One of the most familiar sights of Santa Fe is the north side of the plaza, where Native American vendors from all over New Mexico spread out their wares under the portal at the Palace of the Governors, as they’ve been doing for more than 80 years. Some 1,000 vendors are licensed to sell here after going through a strict application process that evaluates their technical skills; every morning the 63 spots, each 12 bricks wide, are doled out by lottery, so the selection can change wildly from day to day.
Expect anything from silver bracelets to pottery to heishi (shell bead) necklaces to freshly harvested piñon nuts. It’s a great opportunity to buy direct from a skilled artisan and learn about the work that went into a piece.
The popular Santa Fe Farmers Market is a great place to pick up fresh treats as well as souvenir chile ristras (505/983-4098, www.santafefarmersmarket.com, 7 a.m.–noon Tues. and Sat. mid-Apr.–Oct., 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Sat. Nov.–mid-Apr.). It operates year-round from a market hall on the north end of the Railyard complex, off Paseo de Peralta near Guadalupe Street, opposite SITE Santa Fe.
Once a lovely bit of Saharan-bazaar-style chaos, the flea market in Tesuque Pueblo (505/670-2599, www.tesuquepueblofleamarket.com, 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Fri.–Sun., Mar.–Oct.) has been tidied up considerably. But it mixes local artists with traders from Africa, Guatemala, and elsewhere, and there are usually some good snacks (if not always amazing bargains) to be had. Take Exit 171 (Flea Market Rd.) off U.S. 84/285, just north of the Santa Fe Opera House.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition