The Lucas de Galvez market is Merida’s largest and oldest covered marketplace. It is a must-visit during your time in the Yucatan capital.
The market, located at the intersection of Calle 65 and Calle 56, provides an attack on all the senses and is one of the best places to stop by if you want to people-watch and see signs of local life.
Mercado Lucas de Galvez has a fascinating history behind it too. It was first inaugurated in 1887, although the site has been torn down and moved several times over the last couple of centuries.
The market takes its name from Lucas de Galvez, a former Mayor of the Yucatan from 1789 to 1792, appointed by King Carlos III. It is spread over several floors and sells virtually every item imaginable – from perfectly polished fruits and vegetables that shimmer in all colors of the rainbow, to hand-carved Mayan masks and sculptures.
Visiting the Lucas de Galvez Market in Merida
The Lucas de Galvez market has been rebuilt three times since its initial inauguration in the 19th century. The current structure dates back to 1950 and was inaugurated by the late former Mexican President Miguel Aleman Valdes.
It’s a little rundown and rough around the edges, but perfectly safe to visit. The market is spread across two floors with the artisan’s market and an al-fresco food court situated on the top level, and a fish, meat, and fruits and vegetable market on the ground floor.
The ground floor, in particular, is a labyrinth-like network of narrow passageways, twists, and turns. Most of the vendors do not speak English but even if your Spanish isn’t up to par (or non-existent), you can easily communicate what you want to buy with some combination of pointing and miming.
(Alternatively, you can support local tourism by visiting the market on a street food tour like this one. Or you can take a Yucatan cooking class that also includes a market visit).
Local products to look out for at the Lucas de Galvez market
Mountains of fresh Mexican fruits and vegetables are piled high at the various stalls at the market. Some are international favorites. Others are native to Mexico or specifically, to the Yucatan, and are likely to be things that you have never seen before.
Papayas, pineapples, and guavas are delicious tropical fruits that grow locally and are available virtually all year round. As is to be expected, the prices here are much more reasonable than in the United States or elsewhere. However, you are expected to haggle a little when buying by the bag.
Star apples known as “caimito” in Spanish are tropical fruits that are native to the Americas and found throughout the Yucatan peninsula. Their flesh has a jelly-like texture and they have a somewhat grape-y, tropical taste.
Equally interesting are the mameys – a brown fruit with an appearance similar to papaya and a consistency similar to avocados. Their taste is somewhere between that of a persimmon and an apricot.
Dragon fruits (pitayas) and persimmons can be found later in the year. (Around September onwards).
So too can a little green textured fruit known as “cherimoya” which Mark Twain described as “the most delicious fruit known to man!”
Tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, and an abundance of other veggies and herbs can be found at the market too. Potatoes and tomatoes aren’t always the best quality in Southern Mexico.
This is largely due to the ultra-high temperatures around Merida and their low shelf life.
Sometimes, pesticides are used on Mexican crops. So, if you buy something that you are going to eat the skin of (apples, strawberries, etc), you need to rinse it in an anti-germ solution known as Microdyn. (Or you can make your own with white wine vinegar).
Snacks and drinks to try at the market
As well as the fresh produce and grocery items that you can find at the Lucas de Galvez market, there are also many vendors selling snacks and drinks that are available for immediate consumption. There is always a long line for vendors selling chicharron.
Chicharron is made by deep frying pork rinds and pork belly. (Think of it as the Mexican version of British pork scratchings or pork rinds in the US!)
The crunchy snack is often enjoyed as-is, or with a generous douse of hot sauce (likely salsa Valentina). If you can get past the thought of what it is, it is really quite tasty.
There are a handful of stores near the entrance to the market selling traditional Mexican candies and sweets. You will find everything from the pre-packaged marzipan-tasting “De la Rosa” candy, to sweet potato “camote” sweets from the city of Puebla, to Mexican milk candies (dulces de leche) that are similar to fudge.
For celebrations like Hanal Paxan (the Yucatan Dia de Los Muertos), Christmas, and Semana Santa, you will find themed candies on display.
Just outside the market, a local man sells homemade sodas and raspados – a Mexican shaved ice drink. On the top floor, the street food market is a popular lunch spot for locals.
You can try all manner of Yucatan food and street food eats here; from mouthwatering cochinita pibil tacos and tortas to salbutes, burritos, and marquesitas (Yucatan stuffed crepes).
Traditional clothing and artisanal goods at the Lucas de Galvez market
If you go up the stairs and past the street food area, you will find the artisan’s market. The artisanal stores are set in a more modern, air-conditioned building within Lucas de Galvez.
Many of the items here make excellent souvenirs from your trip to Mexico, or gifts for any Mexico lovers in your life back at home. The Mayan masks here depicting different deities are great for sprucing up your living room/dining room with items from your travels.
Traditional Mexican clothing like embroidered Yucatecan huipiles (white cotton dresses/shirts for women) and guayaberas (men’s shirts) are for sale. So too are modernised versions of the regional dress.
Final thoughts on visiting the Lucas de Galvez market
The Lucas de Galvez market is a must-visit on any Merida itinerary – even if you only have one day to spend in Merida.
The market’s location conveniently places it at the beating heart of the city’s historic center. It is just a short walk away from the Zocalo and the Merida Cathedral.
There are also a couple of other interesting markets nearby that you can explore straight after Mercado Lucas de Galvez. Along Calle 65, you will find dozens of casual clothing stores.
An unmarked alleyway that veers off from here is dedicated to hair and beauty stores, where rows of local women sit getting their nails done. Heading further down Calle 56, you will find yourself at Mercado San Benito – another of Merida’s most important marketplaces.
Do you have any further questions about visiting the Lucas de Galvez market or planning a trip to Mexico in general? I live in Merida and would be happy to help out where I can.
Feel free to connect with me on Facebook or Instagram. Safe travels and enjoy Mexico!
Buen Viaje! xo
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