Papeete market is a wonderful place to visit during your stay in The Islands of Tahiti. Situated right in the middle of the town, it is a colorful and lively center where you’ll get a good insight into the daily life of the inhabitants of French Polynesia.
The municipal market in Papeete was originally called the Mapuru a Paraita. A simple food market to begin with, it has evolved into a dynamic and incredibly colorful cultural landmark. Situated in the very heart of the capital of The Islands of Tahiti, you can buy fruit, vegetables, fish, pareos, jewelry, handicraft and art, from all the five archipelagos of French Polynesia. It will take you two or three hours to visit the two floors of this immense, busy market, but there are snackbars on the upper floor where you can have something to eat and a coffee. In the streets around the market, you’ll find all kinds of small shops and boutiques, selling everything from fashion clothes to traditional Chinese medicine. The market is open from 5h30 to 16h Monday to Friday, and closes at 13h on Saturday. Sunday mornings are a particularly lively moment in the market. It opens at 4h30 and the local inhabitants flock there to buy dishes and ingredients for their traditional Sunday ma’a Tahiti brunch.
The different parts of the market
The market is divided into several distinct sections, based on the produce and products being sold. The ground floor is mostly fresh produce, with areas for fish, vegetables and meat. You’ll find all the different exotic fruits in French Polynesia, including, guava, papaya, passion fruit, limes, abiu and in season, lychees and rambutans. The selection of different fish is as vast as it is fascinating. There are also stands selling magnificent bouquets of flowers and garlands of tiare Tahiti. By shopping in the market, you’re helping local business and the farmers of French Polynesia.
Once you’ve toured the ground floor, go up the wide staircase to the upper floor, which is dedicated to the arts and crafts of The Islands of Tahiti. Handwoven baskets, hats and mats, sculptures in wood and bone, colorful pareos and, of course, Tahitian cultured pearls are for sale at reasonable prices. It is the ideal place to do all your souvenir shopping all in one go. There are a few snackbars on the upper floor where you can get a poisson cru, a Chinese meal and a freshly pressed fruit juice or a cup of coffee.
Some useful tips
The best time to visit the market is early in the morning, when the displays of are at their most stunning, especially the fish stands. You can breakfast on a cup of coffee with some firi firi, a local donut shaped in a figure eight that is often flavored with coconut. You can even get a donut with a peanut butter filling.
Sunday mornings are a truly unique experience in Papeete market. The local population flocks there to buy fruit and vegetables and above all, pu’a rôti (sweet roast pork) and fresh fish for their traditional Sunday brunch, the ma’a Tahiti. There are so many sellers that the stands overflow into the street. At about 7 o’clock, the sellers begin to sell off whatever they have left at cheaper prices.