Cuenca is a UNESCO World Heritage Trust Site known for its beautiful historic buildings. Ecuador’s third largest city, Cuenca is 2500 meters (8200 feet) high in the Andes mountains. With tourists focused on architecture, it is easy for them to miss what could be a highlight of their trip.
In my opinion, the Feria Libre seven acre market is a must see. People travel from miles around to buy and sell goods. It even has it’s own bus terminal! Buyers know this is where they will find the lowest prices. Entrepreneurs rent space knowing good products will move quickly.
While it is open every day, Saturdays and Wednesdays are the busiest. More people come those days, knowing the most products are available. Vibrant colors and numerous aromas fill the senses from all around.
Feria Libre Produce
The produce sections encompass areas surrounding the building exterior as well as large areas within them.
|Neatly arranged produce at an indoor vendor
The vibrant produce colors are eye-catching in every display.
|Vibrant colors at an outdoor vendor
Some vendors specialize in one product, like this potato vendor…
And this banana vendor.
Most have a wide variety.
Feria Libre Flowers
Interspersed throughout the market are flower vendors.
|Local woman buying flowers
Feria Libre Meat and Seafood
Follow your nose to the meat and seafood, where you will find beef, pork, and poultry areas. All kinds of sausages are for sale. Fresh fish from local streams and seafood driven up from the coast are available. The seafood was surprisingly priced almost the same as on the coast, without a large mark-up due to transportation costs.
|Fresh fish and seafood
Feria Libre Live Animals for Sale
An outdoor section hosts live animals for sale. They include chickens, guinea pigs, crabs, bunnies, puppies, kittens and parrots. The chickens pictured below lay colorful eggs (inset), which the vendor had for sale as well.
|Chickens and their eggs, both for sale
Live crabs from the coast are sold near the outdoor live animal area, not the indoor seafood area.
|Live crabs for sale
I almost don’t want to tell you that guinea pigs are not pets in Ecuador. They are food. I have not tried them. The puppies, kittens, and parrots ARE pets.
|Guinea pigs for sale
Feria Libre Legumes and More
Back inside, many bulk products are for sale including spices, beans, grains, and corns. Cooking oils, honey, flour, sugars, coffee, and chocolate.
|Various corns and beans
Several types of homemade pastas are available.
Another huge section has household goods, clothing, and shoes. Haircuts are also provided near this area.
|Clothing, cookware, plastics, shoes
Woven baskets, fans, and shopping bags are mixed with wooden utensils and pottery since this vendor sells them all.
|It is not easy keeping baskets neatly displayed
If one needs some nourishment, there are food counters with a variety of soups, juices and quick foods.
Near the main entrance / exit, many vendors call out the price for the items they are currently carrying. Heard on this day: “five avocados, one dollar” and “three tomatoes, fifty cents.”
|Tomato vendor in center of photo
Exit into the parking lot and find vendors selling baskets of items that you might have missed inside.
|Feria Libre parking lot vendors
Many people come to Cuenca for the historic architecture. I recommend a trip to Feria Libre as well.
Is there a local market near you where entrepreneurs sell their products?