Persa Bio Bío: More than a Chilean flea market

Santiago’s leading market presents a unique environment worth exploring

It is 10:30 AM on a Wednesday morning at Persa Bio Bío, Santiago’s famous bazaar where you can find almost anything. Noticeably, the streets lack the throngs of shoppers and onlookers you will find on the weekend. Located near Franklin Metro, Persa Bio Bío is an experience as much as it is a shopping destination.

“Persa Bio Bío is unique because there is a connection between vendors and customers,” Jose Monsalve, an employee at  an electronics retailer, told This is Chile. “It makes you want to come back.

While some may return to Persa Bio Bío to connect with vendors, others return to the market simply for the excitement. Despite a quiet buzz and the occasional blast of cumbia, Persa Bio Bío is largely a staging ground during the week. Most vendors spend their time organizing their goods and preparing for the oncoming surge of weekend activity.

Calle Placer is one of the primary streets among the intersecting city blocks that form this mecca for bargain-shoppers and cultural observers alike. On weekends you must dance from one spot of open concrete to the next on this popular byway, dodging people, furniture, dogs and kiosks sizzling with street food. The smells of shawarma mix quickly with more offensive odors as bystanders play thimblerig and stray dogs wander through blankets of knick knacks.

Persa Bio Bío is known equally for cheap, quality goods as well as second-hand merchandise. While traditional clothing and furniture retailers occupy street-side booths, many of the niche vendors can be found in the labyrinth of converted industrial warehouses that line Calle Placer. The antique booths are particularly interesting; some vendors offer vintage straight razors, old postcards and unmarked family photographs.

You may receive a sly look after telling a Chilean you visited Persa Bio Bío. The market is worlds apart from the upscale and flashy environments of Santiago’s more modern shopping centers. Regardless of your reason for going, Persa Bio Bío is well worth a few hours of your weekend.

By Michael Sun