An increasingly fun and popular place on Saturday mornings in San José is the outdoor Aranjuez Green Market (Fería Verde Aranjuez). The atmosphere is a combination of "laid-back, relaxed" with dynamic market shopping. It is kind of a classic European or American country fair/farmer’s market with a distinct Costa Rican tropical twist. It is open from 7 am-12:30 on Saturdays and operates on a first-come, first sell philosophy. Avoid getting there too late! From Aranjuez, you can spend the rest of your Saturday on your own, self-paced walking tour around downtown San José.
What will you find? Probably a few things that will surprise and delight you! We did! It's an organic market, so there are lots of delicious organic foods and amazing natural products (oils, medicinal teas, lotions, shampoos, deodorants, for example). These can be difficult to find in Costa Rica and the quality is likely unsurpassed anywhere.
Since it is an organic market, there is a definite priority for healthy foods and fresh produce which is as picturesque as it is flavorful. You will see tables with clothing uniquely designed or colored; one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces; pure oil extracts for aromatherapy or hair and skin care; natural soaps and lotions; pottery; leather goods; and wood crafts. The market itself wraps around two sides of the neighborhood sports plaza, so you might get to take in a community soccer game while you are there. Feel free to shout and cheer with all the other fans!
The Aranjuez Green Market has become a routine Saturday morning meeting place for young professionals, tourists, expats living in Costa Rica, and health food lovers. It is not a typical Costa Rican mercado (market), but it is a fascinating place to casually wander and shop. Try some freshly squeezed mandarin or orange juice as you walk. Live music and musicians playing different genres sets an enchanting and entertaining background for your market experience. Deliberately enjoy life.
Along one side of the market, known as "El Bosque" (The Forest), there are tables and chairs set up under long open-air tents or natural tree-top canopies. You can stop for a heavenly organic cappuccino coffee and homemade chocolate cake (made from organic Costa Rican cacao), while you read, surf your ‘phone, or watch passersby and enjoy the music. It is a pleasant place for breakfasts too! Order your omelet just the way you like it with organic eggs and entrees or enjoy pancakes with your choice of toppings at Señor Pancake.
There are plenty of other enticing foods, including soups, salads, raw honey, and homemade fresh breads which you can buy by the loaf or half-loaf. Healthy homemade pastas (photo below) are for sale as well as cured (smoked or dried) meats. These meats are cured and sold by a friendly and generous German expat (photo below). There are candies/cakes, sweet breads and jams to sample and buy.
You will have many choices among the cheese vendors sampling and selling spice, herb or mango-nut cheeses. There are also delicious goat cheeses and flavored butters to taste before you buy. Nearly all vendors speak English. They likely speak other languages, too. In any case, they are glad to try! Vendors are happy to chat about the qualities of their products or about Costa Rica, or to answer any questions that you may have about just about anything. They will likely be curious and have a question or two for you too!
Fresh organic fruits and vegetables are for sale, as well as many processed products made from them. Like most farmer's markets, the Aranjuez Green Market is a friendly place. You will see tourists and Ticos (*a nickname that Costa Ricans call themselves), along with long-time expats in Costa Rica browsing the food tables, jewelry displays, and trendy clothing racks. The Aranjuez Green Market is its own community of friends that includes all shoppers as well as a wonderful mix of organic producers, healthy food vendors, craft makers, jewelry artisans, and musicians.
Saturdays are a good time to take in the sights of San José. Get an early start on your self-guided tour at the Aranjuez Green Market and then head to San José center for the day. Start the downtown portion of your tour at the cultural center of downtown. Visit the Plaza de la Cultura, the National Theater, or the Gran Hotel. The Gold and the Jade Museums are one of a kind. The city is just as busy with people on Saturdays as it is during the week, but you’ll probably see more families and shoppers. If you still have souvenir shopping to do, be sure to go through the Municipal Arts and Crafts Market in San José for lots of souvenir shopping.
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