The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

Ecuador is famous for its colorful indigenous markets. The most famous of them is in Otavalo, northwest of Quito. The Otavalo Market takes places every Saturday. The market has hundreds of stalls where locals sell their goods. This indigenous market is well known for weaving, thus selling scarves, hats, and sweaters. However, there are many indigenous markets in Ecuador, with Otavalo being the most well known for international visitors. Cuenca, on the other hand, has lesser known, but more local markets spread throughout the city. Cuenca is a monumental city in Ecuador with a rich history spanning back to the Spanish colonial era. The markets here are geared more towards the local Ecuadorians and so have a very authentic “feel” to them. Cuenca is also a major export center for Panama hats, so you will find plenty of them to purchase around here. Cuenca is also a place to purchase large straw baskets as they are also well known for their find weaving skills.

The Markets in Ecuador, feria libre


In case you are looking for a place to stay in Cuenca, you can check here for many great options.

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

In Cuenca, the local markets have every type of fruit (almost) or vegetable that you can imagine. If you’re a fruit and vegetable lover, you will be amazed at the staggering variety available. Although the apples are imported to the markets in Cuenca, Ecuador, almost everything else is grown in the region. Because it is not cold enough to grow apples in Ecuador, they are actually imported from Chile. There are also more than 4,000 varieties of native potatoes grown in the Andean highlands of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. But Ecuador itself grows more than 500 varieties of potatoes. They have a variety of types noted for their taste, texture, shape, and color. Most vendors come out on Thursday, with fewer stalls on Saturday and fewer still the other days of the week. The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador, ferias libres, feria libre cuencaThe market scene in Cuenca, Ecuador is lively, vibrant and bountiful.

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

Plaza San Francisco and Plaza Rotary

The two main market areas in town are the Plaza de San Francisco Market and the Plaza Rotary Market. They are within walking distance of each other. The market at Plaza Rotary is mainly fruits and vegetables. This is one of the biggest markets in the main area of Cuenca. It is where the farmers bring their crops to sell to the public.

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

Map to the Feria Libre Cuenca Market to the Mercado de Artesanias Rotary

The Plaza de San Francisco Market is mainly for locals, though there’s a row of stalls on the north side with souvenirs made from other areas of Ecuador for tourists, especially from Otavalo. Here they have everything from basketry, ceramics, to ironwork, gaudy religious paraphernalia and even guinea pig roasters!

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

See if you can figure out what is in the photograph below?  They call it chocolate, but I laughed because my kids bought a chunk of it from the markets in Cuenca, Ecuador. They brought it back to the hotel room, as my boys couldn’t wait to try it out.  But, alas, they tasted and spit it out, it is a baking type of chocolate and not a sweet chocolate like we find in the States!  It looked so good!

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

Visitors should be warned that the sellers can become annoyed by tourists who take too many photographs of the market but don’t purchase anything.  As you can see, this lady wasn’t too happy with all my photographs!

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

That’s the thing here at the markets in Cuenca, Ecuador, you really have to know when to steal a photo and when to stop.

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

The Feria Libre

The Feria Libre (literally the Free Fair, or Free Market) is where people from the local area shop. The Feria Libre Cuenca is spread over acres of land and has a ‘hustle and bustle’ type of atmosphere. Unless there’s a sign with a posted price posted, you don’t need to pay the first price they ask, but instead you can haggle.Especially if you can speak Spanish! You will find that Feria Libre is an amazing experience for a photographer and a fun place to shop if you really just need the products.

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador, Ferias Libres

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

When to go to Feria Libre:

I recommend that you avoid Wednesdays and Saturdays because these are the days when buses bring in people from the surrounding areas to do their weekly shopping. They are especially busy on these days and it might be best to avoid the markets in Cuenca, Ecuador on those days. The markets get extremely crowded and since you are not a local, it might be best to avoid this time.

You can even eat at the markets, too!

Like most markets in Ecuador, there are plenty of food stalls where you can actually sit down and have lunch. Because locals mostly come here, you will find local dishes like soup, chicken, rice, and even fried fish.

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

Street Vendors

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

There are also street vendors that are just outside of the market that don’t have booths. They will sell you anything you are interested in. The indigenous people in their traditional dress are like a world away, yet, probably much like you and I by just trying to make a living.

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

And here’s a bicycle made to sell fruits and vegetables parked right outside of the markets in the main area where the markets of Cuenca, Ecuador are. They sell fresh watermelon on a stick.

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

I also enjoy photographing modes of transportation, in this case, a bicycle that transports coconuts!

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

Flower Markets

And don’t forget the flower markets! The flower markets stand out with a gorgeous backdrop of the great Catedral de la Inmaculada Conception. Here they have hundreds of different vendors that have set up shop on the street, selling their beautiful flowers with everything from orchids and arum lilies to giant roses.

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

Recommended Reading:

This post is the #3 post in a series of posts regarding taking a trip to Ecuador:

Post #1Should We Retire in Ecuador? Exploring Cuenca, Ecuador

Post #2: Chordeleg:  A Day Trip from Cuenca

Post #3: The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador

Post #4:  Ahh! The Foods of Cuenca, Ecuador

Post #5:  Equestrian Countryside of Cuenca (never wrote!)

Post #6:  Quito: A Visit to the Middle of the World

Post #7:  Montanita, Ecuador:  Out of My Comfort Zone

Post #8 Cultural Tourism in a City Upon a Hill: Quito, Ecuador

Have you thought about going to the Galapagos Islands since you are in Ecuador?

What is it really like to be on an Ecoventura Yacht in the Galapagos?

Post Office Bay, Floreana, Galapagos

Through the Eyes of a Galapagos Gringa

9 (+1) Reasons You Should Visit The Galapagos Before It’s Too Late


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  1. […] Post #3: The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador […]

  2. […] Post #3: The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador […]

  3. […] Post #3: The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador […]

  4. Shelley White November 17, 2012 at 8:27 am

    One of my favorite places to go is the markets when I travel. There you see such wonderful things and interesting people. The irony is that I don’t even shop at the farmer’s market locally.

    • admin November 17, 2012 at 9:06 am

      I know, me either, here in Phoenix. Granted, they are few and far between. They still have charm, just not the type of charm in a foreign country.

  5. […] Post #3: The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador […]

  6. Ursula mausberg June 10, 2013 at 7:59 am

    I was surprised to get all the information from your eye opening travel in Ecuador. I like to go in our winter time (Canada) thanks for sharing your experience .

    • admin June 10, 2013 at 8:17 am

      Ecuador is a place that still has many places left to be explored. It is quite an interesting place!

  7. Fred July 14, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Cuenca’s markets are delightful if you stick to produce.

    • admin July 14, 2013 at 5:57 pm

      Yes Fred! I enjoyed my time spent wandering through the markets!

  8. […] The Markets in Cuenca, Ecuador […]

  9. Doreen Pendgracs November 27, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    Great pics! I, too, love visiting markets whenever I travel. They truly give you the flavour of any place you are visiting.

    • admin November 27, 2013 at 8:08 pm

      Love that flavour!! especially of chocolate!

  10. Luke December 16, 2013 at 8:49 am

    I love Cuenca! I actually prefer it is a destination in Ecuador over Quito.

    • admin December 16, 2013 at 9:05 am

      I did enjoy Cuenca, although Quito is special too.

  11. Jennifer March 12, 2014 at 10:37 am

    Just arrived in Cuenca myself and I’m looking forward to wandering around the market. Thanks for the great info!

    • admin March 12, 2014 at 11:37 am

      Enjoy Cuenca!!

  12. Fabiola December 8, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Yes, that chocolate is ONLY to make hot chocolate, bake certain goodies that don’t call for sugar-choc…., like my Fudge Brownies! We call it here ‘bitter chocolate.’


    • Cacinda Maloney December 8, 2014 at 11:37 am

      Ha ha! My sons found out the hard way!

  13. Cultural Tourism: Quito Ecuador August 10, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    […] The Markets of Cuenca  […]

  14. Colonial Cuenca – garyfeakes July 9, 2016 at 1:01 am

    […] and so much cheaper here than anywhere else where these amazing hats are sold. I would head to the indoor market of Parque Calderon where you will also find many artisanal gifts; carvings, musical instruments, etc. You may be lucky […]

  15. […] *For more information on the markets throughout Cuenca, click this link: […]

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