Alternately fascinating and repellent, the Mercado Grande is divided into two cavernous and adjacent halls, the Mercado Municipal and the newer, and cleaner, Mercado Novo. They both contain the same goods, mostly food and clothing, which also spill into the street outside, creating a few blocks of densely packed commerce. The spectacle is the point. Photography is not appreciated, so be discreet.
The Mercado Municipal is complete chaos. The aisles are packed, and hawkers sprawl everywhere, some with babies strapped to their backs, offering a mountain of fruit or just a handful of fish. It's also a Board of Health nightmare, with customers sorting through meat parts on the floor. The best approach is to dive into one end and make your way toward the other, soaking up the sights along the way – whatever they might be. The Mercado Novo is more organised, and feels boring after you have survived its twin.