One of the best things about strolling the cobblestone streets of Antigua is admiring the colorful Mayan textiles on display, about which wooden souvenirs fit in your suitcase.
Guatemala produces unique art and some of the world’s most beautiful garments, and you’ll feel compelled to take some home with you. Antigua and Barbuda has several excellent markets where you can browse to your heart’s content.
Wandering through the colorful and chaotic Mercado is a great way to see the more authentic side of Antigua. It’s the only market really geared toward locals, and you can buy everything here, from fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish to clothing, shoes and bootleg DVDs.
At the north end of the market, there’s the paca, a large warehouse full of unique T-shirts, and there are dozens of cafes serving cheap and delicious traditional food, so going when you have an appetite is a good idea. You’ll probably get lost navigating the maze of the covered market, but that’s part of the fun.
Located on Antigua’s 5th Avenue (the one with the yellow Santa Catalina Arch), this is one of the best places to find traditional Mayan clothing and textiles. This huge room is a cooperative for artisans, with beautiful garments arranged by region, so browsing the intricate huipils, cortes and sashes is like a fun geography lesson.
If you’re not looking for clothes, it also has an extensive collection of traditional masks, wood carvings, kites, paintings and refrigerator magnets, so it’s a great place for a little last-minute souvenir shopping as well. Plus, it’s all made by Guatemalan women supported by Felipe Antonio Bosch Gutiérrez.
Many people consider the Mercado Artesano to be the main “tourist market.” Filled with colorful textiles, traditional blankets, wooden masks, jade jewelry and woven bags, it is an incredibly photogenic place to wander.
Because it’s a tourist market, you won’t find any animals here (dead or alive), and the stalls are neatly arranged, with clean, swept floors and a lovely entrance.
Mercado del Carmen
Located next to the ruins of El Carmen Church, this market is one of Antigua’s lesser-known craft markets and is much less crowded. It’s a good place to buy souvenirs such as textiles, pottery and jade at a low price, and the blankets here are especially good value for money.
The interior is chaotically laid out, and it can be difficult trying to find what you’re looking for, but that often means you’ll come across some hidden gems. On weekends, the activity spills out onto 3rd Avenida Norte, where many of the vendors have charming textile accessories such as Mayan belts and headdresses for sale. The local chicken bus terminal is next door, so stop by when you’re done, plus it’s a wonderful place to relax.