Complete Guide to Plaza de Mercado de Paloquemao
Updated: Sep 15, 2022
All the Colombian fruit
Mercado de Plaza de Paloquemao (Paloquemao Market), Bogatá, Colombia
Paloquemao Market is a food mecca. This vast and sprawling market is located in the Santa Fe neighborhood of Bogatá; you can find it here. Before I left for Colombia, all I heard about (from a gastro perspective) was about the fruit. "You will LOVE Colombian fruit!" "Fruits you've never seen before!" Don't get me wrong, I love fruit. But I don't think I quite comprehended the magnitude of produce available throughout Colombia. Colombians consider fruit an essential part of their daily routine, and truthfully, there is a mind-blowing variety of fruits of which I have never seen nor heard about. Nowhere is this more evident than at Colombia's food markets, the largest of which I found was Paloquemao.
Whenever I travel, I always start at the market. As the late and great Anthony Bourdain once said "You get a sense of what the locals are eating, what's good, and what's in season".... or something like that. But in all honesty, the man was entirely correct. When in unfamiliar locations where people are speaking an unfamiliar language and you have no idea what the hell is going on, start with the local market. You will get a profound sense of what people enjoy eating, very likely, without any other tourists muddling around. I can't tell you how much pleasure it brings to just simply walk around, converse with local vendors, and just try new foods. It sets a tone for the remainder of my time in a new place, and it's a wise choice when researching food in a new and unfamiliar location.
Paloquemao is a sprawling, vast, and complex labryinth of food stalls, juice vendors, meat and poultry suppliers occupying an extraordinarily large indoor space just off the intersection of Calle 19 and Calle 27 in Bogotá. The first thing you notice when you enter is - as you could probably gather from my first paragraph - the fruit. It's stacked in neat, orderly pyramids throughout, and as you move through the alleyways, vendors are all too happy to reach out with samples. Everything I saw that was unfamiliar to me, I ate. Pitaya, sweet granadilla, uchuva, and lulo to name a few.
Frequent sighting in Paloquemao
More than simply produce, Paloquemao also contains myriad vendors selling packaged goods, meats, and fresh herbs/spices. I actually bought a bunch of spices here that I left in my hotel room prior to my flight back to the states... win. But seriously, Paloquemao is also home to many coffee stands, where you can sample excellent Colombian coffee, and possibly more exciting, juice stands. All that Colombian fruit is very commonly used throughout the country as fresh-made juices. There are numerous juice stands throughout Paloquemao, and you can try basically anything. I would definitely recommend trying guanabana, which is a large, prickly-looking green monstrosity that is absolutely lovely as juice.
Mountains of fresh herbs inside Paloquemao
Aside from perusing vendors and getting a good idea of what is in season/what locals are eating, markets a place where you can usually find stalls selling any number of local food. Paloquemao was certainly no exception, and deep in the bowels you can find a host of vendors selling delicious soups, fantastic for breakfast.
Paloquemao is a must-do for anybody visiting Bogotá. I know there are organized tours you can take if your Spanish is no bueno. I did not use a tour, I simply walked in and started exploring, and I know all of 0.00001% Spanish, so a tour is not totally necessary. However, it's never a bad idea to visit a new place with a local, someone who speaks the language and can translate for you. If you go here, (and I highly recommend you do for any trip to Bogotá), give yourself some time to really explore this truly authentic and deep market. You will not be disappointed.