How to not shop till you drop at Expoartesanías 2019

By Artemis Maria Papoutsakis December 5, 2019

Expoartesanías is one of the largest handicraft fairs in Latin America and is a ‘must’ for any fans of Colombian culture. Here are five tips to on how to get the most out of it.

Many colourful handmade articles are at display at Expoartesanias again.
Many colourful handmade articles are at display at Expoartesanías this year.

One of the biggest design and craft shows in Latin America marks the beginning of the end of the year and acts as a one-stop shop for Christmas bargains and presents. Expoartesanias is one of the most-attended annual fairs at Corferias and a highlight of the year for many visitors. You can wonder at the diversity and richness of Colombia’s art and cultural heritage through handmade articles, ranging from jewellery, fashion, interior design, and paintings. For artists and vendors travelling from all over Colombia, this is their annual pilgrimage to proudly showcase their crafts to around 70,000 visitors.

Corferias will fling open the doors to its seven main halls for this 29th edition of the fair. Whether you are going as a shopper or collector, as a handcraft connoisseur or casual admirer, or you’re doing your friend a favour and humouring them and helping to carry their shopping bags, here are some tips on how to navigate the fair.

1. Treat this fair as a deep-dive into Colombian culture and heritage experience. Many regions and indigenous groups are represented here through their own particular and unique crafts. See first hand the creativity of Colombian hands by witnessing how they set colour into fabric using natural dyes, forge tree roots into hanging lamp shades, or construct meticulously woven handbags from dried banana tree leaves. It is as if taking a trip to each corner of Colombia, so use it as a chance to interact with the artists, ask them questions about their craft and regions. The names and location of origin on each stall can also serve as inspiration for your next travel destination in Colombia.

2. Carry a large, comfortable and practical bag, preferably something with wheels, think of your grandma’s shopping cart. This will be a full day on your feet, walking back and forth between stalls and large halls, carrying multiple purchases from small items such as magnetic bottle openers shaped into hummingbirds to heavy and larger objects such as Ráquira ceramics. A rucksack with multiple zipped compartments will also help, so you can safely divide the breakables from bulky items and say no to those single use plastic bags. Do not bring anything aside from cash (some stalls do not accept cards though there is an ATM), a few energy bars to keep you going and a refillable water bottle. If you’ve got an eager friend, you can take it turns to carry and watch the bags. 

ARTBO, the art fair in Bogotá

3. Draw up a shopping list beforehand and set a rough but flexible budget, which saves you from overspending in a shopping frenzy. Expect to knock a few things off your Christmas shopping list and happen upon a few spontaneous buys, as you discover a newfound appreciation for Colombian art. The risk of overindulgence is high inside the walls of Expoartesanías. The few pesos you spend on those cute little sombrero-shaped rings for all your co-workers, can easily turn into withdrawing from your savings to buy a hammock for a summer home you’ve dreamt of but don’t even own. To create a list, check the galleries and videos from the event’s principal website to get inspired and focus on your must haves. You can also search through #expoartesanías for even more inspiration.

4. Detail your game plan. Upon receiving your visitor’s guide and map when entering Corferias spend a few minutes targeting which halls you want to spend the most time in. Each hall exhibits a new type of craftsmanship with ranging price tags. The largest hall showcases traditional art spread out on two floors, the bottom with the most economical options and the top with the more expensive finds. Other halls display the latest fashion pieces and delicate handmade jewellery.

5. Be an early-bird to avoid the crowds and ensure you have enough space physically and mentally to keep your mind focused and fresh. Make the most out of the fourteen days that the feria is open for and avoid the busy weekends. Consider going at the end of Expoartesanías as you may be able to negotiate on final pieces. Though bear in mind that you may not be left with the best articles to haggle over.

Corferias, Carrera 37 #24-67
December 4-17 
Monday to Sunday 10am-8pm (except December 4 when it opens at midday)
COP$15,000 for adults, COP$4,000 for children