early enough on a Sunday morning, and I’m not talking crack of dawn here, just 9 or 10 am. Make sure there’s nothing else taking place that Sunday, though, like Carnaval or the Santa Cruz Half Marathon, because then you will have a problem parking . There are excellent bus services, run by the local bus company, TITSA, from the south of the island and from Puerto de la Cruz, which will deposit you at the bus station five or ten minutes walk from the outer limits of the market. The buses are comfortable and air-conditioned, and rarely full and they run Sunday services – so check the times before you set off.
The only problem in taking the bus is having to carry around your purchases, of course……remember there is the produce market too, and whilst I am happy to cart around the couple of books, a picture, a couple of pareos, and a pair of earrings, which might represent a typical morning’s haul for me, I can’t count the number of times I’ve cursed at not having the car handy when I’ve spotted lush papaya, juicy mangos or scarlet tomatoes with that just-plucked smell, and then had second thoughts about carrying them around with me for the rest of the morning.
The agricultural market in its present form was opened in 1943, and as well as fruit and vegetables you can buy fresh meat and fish, flowers, bread, spices and herbs as well as one or two other speciality things. Surrounding the building itself you will find permanent stalls on some of the streets, selling pots and pans, cheap clothes and leather goods, but it is on Sunday that the atmosphere really comes to life, when stalls sprawl along street after street, down to the limits where people have simply spread out their merchandise on a blanket. Bargains to be found include second hand books in several languages (a real find if Spanish is not your first language), sweet-smelling candles and incense, seriously cheap cotton goods and other clothing, jewellery you won’t find anywhere else, as it is handmade by the stallholders, often in silver, and, increasingly, bric a brac of the type you find in antique markets.
When you need to rest the plates of meat, or the sun gets a bit too much you can sit in the pleasant courtyard of the permanent market, or one of the little bars close by. What you won’t find is somewhere to grab a quick drink when you are on the outer reaches of the market. Santa Cruz is notorious for trying to attract business from cruise lines, but not providing the masses streaming off those ships with much to do on a Sunday. Away from Plaza de España many shops and bars have their doors closed. I have gone with elderly people for whom it’s just too much to take in the entire market.
Serrano hams hanging in one of the bars by the market at Christmas
Presuming you don’t give up, the perfect place to lunch afterwards and gloat over your purchases is one of the lovely restaurant/bars in Calle Noria, but be warned – if you arrive before 1pm you won’t find anything there either. Viable alternatives are scooting up to San Andres for fish, or down to Radazul to eat harborside.
Outside of Santa Cruz the south of the island has a market chain which offers the al fresco shopping experience Alcalá on Mondays, Playa San Juan on Wednesdays, Los Abrigos on Tuesdays, Los Cristianos on Sundays and Torviscas (really a part of Playa de las Americas) on Thursdays and Saturdays. Those, three last venues are the busiest and bring out my aforementioned horror of crowds. Nevertheless, I usually manage a visit to the one in Los Cristianos once or twice a year, usually once at Christmas to find bargains and stocking-fillers not available in the shops, and another time when visitors are here. The first, two are located in small villages, so it’s very pleasant to spend the morning shopping, and then afterwards stroll through the village and sample eateries less geared to mass tourism. Of the two, Alcalá is the more local experience, but Playa San Juan is very pleasant, having been tarted up very nicely in recent years. The Los Abrigos market in an evening affair, which means that afterwards you can sample one of the decent fish restaurants for which the village is still famous.
Obviously, in the smaller venues there are less stalls, and perhaps obviously they all offer more-or-less the same stuff – cheap Ts, sunglasses, watches, tablecloths, pareos, jewellery, and leather goods, all imported, many from China, and to be found the world over, but with “Torremolinos”, “Tarpon Springs” or “Florida” printed or engraved on them instead of “Tenerife”, which isn’t to say that they aren’t decent value if that’s what you need at the time. Immigration in the last few years has brought us lots of color in the form of African crafts and clothes – remember we are only 200 miles from the coast of West Africa. Look for the obvious, though – I treated myself to a handbag a few weeks ago. I examined it fairly carefully, and it seemed good value, and what I needed, which was a small bag with lots of compartments. It cost me 15€. Only, after a couple of weeks the pulley thing on one of the zips to one of the compartments broke, and a couple of weeks later another. It was then I realized that it was almost inevitable, because they were made of very thin plastic, and I hadn’t noticed when I bought. So far the zips themselves are holding out, and I’ve improvised on the pulley thing, so no big deal – basically, I got what I paid for!
Mixed in with the tourist tat, however, there is some interesting stuff; handmade jewellery, and greeting cards, wonderful and cheap cottons from Thailand and Indonesia, second-hand books and local craftwork, as well as colorful clothes and hats from Peru, so don’t dismiss it as not worth the bother. They are great places for Christmas shopping on a budget, for instance.
Where I live, in El Médano, there is a Saturday morning market, which for me, has a more bohemian kind of atmosphere. That’s probably largely because the town in general is more like that. There seems to be less on the tat and more on the individual traders. One lady who offers clothes I’ve never seen anywhere else also displays her husband’s paintings, and another guy sits actually making the jewellery whilst waiting for customers. Around about you often find mime artists and other buskers, giving the whole thing a much more relaxed and happy mood. Normally not too crushed either, and there are great places to eat cheaply afterwards.
In other venues: In the past I’ve visited a weekend market just outside of Puerto de la Cruz, and a craft market in Garachico. So far as I can see, the former is still going, but I fear the one in Garachico has fallen by the wayside. However, I will go check one day soon! I’ve come across information online for one in Icod de los Vinos, but not a working link with any information. I’m not sure why anyone would want to go to a car boot sale when they are on vacation, but people do, and there is an increasing number. The one in Guaza, just off the motorway, on the way to Las Galletas, is long-established and constantly evolving, and there are now regular ones in Adeje and in Los Gigantes, as I learned just this week. I’m sure there must be more, and that once you are in a place, local information will abound.
You may have sensed my enthusiasm for the Agricultural Market in Santa Cruz (“No, not really,” did you say?), and Tenerife is no exception to the boom in Farmers’ Markets which seems to be happening all over the western world. Again I’m not sure just if anyone might want to spend vacation time doing this, except that if you are in a vacation rental, what better way to experience local culture than to shop in one of these instead of in the cookie cutter supermarkets. One of the differences here is that they are year-round, where in northern temperatures they are seasonal. You can find one in La Laguna overflowing with an abundance of local produce, and also in Tacaronte, which I haven’t visited so I can’t elaborate on. I am sure that by now there are more, in fact, the two I use in the south don’t show up in a quick internet search. Remember the other industry which sustains this island, other than tourism, is agriculture. My local one is in San Isidro and I adore it, and ten minutes away in Las Chafiras, if I want a change there is another equally as good.
If you seriously like markets, then it would be possible to spend a week’s holiday, or more, checking them all out…..but it would only be cheap if you stuck with the window shopping!
This post was part of a series, here are the others: