Neighborhood: Zona Rio
I always take visitors to TJ to the Mercado for a true Tijuana experience. Amazing selection of peppers, beans, fruits, and veggies here. You can buy produce here for a fraction of what it costs in Soriana or Calimax. If you ever need a piñata (and candy to go inside), this is the place to shop. If they don't have what you want, they'll make it for you!
Make sure to get your parking ticket validated to save a few pesos.
One side is all produce, grains, mole etc. This place was cool but since I don't live in Mexico, I didn't feel like I could buy any of the produce on the market side.
I liked the other side more with all the tiendas. They most sold candy, kitchen supplies and pinatas. I would really like to buy some kitchen pottery here. I did buy a bag of colorful lollipops for my coworkers to put in their desk organizers for fun.
It's really cool to watch the guys cutting coconuts with machetes. You can either get a plain coconut with a straw for coconut water, or you can have the coconut cut up and put in a bag with chili powder and lime. I had some of the later and it was pretty good. I thought it would be really spicy.
I would love to by a pinata here, there are a LOT of options and I think some of the big ones are only $10.
Mercado Hildalgo is an old-school market with things like piñatas, food, produce, etc. This is a great place to take people visiting from the US who want to see something more traditional. It's also pretty close to a lot of other stuff in Zona Rio, so it's easy to stop by when you are in the area.
Mercado Hidalgo is one of Tijuana's open air markets and is about a mile from the border in Zona Río. In many ways Tijuana is very different from the rest of Mexico but Mercado Hidalgo is a place where you can really get a typical mexican feel. You can see the vibrant colors of piñatas, fruits and vegetables, hear mexican music over loudspeakers and the people selling their wares from the many stalls, smell al sorts of candies, fruits and food being prepared on site. I always recommend it to my friends from SD. Some of my favorite things to do there to eat carnitas, buy all sorts of piñatas and candies and buy sugar cane that you chew on for the delicious juice. There's also a great place for locally made cheeses from TJ and Valle de Guadalupe. The main reason people and restauranteurs come her is to buy fresh produce and spices for cooking but I love it to spend a couple of hours on weekends with family.