Santiago is a bustling city filled with exciting places to go and things to see. Markets, which in Chile are locally known as mercados or ferias, certainly do not lack. With many different types spreading around the city, from artisan to flea markets and grocery stores where you can buy fruits, vegetables and animal products by the kilo, Santiago’s markets are absolutely worth exploring. However, one of Santiago’s best market to visit to experience authentic Chilean everyday life, is undoubtedly El Persa Bio Bío.
Located just on the outskirts of the city center, on the southern edge of Santiago Centro, this bustling and loud flea market offers everything that you could imagine: antiques, old books, record players, bicycles, dolls, clothes, tools, pirated DVDs and all sorts of odds and ends in an impressive array of blankets and tables.
Persa Bio Bío is known equally for cheap, quality goods as well as second-hand merchandise. So depending on which part of the flea market they start with, travelers can get the wrong impression that they landed in a maze of cheap bric-a-brac.
Keep in mind that this flea market covers a huge square area located within San Diego and Santa Rosa, encompassing the calles Placer, Bío-Bío, Arauco, Franklin and San Isidro. While traditional clothing and furniture retailers occupy street-side booths, many of the niche vendors can be found in the labyrinth of converted industrial warehouses that line calle Placer.
Those looking for vintage items and antiques, should skip the “New Market” and head straight to the calle Placer 637 w/ calle Victor Manuel (Galpon 7 & Sector 5). Even though many of the articles are similar to those found on the sidewalk street blankets, this part of the flea market however offers other treasures for the eclectically minded flea market enthusiasts. Silver platters, crystal glasses, second hand kitchen appliances, corroded but gorgeous old mopeds, mysterious super eight film reels and fur jackets are some of the many items sold in this part of the Persa Bio Bío.
Antique furniture are located at calle Arturo Prat 2293 (Local 7 & 18). Also keep in mind that even though the Persa Bio Bío operates every day of the week, it is advisable to visit it on the weekend when vendors show up their best merchandise.
Food is also sold at this flea market, so be prepared to try some authentic Chilean food while visiting. On most street corners there are people selling grilled pork sandwiches, shawarmas and frying empanadas, filled with a pool of melted cheese. For a healthier alternative, try the freshly blended banana, strawberry, melon and pineapple juices which are available for just CP$600 (around US$1.00).
El Persa Bío Bío does have a reputation for having a darker side which only makes it all the more exciting. So try and keep any valuables out of site and if possible visit with a Chilean local.