The popular, bustling El Mercado Carlos Roberto Huembes, like many places around the country, was named after communist guerrillero Carlos Roberto Huembes. Some estimates pin the number of small business, stalls and various other enterprises in the market at 10,000, although the actual number varies from day to day.
El Huembes, as it's known locally, is the second largest market in Nicaragua. It is generally considered safer than Managua's Mercado Oriental (reputed to be the largest in Central America before a disastrous fire in August 2008). Although Mercado de Artesanias de Masaya is more upscale and tourist-oriented, El Huembes offers a greater variety of products and prices. As with any crowded marketplace, visiting El Huembe can leave you open to petty theft. When you visit, it's best to leave expensive jewelry or passports locked up at your hotel and to keep your wallet or purse under close watch.
Since the asking price of any item can vary from stall to stall, make sure to fully investigate the market's offerings before deciding how much you want to spend. Woven hammocks, for example, can range from $5 to $30 depending on their size, quality and construction. Market vendors are used to haggling and will quickly lower their initial asking price if you appear to lose interest. Don't be afraid to poke through multiple stalls to see who is willing to give you the best deal.
Besides hammocks, items to be found at the market include: traditional wooden rocking chairs, wicker furniture, baskets, hand-tooled leather bags, paintings and finely embroidered clothing. Those with limited room in their suitcases can also pick up souvenirs like funny T-shirts, CDs of traditional Nicaraguan music, wooden toys and small ceramics.
If all that shopping has made you hungry, head to the section of El Huembes filled with food stalls. Among a astronomical variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, you'll be able to find local goodies like milk and fruit cajetas (a gelatin desert) or quesillos (a type of flan). There are also indigenous drinks like cacao and tiste, both chocolate drinks, or semilla de jicaro, a drink made from rice, spices and ground jicaro seeds.
For those who have been literally worn out by travel, Huembes craftsmen offer a variety of repair services, including quick fixes to your shoes, clothing and luggage. Not only are such repairs done skillfully, they are also relatively inexpensive.
In addition to a place of commerce, El Huembes serves as a transportation hub between Managua and various destinations around Nicaragua. Buses can be found leaving at almost any hour for cities such as Granada, Masaya and San Juan del Sur. The market itself is easily accessible by taxi (just ask for "El Huembes" -- all local drivers know it) and is a roughly 10 minute drive east of the CentroamÃ©rica rotunda. Once you pass the rotunda, you should find the market on your right.
Craft market, Bookstore, Seafood market, Food market