The festive and colorful Mercado, or Central Market, of San Antonio is just a few blocks west of downtown. Perhaps this is not an essential part of your visit, but if you have the time or are dining at the famous Mexican restaurant Mi Tierra, you may as well poke around here.
There are over thirty vendors within the main building, collectively attempting to create the aura of a market in Mexico. This Mercado is generally recognized as the largest one outside of Mexico. I would imagine some of these items would be dirt cheap in Mexico, but they appear reasonably priced here. You can always comparison shop amongst the various storefronts to see if you can get a better deal, but they seem to be evenly priced throughout the complex. The items have marked prices, so you cannot bargain down as you would at an actual market in Mexico. The shopkeepers all seem very low-key, so you are not hassled into purchasing anything. Almost every store posts a sign begging tourists not to wear sombreros or other articles of clothing while posing for photos, at least not until you have purchased them. It is fun to browse through the boxes and racks of knickknacks, but it is easy to knock something fragile over because the places are just brimming with merchandise. Be careful!
There are all sorts of colorful and amusing items on display along with your typical selection of t-shirts and trinkets. If you are buying t-shirts, be sure you are not taking the "old" ones on top of the piles. Plenty of little toys are available for under a dollar if you have a boatload of kids to shop for. Leather goods run the gamut from purses, belts, whips, gun holsters and even saddles. Traditional gifts like pinatas, tortilla warmers, blankets, pottery and jewelry are available in all shapes and sizes. Try to look at the tags to see where the stuff is produced, as what is the point of buying a "Mexican" armadillo made in China?
Just west of the Mercado is the Farmers Market Plaza, which has about eighty specialty shops of food and wares for sale. It seems like a big annex of the Mercado. Enjoy a snack here or just read the signs to see what you may have eaten in street stalls in Mexico but did not know what it was that you ate. Mariachi bands play lively music outside the Mercado to add another layer of atmosphere to the area. Some of the shops set up some extra tables outside, so have a look around. The Mercado seemed much more interesting and festive than the historic La Villita district near the River Walk, or did we catch La Villita during a collective Sunday siesta?
El Mercado is open from 10am to 8pm during the summer. In the winter the stores close a bit earlier at 6pm.