Across the Rio Mapocho (Mapocho river) from the center of Santiago, in an area known as La Chimba during colonial times, one can truly understand the meaning of the word “orectic” by visiting the city’s enticing fruit and vegetable market, La Vega Central.
The residents of La Chimba historically crossed the river with carts and burros to the Plaza de Armas to sell produce to the wealthy residents of central Santiago. In 1895, La Chimba decided to make a market instead.
Since that time, La Vega Central has grown to 6,000 square meters and two city blocks of fresh culinary delight (albeit a bit chaotic), that teems with bountiful fruit and vegetable stands, luscious mounds of fragrant herbs, and appetite-stimulating spices.
In and around La Vega
La Vega Central is undoubtedly one of the best places in Santiago for a delectable excursion.
In the streets surrounding the market, shoppers can buy everything from underwear to cell phone chargers to books and art. The aroma of toasted flour and roasted meat accompanies the sound of sidewalk vendors shouting offers for bargains on random merchandise flea-market style, while street-dogs nap in the shade.
Entering La Vega itself, the aromas change, and the sense of scent becomes a tour guide, establishing a route from the cheeses to the fresh cilantro, basil and the squash, finishing with ripe pineapples and apples and avocados available in all seasons, while fallen leaves of spinach and lettuce crunch underfoot.
Abundant splashes of harvest colors characterize La Vega, and the diverse collection of people crowded under one roof, along with the hardworking hands of the smiling vendors, are a banquet of photographic details for any camera lover or contemplative visitor.
Morning light and late afternoon sun illuminating the tempting fruit create an unforgettable scene, and on a cloudy day, a hot cup of tea or coffee with a fresh sopaipilla (a fried bread popular in Chile) can be purchased on the street outside, satisfying the appetite until one can enjoy La Vega’s delicious produce.
When to go
La Vega is open for business every day, morning until evening, all year long (with the exception of holidays), but closing early on Sundays.
Towards late afternoon on Saturdays, however, La Vega hums with an especially festive energy, as vendors and shoppers anticipate weekend fun.
How to arrive
Located in Santiago’s Patronato neighborhood, at Avenida Recoleta with Antonia Lopez de Bello street. Arrive at La Vega Central via taxi, city bus, or take the metro to the Patronato stop.