We visitied Mazatlan in July 2012. We attended mass at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral and were delighted the mercado was a mere block away after mass. In fact, we went back again later in the week to finish our shopping.
The mercado is huge, with the ground floor is full of vendors selling the usual Mexican souveniers. But, there is also a 'grocery area' with individual vendors selling fruits, vegetables, fresh meats, fresh seafoods, etc. It was fun watching people doing there weekly shopping on a Sunday morning.
We went upstairs where small kitchens are serving food. We simply picked one and went in. They all have a balcony that overlooks the street, and it was fun to simply sit and people-watch As we couldn't really read what was on the menu, as our Spanish is lacking, we simply looked at other tables and pointed to what we wanted. We speak little Spanish, these people upstars speak little English. Pointing worked well! We had a huge portions of delicious fresh shrimp, sides, and a couple of soft drinks. When we learned the price, we thought it was a joke...all that fresh shrimp and delicious sides for $100 pesos...less than $10 USD. But, these 'restaurants' serve the working-class poor, so I guess it stands to reason prices are as low as they are.
When shopping downstairs, haggling is customary. It simply depends on if you want to bargain or not. You can usually knock 30-50% off the price with the usual back and forth bantering...
Bathrooms are available, but as is customary in most mercado bathrooms, they come with a fee. Having a few pesos would be helpful, else you'll be paying $1 USD which is kind of high for a bathroom visit. Also, if you want a cerveza, we had to go across the street to a 'convenience store' and simply bring it back. That was unusual for a mercado.
This truly feels like Mexico versus the shopping at Cancun or Cabo, which has simply been Americanized. Living in South Texas, we have visited many mercados right across the border, Nueva Laredo, Acuna, Piedres Negras, Matamores, etc., when it used to be safe. This was reminiscent of that. We felt very safe on both of our visits. As always, use caution in jewelry purchase (sterling silver should not stick to a magnet if you have one on your phone case, money clip, etc.) and have fun!
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