Old Craft Market: Tourist Shopping in Center of Masaya
We came across the Old Market on the horse cart ride to the Malecon. On the way back, we stopped and then later walked the half mile or so back to the bus station. El Mercado Viego, originally built in 1891, and restored in 1997 for tourist consumption, has a fine stone and concrete fortress like wall around it. Inside, the market has many vendors devoted to selling souvenirs for tourists. Unlike the chaotic New Mercado, this market is relaxed and spacious, which for me has the disadvantage of being a little boring. Crafts sold were mostly the same as at the New Market, but with significantly higher prices. The food and drink situation was easier, in that there was a fresh fruit juice bar where tropical rum drinks were mixed and sold.
What to buy: Largely the same wood, leather, and woven crafts found at the New Market I described earlier, but with higher prices. There was a good bookstore that had Ruben Dario and other Nicaraguan writers in nice published form.
New Market in Masaya: Folk Craft in Authentic Market Atmosphere
We took the local bus from Granada to Masaya, ending up at a dusty open lot where the buses park. Then, we looked around for the market and were recommended to walk in a certain direction across the yard to what we now regard as Masaya's New Market. It was fortunate that we made the mistake of arriving here, rather than being directed to the more tourist oriented Old Craft Market, which we stumbled upon later.
What to buy: Nicaragua crafts include tropical hardwood crafts of a wide variety, leather belts and sandals, colorful woven basketry, oil paintings, cotton hammocks, festive embroidered clothing, and low fire ceramic vessels with indigenous designs. In addition, boxes of cigars and bottles of rum are routinely available. Souvenir T-shirts and consumer clothing are made in Nicaragua and sold at reasonable prices. If you like you can also shop at the New Market for fresh or cooked meat, vegetables, and other foods that would not be found displayed this way in the USA.
What to pay: We didn't bargain much for the souvenirs we bought because the prices were so low already.
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Mercado de Artesanías: Nicaragua's Finest Handicrafts
Mercado de Artesanías, also known as Mercado Viejo, is certainly the place to buy arts in crafts in Masaya. It's a safe and comfortable place to shop, geared toward tourists. But of course this means that prices are little higher. Here you'll find all manner of delightful handicrafts and the best of what Nicaragua's talented craftspeople have to offer. It's the main reason to come to Masaya and even if you don't buy anything, an enjoyable and colourful experience.
Although most vendors try to keep a wide variety of goods, there are some stalls that specialize on particular kind of handicraft.
The market is open daily from 8am to 7pm.
What to buy: Hammocks - Masaya's most famous craft are beautiful cotton hammocks, perhaps the finest in the world. The price depends on quality and size. Coloured hammocks are more expensive than natural ones.
Wooden furniture ranges from antique-style pedestals and massive mahagony desks to delicate boxes. Handmade rocking chairs are also popular.
Ceramics - The most beautiful and best quality pieces of Nicaraguan pottery come from San Juan de Oriente. Some artisans prefer traditional pre-Columbian designs, while others like modern depicting flowers, birds and scenery. You'll also find black ceramics typical of Matagalpa and Jinotega.
Primitive paintings - Nicaragua is famous for its primitive paintings that originally came from the Islas Solentiname but now they are produced by local artists throughout the country.
Soapstone sculptures - The best ones come from the northern town of San Juan del Limay.
Leather goods - shoes, sandals, bags and belts made from leather and the skins of iguanas and crocodiles
Traditional clothing - typical Nicaraguan white dresses and shirts embroidered with colourful designs
Hats – Typical Nicaraguan hats jipijapa, similar to the 'Panama hat' of southern Ecuador, are made in Chamoapa.
Organic coffee and chocolate - Some of the best Nicaraguan coffees are produced in the Jinotega and Matagalpa regions. El Castillo del Cacao from Matagalpa makes the best chocolate using organic cacao harvested just two hours away from the factory.
Cigars - Some of the best cigars in the world are coming from Nicaragua. The capital of Nicaraguan cigar production is in Estelí.
Buying a hammock might be a good idea but I was only at the beginning of the trip so I did not want to carry it all the time with me. I bought a package of Joya de Nicaragua cigars for my friend. It was 15 US $.
What to pay: Prices are a little higher than at some other markets but still quite affordable, for example: hammocks from 20 - 50 US $, handmade rocking chairs 20 - 25 US $, cigars from 10 US $ up, organic coffee 5 US $.
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