Santurantikuy Christmas Market in Cusco, Peru: The Most Amazing Market I’ve Ever Seen!

I love handmade and love markets. So when we decided to visit Peru over Christmas break, I knew we absolutely had to visit the Santurantikuy Christmas Market in Cusco (Santurantikuy is a Quechua word, meaning “the selling of the saints”). We planned our trip accordingly.

Before we left for Lake Titicaca, we noticed booth markings all around Plaza de Armas. We checked them out, and I was super excited to realize there will be close to ONE THOUSAND booths!

We made sure to come back from the Lake just in time for the market on Christmas Eve (this market has been a Cusco tradition for over 500 years, ever since the Spanish Conquest in the 16th century). I expected something like Otavalo Market in Ecuador. The reality, however, surpassed all expectations!

Traditionally, the market drew vendors from the villages around the capital and from the Sacred Valley. Now, however, it draws artisans from all over Peru. One of the merchants we talked to said he traveled by bus for over 30 hours to get there!

When we approached the Plaza, the first thing we noticed were all the villagers on the side streets, many with large packs:

When we reached the square, it was crowded with locals, Peruvians from the countryside, and some tourists. There was a large police presence to keep the order.

Plaza de Armas was packed full of booths and people.

There were booths for every conceivable craft. Lots of unique, interesting things. Lots of handmade work. Textiles! A few booths had truly remarkable works of art. I was so excited I didn’t know what to look at first!

There was also a lot of food, of course.

They say that pictures speak more than a thousand words. For a change, I will talk less and let you see what I mean for yourselves. This will be a mostly picture-lead post 🙂

Christian-Themed Offerings:

I’ve seen many Christmas markets around the world, but this one had more Christian-themed works than any of them. Traditionally, this market offered ONLY Christmas-related items (hence its name), but this has changed in recent years.

There was an entire area for grasses and moss, meant to decorate nativity scenes, which every house in Peru has:

There were lots of options for the actual Nativity figures:

(I thought the combination here was funny!):

There were also lots of angels:

Lots of candles:

And some crucifixions:

As Expected, There were Some Tourist Souvenir Booths:

Lots of Different Kinds of Toys:

Some Clothing:

Amazing Textiles!!

Home Decor:

And a Handful of Truly Amazing Work!

I loved everything I saw: the diversity, the ingenuity, the liveliness of it all. But a handful of things really stood out. I found the following truly exceptional:

A life-size jaguar, carved from one piece of wood.

Wooden flying horses that could move with gears.

And two booths with trolls. The first had small trolls, and an interesting-looking doll.

The second booth had truly-wonderful, large trolls. Each was nicer than the other. They were quite expensive, even for tourists, yet sold like hot cakes.

Many Peruvians bought them, and took them on a stroll in the market. We even saw one guy buying slippers for his troll!

We couldn’t resist them, either. My kids ended up adopting those two:

They later gave us a lot of trouble with airport security, but eventually made it home safe and sound.

The Joy of Shopping at Farmers’ Markets: Sewing Market Totes

You can get pretty much anything your heart desires in the area where I live. This is courtesy of big ships from China and planes carrying goods from all over the world. But the shopping itself is … well, something you usually want to just get done with as quickly as possible. Big chain stores are loaded with merchandise. The huge spaces, cold neon lights and linoleum/neutral-carpeted floors, however, make you want to grab your necessities and run out. Not to mention that horrid music… Even the upscale, beautiful stores are somewhat too clean, too arranged, too sterile. They make you feel like you’re in yet another pharmacy. The liveliness that is present in some shopping options in other parts of the world is simply not there.

The closest exception to this are the farmer’s’ markets that continuously  grow in popularity. I am lucky to live in a town that has a large, year-round farmers’ market. It operates one morning each weekend. Shopping there is not cheap by any means. With $12 bread loaves and pricey vegetables, it can probably out-price even Whole Foods. Yet, I try to go whenever I can. Every time I do I find the place crowded with people. In fact, the crowds are part of the attraction. I enjoy looking at the flow of people, and am happy whenever I bump into someone I know. This happens almost every time.

The outdoors shopping is a pleasant change, especially in spring and summer. I find that the natural light enhances the beauty of the fruit, vegetables and flowers. True, the pharmacy-like culture is evident here, too, with everything being a little too-neatly arranged and too-nicely piled. Yet, the overall experience is still enjoyable.

Colorful vegetables at the farmers' market

Most of all, I like buying farmers’-market heirloom tomatoes, sold every summer. I like their strange shapes and many imperfections, and especially enjoy their amazing flavors, somehow enhanced by the market experience:

Vegetables at the farmers' market

Despite relying on imported goods for nearly every other aspect of my life, I love the idea of buying my food locally. I delight in the many organic options, grown within a radius of 80 miles from where I live. And when berries are in season, I make sure to load on a week-long supply, which my kids devour eagerly:

Bright fruits at the farmers' market

A couple of weeks ago my farmers’ market visit yielded a bonus: it made me realize that I haven’t sewn any totes for a while. And so, as part of preparing for my next crafts fair, I spent the last couple of weeks sewing Market Totes, which I greatly enjoyed:

Fabric for new Market Totes

Working on my new Market Totes

Sewing new Market Totes

I hope these will make someone’s market shopping even more joyous!

ANY Texture: My Finished new Market Totes

Brick Lane Sunday Market

September isn’t quite over, yet the tsunami that marks the beginning of the school year has already started erasing the memory of summer. A few weeks ago I’ve written all about my childrens’ highlights from our summer trip. Today I want to recall one of my own personal favorites, before routine blurs its recollection away.

London has many world-class attractions, from monumental architecture to grand museums. It is also dotted with little markets, hidden in alleys all over the city. Most operate all week long, but have a rotating display of booths: antiques on Mondays, crafts on Tuesdays and so forth. Some operate only on weekends. I really wish I could have visited all of them, but my time in the city was limited. Still, I was lucky to see some. Of those, my absolute favorite was Brick Lane Sunday Market and the alleys surrounding it.

Brick Lane Market is located in an area composed of many small markets that merge into each other. Some are outdoors, others, like Old Spitalfields Market, indoors. They offer everything and anything, from antiques to vintage clothes to arts and crafts to food. We visited on a Sunday, when the market is at its peak, and quite an experience it was!

When my children heard the plan for the day was to visit a market, they noisily objected. “Not ANOTHER crafts market!” they protested. “BORING!!.” But after dragging all over the city from one Harry Potter site to another just to make them happy, I had no intention of giving up. I promised to stay for only an hour or two, and off to market we went.

The place was BURSTING with life. People, noise and music mixed with the smells of many foods. There was much on which to feast the eyes. People were dressed in colorful, interesting outfits. Stall displays were eye-catching, and the arts and crafts booths were inspiring.

Here for example, is an old cab converted into a coffee stall. We just couldn’t pass it by without buying a latte:

An old London taxi turned cafe

And this is a picture of some of the stalls, displaying all kinds of knickknacks:

Vendor booths at Brick Lane Market

One stall sold interesting-looking leather shoes:

Shoe booth at Brick Lane Market

A few stalls sold handbags, though not necessarily handmade (or local. I suspect many arrived on big ships from China):

Bag booth at Brick Lane Market

Appealing foods were everywhere. They were colorful, beautiful-looking and fragrant, and represented every imaginable country. We ended up staying for lunch, tasting vegetarian Ethiopian food, Chinese dumplings, Japanese tempura, and, for dessert, some Dutch chocolate-filled pancakes.

Food near Brick Lane market

Food near Brick Lane market

Tempting food at Brick Lane Market

There was also amazing street art everywhere, scribbled on walls, painted on doors, or hiding high above. Some of the artists had a good sense of humor. Once we realized there were a few threads of art spread around the neighborhood, hiding above eye-level, our entire visit turned into a fun, “Find Waldo” game.

These, all looking to be by the same artists, were posted high above doors on different lanes:

Fun art near Brick Lane Market

Brick Lane street art

Street art near Brick Lane Market

Brick Lane art

My son liked these cute dinosaurs, also spread in two different locations:

Brick Lane fun street art

Fun street art near Brick Lane Market

And I assume these two works represent the same face:

Street art in London

Street art around Brick Lane Sunday Market

There was also a lot of colorful graffiti:

Graffiti at Brick Lane market

This one, around the corner from a mosque, looked sweet and hopeful in a week besieged by terror and fear:

Muslim street art around Brick Lane Sunday Market

And another street painting I liked:

Art in Brick Lane Market

We noticed his little guy right before we left. He is one of my favorites:

Fun street art around Brick Lane Market

Needless to say, we ended up staying much longer than one or two hours. In fact, we spent the entire day at the market. At the end my daughter came to thank me. “Thanks for taking us there,” she said. “It was really fun!”

 

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