Daily life on Tahiti revolves around several emblematic places. When visiting the island, you will not miss the most fabulous of them all. Indeed, the Papeete market is undoubtedly one of the liveliest places in the city. Get ready for an early morning wake-up call and head to the Tropical Court of Miracles!
Meet the Authentic Polynesian Life
Founded in 1847, Papeete’s municipal market is still located in its historic square in the center of the city. Nearly 500,000 people visit it each year. Of course, tourists come in great numbers to see this high place of Polynesian culture. However, the majority of visitors are Polynesians themselves. People shop, eat and, most importantly, socialize.
The particularity of the Papeete market lies in the place it occupies: a huge covered and semi-enclosed market hall covering more than 7000 m². Inside, it is a real concentrate of Polynesian culture that awaits you. This magical place will awaken all your senses. You will feel a tropical charm, high in colors and aromas. The whole place is impregnated with the culture of Polynesian hospitality, made of kindness, sharing and exchanges.
The Papeete market is a vibrant place and a must-see in Tahiti. The scents, colors and sounds blend together to create a unique sensory experience. Weekday opening hours are from 5:30 am to 4:00 pm, with the exception of Saturday when the market closes at 1:00 pm. On Sundays, the market takes on a very special dimension, from 4:30 am to 10 am.
The Papeete Market, Weekdays
The Tropical Flavors Fair
It is a picturesque and joyful atmosphere that animates the market every day of the week. If it is obviously magical for the visitor, it has kept its primary function as a place of exchange for the locals.
The Papeete market has several sectors, spread over two levels. In the main hall, there is the food market and the stalls of local products of an incredible freshness. Fruits and vegetables are available according to regional measures, in piles or trays. You will find the most beautiful exotic fruits: fei bananas, pineapples, papayas, passion fruits, mangoes, coconuts, taro, uru or pota.
Further on, you will find fish from the open sea such as tuna and those from the lagoon: parrot or paati, nason, perch, ature, red mullet or apa’i. You will have an unbeatable freshness and the embarrassment of the choice between the catches of the day, the whole ones and the cut ones (tuna). Finally, many shops offer ready-made dishes: Tahitian specialties, whether Polynesian or Chinese, are waiting for you. Other snack bars offer huge sandwiches and cold drinks for a hearty meal.
A Festival of Colors
The other half of the hall is home to merchants and artisans. They offer various basketry products, such as woven bags, but also jewelry including pearls and mother-of-pearl. You will also find clothing such as pareu and beautiful flower arrangements to embellish your day and bring back a nice souvenir from Tahiti.
A mezzanine is dedicated to crafts with closed stalls. You will also find a tattoo artist or a restaurant dedicated to “Eating Local”. The stalls are incredibly colorful with red, yellow and green fruits, equally colorful vegetables and exotic flowers. Traditional Polynesian clothing, such as colorful pareos and tifaifai (quilts), also add bright touches to the ensemble.
The Polynesian world is preparing for the climax. From the end of the day on Saturday, farmers from farther away from the island, even from Moorea or other archipelagos, set up shop around the market. The streets are entirely closed to traffic. The night will be short…
Sunday, 4am, Papeete Market Wakes up
Si vous souhaitez assister au moment le plus fort de la semaine, préférez le dimanche matin. Vous ne regretterez pas de remplacer votre grâce matinée dominicale ! Partout, les stands se multiplient et étendent le marché de Papeete aux rues voisines.
As soon as you approach the market, you are greeted by the scent of traditional maa’a Tahiti dishes. For Sundays are sacred to the Polynesians. People gather within their community and share the traditional meal made of pua roti (pig), poe (sweet starch-based dessert), taro (yams), firifiri (local fritters) or raw or grilled fish.
Many local specialties are offered and prepared. If you are not familiar with them, each shopkeeper will take a passionate pleasure in explaining to you, and even in making you taste his dish prepared with his hands. If you are looking for authenticity, you will experience a traditional effervescence.
Discover fruits and vegetables, rambutans, longans, carambola and Chinese cabbage. Fish, meat, and yet no unpleasant smell: the freshness of the products is a delight for the senses. If you don’t like fish, chances are you will change your mind at the Papeete market!
The more curious will appreciate finding Polynesian rau at the corner of a stall. These plant-based medical remedies are still widely used by the local population and are very effective.
The Gateway to French Polynesia
The Papeete market is one of the must-see activities on the Queen Island of French Polynesia. This excellent mix of flavors, aromas and smiles will be an unforgettable memory when you arrive in Tahiti, or on the morning of your return. Many discoveries await you. Contact us to prepare your trip to the South Pacific.