Undoubtedly one of the highlights of touring downtown San José is the city’s Central Market or Mercado Central. Most anyone who strolls down Avenida Central is bound to stumble upon the structure since it takes up a whole city block. Guidebooks say a tour to San José would not be complete without visiting this important landmark. It contains alleys with shops, stalls, and cheap restaurants. A huge range of meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, coffees, and other products are for sale including snakeskin boots and cowboy saddles, herbal remedies, flowers, cooked meals, souvenirs, and local handcrafts. Tens of thousands of people visit the market daily.
However, few tourists and expat retirees know that there is another indoor market nearby that is just as impressive. The Borbón Market or Mercado Borbón is about two blocks away from the Central Market on Calle (street) 8 and between Avenida (avenues) 3 and 5 is definitely worthwhile visiting while in the downtown area.
It has over 200 stalls where vendors sell a variety of products at affordable prices. Almost any fruit and vegetable grown in Costa Rica can be found at the market. In addition, a large variety of meats, cheeses, herbs and seafood are also sold. In addition small restaurants called sodas dot the isles. There is even a beauty parlor on the premises. The Borbón Market is a beehive of activity all day long with the sounds of people walking through the isles, radios and televisions blaring, merchants hawking their products, women singing while they make hand-made tortillas, stray cats wandering around and the noise of products being unloaded form wooden boxes — all combine to ad color to the city’s “other” indoor marketplace.
The original market was founded by Guillermo Borbón in the 1950s and then was acquired by the Tinoco family from El Salvador. It is now run by a cooperative and is undergoing extensive remodeling including a revamping of the electrical system. The idea is to try and attract younger customers as the city changes.