St. John's Stories and Tips

The Local Marketplace

The Exterior of the Public Market Complex Photo, St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda

One of the more popular attractions in downtown St. Johns is the Public Vegetable Market and Craft Market Complex. It's located away from the hustle and bustle of the main shopping areas, but only a few minutes walk away from any point of the city. The Vegetable Market is set up on the ground floor of the two storey building, and over forty different farmers and vendors earn their livelihood there.

Inside of the complex, many small wooden tables are constructed, and each table is laden with many different types of fruits and vegetables which were harvested from farms or even small backyard gardens. Usually a table would specialize in a few specific crops such as eggplants and sweet potatoes, or okras, cabbage and breadfruit.

A large variety of tropical fruits are sold here, and that's the main attraction for me personally. Grapes, tangerines, golden apples, sugar apples, bananas and specialties such as the Antiguan Black Pineapple are all found here at the best prices on the island. The cost is significantly lower at the market, which is enough of an enticement to draw locals out of their homes before the sun rises on Saturday mornings, when the largest harvests hit the city.

Visitors, especially from the cruise ship port tend to explore the Vegetable Market for a taste of exotic fruits such as the genip and the tiny but sweet yellow and red Caribbean plums. Both of these fruits have a solitary seed in the center, covered by a sweet and fleshy exterior. If you visit during the mango season, the market is laden with the colourful fruit and different by-products such as jams and candies. A resultant sweet scent lingers throughout the building, and tempts you to sample as many tasty treats as possible.

Apart from the allure of the foreign fruits, tourists usually visit the complex to browse in the Craft Market. Everything from souvenir T-shirts and magnets to woven baskets and keyrings can be found here. If you're looking for something unique, I recommend to get either a customized leather handband, created in your presence or a painting by one of the several artists at hand.

Outside of the Antigua Vegetable Market and Craft Market complex is a small park with several benches. In the park, a large statue of the founding father of the island, V.C.Bird Senior has been erected there, and it's common to see persons pausing to snap a photo since the statue seems a bit random at the Public Market.

Costs at the markets vary, but everything is very affordable. Fruits can be bought for $1-2 USD, for small portions. Local drinks such as coconut water or sugar cane juice are sold for approximately $3 a bottle, and snowcones are made in a pick-up truck outside on the street for $1.50. Vegetables and Fruits are usually sold by the pound, but for small portions it is possible to hand select your choices.

If you are interested in seeing a slice of local life, the market complex is the best place to visit in St. Johns. It's noisy at times, and can be crowded on the weekends, but the experience will be very real. There's nothing orchestrated for tourism purposes there, and the products sold are the very best which the nation has to offer.

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