The sights, sounds and smells of authentic Polynesian life are on offer at Papeete’s main market, the Marché de Papeete (Municipal Market). The indoor market hall is the commercial and social hub of Tahiti’s laid-back capital and the oldest surviving institution on the island.
The Marché de Papeete is spread over two floors, with the first floor devoted to fruits, vegetables, and fresh foods, and the upper level selling arts and handicrafts. The 19th-century market hall is also a landmark in its own right.
The market makes a popular inclusion on Papeete sightseeing tours, and visiting with a guide is a great way to gain insight into local life, culture, and cuisine. Walking or Segway tours often stop to take a peek en route to nearby attractions such as the Robert Wan Pearl Museum (Musée de la Perle) and Notre Dame Cathedral.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Some market vendors will accept cards, but it’s best to bring cash in local currency (French Polynesian francs).
- Plan at least an hour to explore the large market.
- The Marché de Papeete is accessible to wheelchair users, and an elevator takes shoppers between the two floors.
- The market’s small restaurants and cafés are popular spots for lunch.
How to Get There
Papeete is located on Tahiti’s northwest coast, and the market is right in the heart of the capital. It’s an easy 5-minute walk from the port and close to most of the town’s attractions, including the cathedral and the pearl museum.
When to Get There
The market is held daily from early morning to late afternoon. For fresh food, get there early for the best selection, or arrive at lunchtime to dine at one of the restaurants. The Sunday market is held in the early morning, from 3am to 9am, and only the food stalls are open then.
Shopping at Marché de Papeete
Artisans come from all over the island to sell traditional handicrafts at the market, and there are plenty of options for well-priced souvenirs. Top buys include baskets, hats, and other woven goods; Tifaifai art and quilts; Marquesan wood carvings; pareos (brightly colored sarongs); and black pearl jewelry. Look out for cosmetics containing Monai oil too, a local blend of coconut and tiare flowers. Downstairs, the huge range of produce includes meats, fish, tropical fruits, vegetables, exotic herbs, and fresh flowers.