The La Merced market in Mexico City is located a few blocks east of the Zócalo. Commercial activity has existed in the market area since colonial times. Activity has declined since 1980 when the wholesale market portion was moved to a new market (the Central de Abasto) outside the city centre in order to ease congestion in the Centro Historico. However, La Merced remains the busiest retail market in Mexico City.
We arrived at La Merced by subway (station La Merced), which was an interesting experience. The subway station has been completely consumed by the market. When you exit the station, you immediately–and without warning–join the sea of people in the busiest portion of the market (shown in the photo above).
The market consists of crowded market stalls occupying several buildings, covering several city blocks. No space is wasted. Everything has grown into each other. Stalls extend vertically well above your head. Paths twist, turn and wind making it impossible to get your bearings.
To survive La Merced, you need to embrace the chaos. Go with the flow and enjoy the sights and sounds.
As you wander, you’ll discover the different sections of the market. The busiest, by far, is the clothing section surrounding the subway station. Other areas include fresh produce, fresh meats, housewares and kitchen supplies, even an area devoted to artificial flours and decorations.
Food stalls can be found at various places, so when something smells good, stop for a bite to eat. We stopped and enjoyed some delicious tacos birria (stewed goat or lamb).
When you feel like you’ve explored La Merced to your heart’s content, I suggest leaving by foot. I doubt you’ll be able to make your way back to the subway stop within. Make your way to the Zócalo and take the metro from there.