Colorfully designed handicrafts adorn streetside shops, families feast on salsa-soaked street food while serenaded by strolling mariachi bands, and bananas hang from wood beams in fruit-lined passageways… a visit to Market 23 in Downtown Cancun gives you a glimpse into the city’s local lifestyle and a mish-mash of Mexican traditions.
Downtown Cancun is divided into numbered neighborhoods called Supermanzanas (Superblocks). The older and more central city neighborhoods have lower numbers, from 1 through 36, and the markets are named after the Supermanzana where they’re located. Market 28 remains the option most well-known among Cancun tourists, but Market 23 has always been where Cancun locals go for their everyday shopping.
Market 23 is tucked away in a neighborhood on the southwestern side of the Avenida Tulum – Avenida Chichen Itza intersection. As you enter, you’ll find yourself in a small maze of outdoor walkways connecting small shops where vendors might occasionally call out to you with their products, much less aggressively than more touristy venues like Market 28 or Playa del Carmen’s 5th Avenue.
Each kind of product is set in its own section, making it easy to find what you need in one place: a row of butcher stands, a building for produce, side-by-side rows of party supply shops, etc.
Food Products at Market 23
The most sought-after products at Cancun’s local market are its fruits and vegetables; many customers do most of their grocery shopping at the supermarket, then come to Market 23 for its extensive selection of fruits and vegetables. Here, the produce is typically fresher quality than local supermarkets, and the prices are much lower. You’ll also see all kinds of colorfully arranged chilis, the Yucatan Peninsula’s revered local honey (usually sold in plastic bottles), plastic bags filled with ounces of spices and seeds, and plants so you can grow your own herbs and chilis at home. Whatever you need to make traditional Mexican dishes and drinks, you’ll find it here.
Just behind the produce section is a row of numerous meat shops, each displaying its fresh cuts of beef or rows of chickens stacked up on the counter, with a small line of customers ordering what they need for their home or small business. With its hanging slabs of meat and the strong aroma of freshly cut beef, chicken, and pork, this section is more of a butcher shop than a supermarket.
At the center of Market 23, a row of small restaurants serves breakfasts, seafood, and Mexican street foods like tacos and tortas. Strolling musicians and mariachi bands perform for customers as they eat at their plastic tables, and you’ll probably be approached by multiple vendors selling jewelry or toys.
The Party Supply Market
Leading up to the weekend, you’ll spot Cancun locals at Market 23 buying party supplies for their Saturday and Sunday events. The market has a large section of shops selling balloons, costumes for kids, party favors, flower arrangements, and piñatas for every cartoon character or superhero imaginable. You’ll even find candy shops with favorite Mexican treats sold in bulk.
Best of all is late October in the magical weeks leading up to Mexico’s Day of the Dead holiday (November 1 and 2). During this season, new stands pop up with shelves of sugar skulls, candles, and special candies, as well as skeleton-themed Papel Picado banners and buckets overflowing with Day of the Dead’s iconic marigold flowers.
Cancun Souvenirs and Décor at Market 23
Around the outer edges of the market, you can easily spot the souvenir shops with their bright Yucatecan hammocks hanging alongside decorations made of local seashells. Inside the shops are the embroidered Maya dresses and blouses worn by many local women, along with Cancun beach bags and hats mixed in with Mexican handicrafts and jewelry.
Across the street from the outer rim of the market, slightly larger shops specialize in items for the home, ranging from decorative knick-knacks and beautiful woven lanterns to inexpensive pots and pans.
Market 23 is simple to find thanks to its location just off Cancun’s main avenue: Avenida Tulum. From the Hotel Zone, you can hop on the R-1 bus and ask the driver to drop you off at Market 23 (Mercado Veintitres in Spanish), and if you’re already in Downtown, you can get a taxi or maybe even walk.
A few quick market shopping tips: Unlike many other markets and souvenir shops in the region, Market 23 has very little haggling or bargaining; price stickers and signs are usually posted in each store. In many shops, you will have to pay cash, preferably in Mexican pesos. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to ask a salesperson; if they don’t have it, they can probably tell you who does.
Want to discover even more of the city’s vibrant culinary options on your next visit? Check out our favorite Indian restaurants in Cancun, or find out which Maya ruins are located right here in the city!