A shopping highlight for many visitors to Nassau and the nearby resorts on Paradise Island, the Bay Street straw market is a favorite for locally-crafted souvenirs and other Bahamian finds. Bay Street itself is lined with quirky shops, restaurants and bars, but it’s the bartering and handmade goods that make the straw market a must-visit for vacationers and cruise goers alike. Open every day of the week, from 8 am to 8 pm, the straw market is conveniently located just a few minutes walk from the cruise port.
Here are five things you should know about Nassau’s famous straw market.
1. Straw weaving is a Bahamian tradition
Since the early 1940s, weaving and braiding straw has played a part in Bahamian culture. Locals would craft baskets to carry fruit and weave nets for fishing traps to support the island lifestyle. After the end of World War II, American tourists visiting Nassau purchased the goods for souvenirs.
2. Not all goods are hand made
If you’re heading to the straw market on the lookout for artfully-crafted goods made by locals, you are in luck. Market vendors sell everything from woven straw bags, baskets and conch shell jewelry, to kitschy souvenirs like China-made t-shirts and fridge magnets.
3. The original market burned down in 2001
Nearby Nassau’s popular port, the original open-air straw market took up a whole block on Bay Street, housing vendors who sat crafting straw goods and colorful gifts. In 2001, the structure burned down.Ten years later, in 2011, following Hurricane Irene, a solid, concrete two-story building replaced the temporary structure, creating a more modern and air-conditioned space for vendors.
4. Bartering is expected
Vendors at this busy market expect you to barter with them. Don’t be shy when it comes to negotiating prices and remember that this is a part of local trade, and for many tourists, it’s a highlight for getting to know the local tradesmen. Just remember to stay respectful, and that it’s all in good fun!
5. More than 400 vendors & entertainment on Bay Street
As part of the new modern market, you can expect up to 500 vendors on any given day selling their unique treasures and souvenirs. As if that’s not exciting enough, a stage is a new addition to the facility, hosting many local entertainers and bands.