Barratio: More than a Flea Market in Cusco, Peru

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When I was told that I could get one of just about anything at Barratio market on Saturdays in Cusco Peru, I was skeptical. Anything?

Well, just about. Including all kinds of things I never knew I (or anybody else) needed.

This post was originally published in 2014. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.

What to Expect at Barratio Market

I was expecting Barratio to be a flea market. But it’s much more than a flea market. For starters, it’s more of a neighbourhood. The maze of streets is crammed with makeshift stalls and setups, with vendors selling anything from new and used clothes and shoes, to electronics, artisan crafts, spare parts, and even severed doll heads.

Yes, severed doll heads.

Barratio market offerings, including doll heads and rollerblade wheels
Rollerblade wheels, extra cables, and severed doll heads: what more could a person want?

Here are a few more of the random things I spotted at Barratio market:

Stand at Barratio Market in Cusco Peru
Get yer red hot used car ashtrays right here!
cogs and wool for sale at Barratio
Anybody want a cog?
Peruvian market in Cusco, with a dead lamb hanging
I’m not sure what purpose this little limp lamb serves…nor the donkey head I saw just down the street from it….
cooking tool demonstrations at Barratio flea market
Just like attending a trade show, some shopkeepers don microphones and extol the benefits of their product, like this woman showing all the amazing things her kitchen gizmo can do.
alpaca wool and blankets for sale in Cusco
A few streets in the Barratio market area are filled with local crafts intrinsic to Cusco – beautiful weavings, alpaca yarn and clothes, and more.


“Be Careful in Barratio”

I was well prepared for the fray before I arrived. Absolutely everybody I mentioned Barratio market to immediately told me that it’s rampant with thieves and that I was to be careful with my personal belongings. Best not to bring a purse with you at all, and instead to keep anything valuable tucked away in an inside pocket.

Although I saw no evidence of petty criminals, indeed the crush of people at Barratio market was such that I was glad not to have to worry about my purse. (Incidentally I had my purse stolen in Cusco a few months after the writing of this post, but it wasn’t at Barratio, and it was a learning experience). 

But I found more kindness than danger; I went with a friend who brought a backpack that had a broken zipper. She was stopped by good samaritans who said “guarda, guarda” (guard your things), pointing to the open pocket on her backpack.

If you Like Street Food, go to Barratio Hungry

roving food vendors at Barratio

Want a bite to eat? There are people walking around the Barratio market, peddling their home-cooked goods, which are kept warm in their buckets and bags insulated with blankets. Others are set up with large pots on single propane burners and a few plastic stools so you can “relax” and enjoy your food.

It’s simple, but the food is delicious. (See also: Street Food in Peru)

alfajores vendor
These little goodies called alfajores are my favourites: two shortbread-like cookies with dulce de leche (caramel) in the middle.
Andean woman selling lunch at a busy market in Cusco
This dish was particularly delicious: a mystery meat with tasty greens, potatoes, and some steamed choclo (giant corn).

Where is the craziest flea market you’ve been to in the world?

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5 thoughts on “Barratio: More than a Flea Market in Cusco, Peru”

  1. The first flea market I can remember was the one in Roseville, CA, we could find cheap food there…
    This spring I stopped at the 1st Monday Trade Days in Canton,TX on my way north.

    Besides something to eat did you get anything during your visit?

    Reply
    • Rob,
      I had my eye out for some jeans, rainboots, and maybe a poncho, but no purchases were pressing so I just enjoyed wandering around. I did get a small locally woven pouch. That’s all!

      Reply
  2. interesting…………..would love to visit one of these. So many odd things for sale unlike the Spanish markets which sell just normal things generally.

    Reply

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