By Fiona Hurrell, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The city of Rio is well known for its street markets and fairs, and most neighborhoods have several happening at regular times each week. In the downtown Centro area though, the daily SAARA market is a must-visit attraction for travelers and locals looking for fabulous bargains among the impressive labyrinth of stalls.
Standing for ‘Sociedade de Amigos das Adjacências da Rua da Alfândega’, SAARA was originally formed in 1962 by a group of merchants from one of the oldest and most interesting area’s in Centro – Rua da Alfândega.
With over six hundred stores, SAARA sells everything from toys, clothing, footwear, party goods, Carnival costumes, electronics, home decoration and appliances – all for very reasonable prices.
Indeed SAARA is so well stocked and bustling, one could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a bazaar in Istanbul. During the run up to Christmas, SAARA is particularly popular with shoppers who can find everything they need to decorate their house from artificial Christmas trees, to fairy lights and trimmings.
Similarly, Carnival is another time when SAARA becomes inundated with shoppers on the lookout for sparkly costumes, headdresses and quirky accessories to wear to their local bloco (street party). Expatriate Christa Pickering is a huge fan of SAARA, which she believes, is a godsend for families, individuals and anyone on a budget.
Pickering recommends, “SAARA is a great place especially if you have kids and you have countless amounts of costume and school projects to do for the year not forgetting the different themes you have to work with. This can become costly very quickly if you are constantly buying from places around Barra, Leblon and Ipanema.”
The huge selection and affordability is the main reason why Pickering herself visits regularly, stating, “Personally I love SAARA because I’m a crafty person and living in Ipanema three years ago made me realize that Crafting can become a really expensive hobby in Rio because the shops in Ipanema were charging so much more.”
“I love shopping in SAARA for beading projects, sewing/quilting projects, painting, costumes for any party & party supplies,” she shares.
Furthermore, as membership director of the InC (International Club of Rio), Pickering takes great pleasure in organizing group trips to SAARA, which never fails to impress. She adds, “I also would like to point out how safe it is, in the five and a half years I’ve been visiting SAARA I have never once encountered problems there.”
On Saturday, December 15th a fire started in the second floor of one of the store buildings, and firefighters had to barricade the block of Praça da República where Rua da Alfândega is located. Around forty shops in the area were evacuated and closed temporarily in case the fire spread.
SAARA is normally open Monday to Friday from 9AM to 6PM and Saturday from 9AM to 2PM, and during the Christmas period open seven days a week. The best way to get to the market is by the Metrô, with the station Uruguaiana being the closest. For more information, visit SAARA’s official website here.