Two short blocks south of the City Tour stop at Cecut (the cultural center) is the Mercado Miguel Hidalgo, Tijuana’s historic open-air market. What distinguishes it from the traditional mercado municipal found throughout Mexico is the parking lot at its center, a holdover from a generation ago when it was the city’s market for wholesale produce.
The original mercado municipal, in the middle of heavy pedestrian traffic downtown, was a tourist attraction in its day. It has become a somnolent food court with a couple of florists on the side. If you find yourself on Niños Héroes, it’s a great place for some genteel street food. But the bustling marketplace moved east a couple of kilometers.
Mercado Hidalgo was originally built away from pedestrian traffic and, even now that one can easily walk the Zona Río, few tourists go there unless they’re driving. It’s worth visiting in any event – taxis libres are plentiful and cheap and the City Tour runs close by.
Possibly a hundred stalls are crowded along the four sides of this city block, all of them run by different proprietors. Each stall specializes in something and the people who work there are experts in their specialty. Transactions are in cash; dollars are accepted as readily as pesos. English is spoken almost as readily albeit not always fluently.
Mercado Hidalgo is where you can outfit your kitchen with all the traditional utensils or find everything you need to throw una piñata (a birthday party) or cure yourself with traditional herbal remedies. Many restaurateurs shop here. Particular stalls offer cheeses from all over Mexico, chapulines from Oaxaca, or beef from Sonora; everywhere there are wide selections of herbs, fruit, chiles, and beans. Little restaurants scattered throughout the mercado serve breakfasts and lunches at reasonable prices. Unlike Avenida Revolución, none of this is put on for the benefit of tourists – it’s the real thing.
Visitors who are planning on taking their purchases north of the border might want to consult a PDF, “Bringing Food into the U.S.”, because fresh meats and a varying list of fruits and vegetables are prohibited from entering the country. It’s best to know about this ahead of time. Tijuana residents who work in San Diego routinely have their lunches confiscated for containing a ham sandwich or the wrong piece of fruit.
Mercado Hidalgo is open from 6:00am to 6:00pm daily, Sundays 6:00am to 4:00pm. Parking is free. Located in the southwest corner of the Zona Río at avenidas Sánchez Taboada and Independencia (downtown’s Calle 10); there are pedestrian and vehicular entrances on all four sides. Find it our Points of Interest map.
The Mercado Hidalgo photo album can be viewed at http://picasaweb.google.com/real.tijuana/MercadoHidalgo#slideshow/