The Little Haiti Caribbean Marketplace is the embodiment of South Florida: a sensory overload of sight, tastes, and sounds. If you’re looking for a destination in Miami, with strong roots, and full of energy, while still being off-the-beaten-path, stop by the Little Haiti Caribbean Marketplace.
The bustling historical landmark, patterned after Port-au-Prince’s famous Marché en Fer (the Iron Market), comes alive with Afro Caribbean art, culture, food, set against the backdrop of live music, island-style. Whether you’re into arts, artisan crafts, or sampling traditional cuisine, there’s something for everyone at this hidden cultural gem.
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Little Haiti Miami and the Little Haiti Cultural Complex
The marketplace set in the vibrant working-class Little Haiti neighborhood in Miami, home to a large Haitian population. Unlike many pockets in South Florida, it’s low on campy tourist attractions, instead full of authentic shops, Haitian bakeries, restaurants, art galleries, and vibrant street culture.
With limited tourist accommodation in the immediate area, Little Haiti tends to get missed by many visitors, and many mainstream tourist guides. Don’t be fooled by this though! This art and culture-filled neighborhood is worth a stop, especially with the emerging Little Haiti Cultural Center. The complex featuring a museum-quality art gallery and home to some of the best free things to do in Miami, including the cultural night known as “Sounds of Little Haiti.”
For an in-depth look at the area, book the Little Haiti bus tour, offering a cultural exploration of the neighborhood while also providing a rich and entertaining view of local history.
Escape to the Islands … at the Little Haiti Caribbean Marketplace
As you approached the 9,000-square-foot space, feeling the hot South Florida sun on your shoulders, you’ll begin to hear and feel the bustling energy within the Marketplace: the live music swaying in the background, the scent of traditional Haitian foods; the flash of brightly-colored accessories and splashes of yellow, sea blue and red everywhere.
Like most immigrant hubs, it started as a place where people sought out the comforts of their homeland while adapting to the culture of their new country. However, Mache Ayisyen, the Caribbean Marketplace, fell into disrepair, shuttered down for years, and was in danger of being demolished. Spurred by local objection, a community and city-led effort was put in place to renovate and revamp the marketplace.
The gingerbread-style structure now up and running, stands as a symbol of the city’s cultural diversity, and a community very much a part of Miami’s rich history.
Caribbean Market Day
Saturdays, dubbed Caribbean Market Day, are the busiest with an influx of friendly and welcoming vendors selling traditional Caribbean handicrafts, jewelry, fashion designs, housewares, art, books, natural beauty products and more. Vendors will happily talk more about their craft when asked.
Not interested in artisan crafts? It’s an ideal sampling of Caribbean culture, including indoor dining, art exhibitions, music by local bands, and (occasional) performances.
Food at the Caribbean Marketplace
I recommend trying some island food while you are there. It’s the perfect showcase of traditional dishes and a great place to fuel up. Foods from aromatic stew chicken and fried plantains to the traditional fried pork chunks (griot), or exotic fruit drinks, or my go-to, the conch salad. You’ll even find a selection of vegan options too.
RELATED: Best Local Places to Eat in Miami
Ti Georges Kafé
Revive yourself from a food coma by slipping into the small café tucked into the corner of the Caribbean Marketplace for a strong cup of Haitian-imported coffee.
Georges – yes, he’s the owner – is as cheerful and friendly as they come. Before starting up this hidden gem, George ran a cult-favorite fried chicken joint in L.A. but now concentrates full-time on running the coffee stand and importing beans. I’m not a coffee connoisseur, so he made me his special Haitian rum punch, a refreshing tropical paradise in a glass! You can also pick up flaky Haitian pastries and dark, rich coffee beans imported straight from Haiti here.
Libreri Mapou Bookstore Little Haiti
Before leaving the Caribbean Marketplace, be sure to pay a visit to the Libreri Mapou Bookstore, located right next door to the Marketplace. Founded by Haitian playwright, poet, and activist Jan Mapou, this community staple has managed to preserve Haitian culture for decades.
His inventory started from his collection, and now this brightly yellow-colored shop is stocked with books on Haitian history, politics, folklore and more, as well as vibrantly illustrated children’s books by Haitian authors.
The bookstore is a pocket of true Haitian culture, a cherished spot for many locals who come here to listen to live music and chat about the issues facing the island. All are welcome, and I highly recommend a stop here!
The Little Haiti Caribbean Marketplace Location:
The Caribbean Marketplace is located at 5925 NE 2nd Ave., Miami, FL 33137. If you are trying to maximize your time in the area, I recommend combining a part-day stop in Little Haiti, with visits to the nearby spots, like the Design District or Wynwood.
The Caribbean Marketplace is more than food and music or the bright colors depicted all over the building. The Marketplace represents the exuberance and the liveliness of the city’s Caribbean culture, an atmosphere unto itself that will leave an impression.