When in Valencia, one of the places that are a must for every traveler is Merkat Central, Central Market, one of the largest markets in Europe that is declared as a site of cultural heritage.
Central Market is one of the oldest markets in Europe that is still in use. There is even a legend among the locals that some sort of a market stood there in 14th century. What is certain, however, is that in 1839. on the spot was opened outdoor Mercat Nou, New Market, predecessor of current valencian darling. As time went by, New Market couldn’t keep up with expansion of Valencia so the Town Council called for construction of the new market.
After more than ten years of work, construction was completed in 1928. and Spanish king Alfonso XIII was present at the ceremonial opening on the 23rd of January. Decades later, in 1996, it became the first market in the world to have computerized sales and to provide home delivery services.
Spectacular piece of architecture, Central Market is mostly built in modernist Valencian Art Nouveau style, though it was influenced by gothic Lonja de la Seda and gothic-baroque church of San Juan, with which it perfectly blends. It’s most striking feature is an unusual roof, with both domes and slopes. It is so made that light can enter through the roof at numerous spots, which adds immensely to the splendor. Windows of colored glass also do their fair share. Domes are made from iron, glass and ceramic, and each of them has two weather vanes on top.
Market covers more than 8000 square meters and has two floors. Interior layout is fairly simple, with stalls lined along the aisles with two thoroughfares connecting them. Also, at the main entrance, there are beautiful pavilions made of naked bricks and stone.
What to Buy
When it comes to products, on the one side of the aisles is usually butchery, pork butchery, grocery, ironmongery, bakery, poultry, meat and game, salted fish and offal, on the other – potatoes, legumes, vegetables, fruit, hen and others. Fish market has its own space inside the market.
Central Market truly symbolizes food product diversity of Valencia’s region, globally famous for its fruits and vegetables, grown in the plain that surrounds the city. You can get yourself numerous kinds of seasonal fruits and vegetables, fresh fish, fresh, smoked, dry and cold meat, variety of cheeses, baked good and, of course, olives and wines. One stand sells only snails.
Near meat, as one probably would expect, are spices. With just a little Spanish, you will leave with plenty of secret recipes. One of absolute hits is a stand that sells only saffron, main ingredient for famous paella and Valencian Fideùa. Saffron was brought to Iberian Peninsula by the Moors, and since became part of Castilian culture. Today, and in spite of much reduced production, spanish saffron is considered among the worlds best. It also comes as a souvenir, in form of threads, which can cost from 7 to 20 euros, depending on quality.
One of the great Spanish prides is jamón, ham. There are many different types, each with appropriate price. Champion among them is called pata negra, or “black hoof”, and is made from black pigs who roam freely in the fields, feeding only with acorns. There are some pata negra hams that cost hundreds of euros, and literally melt in your moth when tasted.
Ham is great, but it’s even better when consumed with bread. Spanish have a couple of very popular kinds of bread, and in Central Market you can find them all.
Further down the aisle, or up, depends from starting point, is butcher’s line, where you can find all kinds of fresh meat, and all of different parts, from heads to tails. Some vendors offer rabbits, with saffron another important part of paella.
Large section of Central Market is a place for pescaderias, fish shops. Basically, on offer is every kind of sea food and fish that you can think of, squids, cuttlefish, octopuses, shellfish, shrimps, sea urchins, prawns… up to the live eels.
Where to Eat
After a long and slow walk filled with colors and scents, it is only natural that tired feet need refreshment. Want Coffee? Stall Retrogusto Coffeemates is one for you. Fancy a tea? Head immediately to BBté: Tienda de té. Starving? In the midst of the Central Market sits well-known restaurant Central Bar. There you can enjoy various dishes, which are, like in all other restaurants in the market, made from fresh products bought along the aisles of Central Market.
Since it is local specialty, paella deserves its own line. For it, my personal pick is La Riua restaurant, not far from the Central Market.
All in all, Central market is a great place to start your exploration of Valencia.
Market is located in the heart of Ciutat Vella, the Old City, historic centre of Valencia. It is across the street from Lonja de la Seda, Silk Exchange, one of main tourist attractions of the city, and the church of the San Juan de Mercado. It is situated very close to several other tourist attractions and numerous shops, bars and restaurants.