These days traditional “Mercados” offering variety of fresh food (from veggies and fruits, dairy products, breads & pastries to all sorts of meat & fish) are slowly giving way to modern supermarkets. The latter not only significantly widened the range of offered goods but also closely follow newest industry trends and technology. It’s true that modern-day supermarkets can easily meet your needs as a buyer (in other words you will find almost everything under one roof) however, all that comes at the price of losing “souls”, traditions and uniqueness of atmosphere of neighborhood…
No wonder, that Valencia resists this trend. Municipal Mercados still enjoy popularity among local residents not only providing them with fresh, quality food, but also playing the role of meeting place where they can find “familiar” local environment, customs going back few generations as well as many second or third generation shopkeepers….. The latter is as important as the food itself. Finding on the opposite side of the stall someone you know since forever, someone you can trust, someone who with time is becoming almost a “member of family”….
And may be the most important characteristic of Mercados: truly fresh food. Indeed, the strongest point of traditional Mercados is that they mostly sell the local food, so potentially healthier (quite often from small family-run ecological farms) as well as garden-fresh and full of flavors (due to much shorter way from the field to the market).
All Valencian markets offer fruits and vegetables, the second position (in terms of number of dedicated stalls) is fish (after all, proximity of sea obliges), followed by groceries, butcheries, delicatessens and then poultry and eggs. The recent trend seen on the premises is gastronomy (sort of coffee, tapas-snack and wine-beer bars).
Valencian Municipal Markets:
1. Mercado Algiros
2. Mercado Cabanyal
3. Mercado Central
4. Mercado Colon
5. Mercado Ruzafa
6. Mercado Rojas Clemente
7. Mercado Grao
8. Mercado Benicalap
9. Mercado Benimàmet
10. Mercado Castilla
11. Mercado JERUSALEM
12. Mercado Jesus
13. Mercado Mosén Sorell
14. Mercado Nazaret
15. Mercado San Pedro Nolasco
16. Mercado Torrefiel
17. Mercado Rodonda
Most current Valencian Mercados were built more than half century ago (either replacing old outdated ones or answering needs for new ones in rapidly developing city). Architecturally, they mostly represent Valencian urban modernism heavily influenced by hardship of 60’s (read it – limited financial resources). But among them there are few real gems with much longer and colorful history and marvelous architectural forms like for example Mercado Central, Mercado Colon and to some extend Mercado Redonda. All of them gained well-deserved popularity among tourists (the first two are on the list of 12 most beautiful covered markets in Europe), although only Mercado Central still works as a traditional fresh-food market.
Of those mentioned above, Mercado Grao (the oldest one in the city) and Mercado San Pedro Nolasco are rather in the state of sorry with very low level of occupation. Both are waiting for major re-modeling to bring them up to modern day standards.
It should be noted, that unlike modern shopping centers that are open almost 24/7, operating hours of majority of Valencian Mercados are Monday to Saturday from 7:30 am to 15:00 (3:00 pm). However, as the sign of time (and pressure from competition) there is growing tendency to open markets also in afternoons. As for now, few already adjusted working hours opening for at least one or two afternoon(s), usually from 17 (5pm) to 20 (8 pm).
The Benicalap market is located in the Valencian district that in recent years underwent an enormous growth. The Mercado was built at the beginning of 80’s following the project by Pedro Sosa Lungeno. Surrounded by trees and confined on three sides by the “wall” of apartment buildings it’s somehow hidden from by-passer eyes. The access to the market (and the parking) is from the street of Miguel Servet.
While Mercado Benicalap offers traditional fresh food, it definitely went farther to meet new challenges. So, for example it is also open from Thursday through Saturday on afternoons (after 2 hours of siesta) what is still quite new (if not “revolutionary”) idea in Valencia. Also, as a sign of time, local residents will find on the premises a Computer Literacy Classroom launched by the city of Valencia.
Nearby you will find an imposing structure of the future new soccer (OK, let’s make it clear – football) stadium. It’s still in a raw shape as the construction works were halted due to limited resources) but hopefully it will soon replace the old one – Mestalla. The plaza (actually nice little park) de Joaquin Munños Peirats on the opposite side of the street Miquel Servet gives chance to relax after shopping. Few blocks away you will also find Palau de Congressos and a large Benicalap Park with water activities.
Mercado Grao is the oldest existing market in Valencia. Located near the port on the Plaza del Mercado Nuevo (New Market) it was officially open in 1916 (just for reference – The famous Central Market was open in 1928). After serving local residents for over century, the market is now significantly deteriorated and mostly abandoned by everybody (merchants and customers). Out of initial 52 stalls, now only 3 including fish shop, delicatessen and grocery still operate accompanied by an old-fashioned café-bar.
Fortunately, after years of negligence new life is apparently coming to this desolate structure. The new project by the architect José María Tomás will preserve the architectural concept of the now historical old market. However, the number of permanent stalls will be reduced to 24 at the benefit of wider partially green area dedicated to cultural activities, neighborhood meetings, concerts etc. It will also house a theater for children. Especially, to boost all kinds of social activities the market will also include bars and cafeterias and will be also open afternoons and evenings. It is expected that the fully “refurbished” Mercado Grau offering some 2,800 square meters of mostly covered space will be completed in 2019.
While usually the big commercial port is not the focal point for tourists (with exception of cruise pier), it may be worth to mention Grau’s architectural and historical jewel located near the Mercado. It is a very unique landmark known by its Arabic name: Las Atarazanas (shipyards). This now meticulously renovated structure with five arches supporting wooden roof was built by Moors in the late 14th century. Now it is an exhibition hall.
It is a small municipal market located on similarly small plaza d’Alboraig in the barrio Benimalet. Traditionally it offers fruits and vegetables, herbs, nuts, pastry, fresh, frozen and salted fish, fresh and cured meat etc… There is also an organic/green/ecological section. The market operates only till 3 pm staying closed for afternoons.
The small size of the market reflects the fact that the barrio Benimamet is still a sort of “dormitory” of Valencia, where the people come for the night to sleep after a busy working and shopping day elsewhere. These habits have deep historical roots as even in 20th century, it was an area of 2nd residences and summer houses for privileged class of Valencian residents.
And just for curious: the name Benimamet is derived from an Arabic (most likely Bani Mahbar, or Bani Muhammad..) meaning “property of children of” (and here the name in question). Well, the truth is that Valencia cannot (and should not) escape its Moorish past.
Mercado Castilla is located on the Calle Llombai in the district of L’Olivereta although local residents usually point its location to smaller neighborhood known as Tres Forques. It’s relatively new market that recently celebrated its 47 years of operation. No wonder, its shape and exterior red-brick finish as well as a lot of interior space (big passages with benches and plants) reflects newer trends in commercial urban architecture. With an area of about 5,000 square meters spread over three floors, Mercado Castille has much more to offer than you will find on traditional fresh-food/green markets. So, on top of expected fresh fruits and veggies, groceries, butcheries, pananerias (bakeries) and “pescaterias” (fish shops) etc. you will also find on the premises some unusual (as for Valencian Mercados) sites.
It will be for example a hairdresser, traditional shoemaker shop, Municipal Employment Office. Local residents will find there a new training area giving cooking classes (actually given the richness of Valencian cuisine, it may be also of interest for foodies). It may be worth to mention, that unlike many other Valencian Markets, the Castilla one is quite well maintained, renovations are not an exception but rather the part of the business. Just recently the fish market is being refurbished, and the market received new plants beautifying the premises.
More on traditional side – the bar of Mercado de Castilla gained good reputation not only as the place offering excellent prices for lunch menu, but also as a vibrant meeting place.
The name “Castilla” is historical and comes from the name of the main boulevard passing near the market. Not many will remember, but today’s Avenida del Cid till 60’s was called Avenida de Castilla.
Mercado Jerusalem is a small municipal market located in the old part of Valencia, between the Estacion del Norte and Plaza d’Espania. Facing the streets del Mathematic Marzal and de l’Estrela it is literally squeezed in a tight urban area of old narrow streets and apartment buildings. It may be hard to believe but the surrounding area does not have not only parks, but even single trees that will “soften” its image. No wonder that from the outside the market does not distinguish itself, fully blending with rather neglected neighborhood. However, crossing the entrance you will find yourself in a totally different world and atmosphere of a traditional fresh-food market.
Closeness of the big railroad station shaped the commercial profile of the area (numerous clubs, nightclubs) but also (on the positive side) – every Tuesday one of the best street markets in Valencia. Other attractions include the Falla Convento de Jerusalén – Matematico-Marzal (one of the most prestigious in Valencia), El Parador “So Nelo”, and appreciated by many Cafeteria Mercado Jerusalem (it’s misleading name, because it’s not only full bar as you can also come here for breakfast, lunch, wine and beer etc…).
The current “incarnation” of the Mercado Jesus is one of the newest and architecturally probably most original markets in Valencia. It was designed in July 1993 by the municipal architects Javier Rodriguez and Domingo Lopez in an effort of remodeling an older structure. Its avant-garde architecture tightly fits Mercado into very limited space available on the triangle-shaped Plaza de Jesus. On its 1,500 square meters of surface there are almost 70 stalls offering traditional fresh, good quality food, namely fruits and vegetables (including eco-sections), groceries, fresh out of the oven bread, meat & meat-products (all sots of jamons), fish etc…
From the outside – due to its amazing triangular roof the Mercado Jesus looks captivating, inviting to enter. Once you are inside you will find it neat, clean and colorful.
On Saturdays, on the plaza and surrounding streets opens the market like usually offering “everything” and even more 😊
Next to the market you will find the church of Santa Maria de Jesus and the Convent of Jesus. The latter gave the name to this little barrio bordering much larger districts of Patraix (west) , Extramurs (north), Quatre Carreres (east) and Poblados del Sur (south)…
Mercado Mosén Sorell
This charming market in the heart of the Carmen, despite its modern glazed structure beautifully blends with the historical surrounding of one of the oldest districts of Valencia. It’s roots (in this case the name) we can find in the remote past as the market is located in the place where in 15th century, a prominent Valencian merchant Tomás Sorell built a remarkable Gothic Palace. Four centuries later, in 1878 the palace was destroyed by fire and soon after demolished. Few years later the architect Vincente C. Marzo designed a public square on the place where once stood the palace. The rest is history… Read More Here
Mercado Nazaret is one of the smallest markets in Valencia. Located literally in the middle of the Carrer de Fontilles between streets Dalt de la Mar and Major de Nazaret in a small fishing district next to the port. It’s far from touristic paths humbly serving local residents and probably its greatest advantage is the authenticity of traditional market.
It may be worth to mention that its name “Nazaret” (similarly as the name of the barrio) has nothing common with the biblical city of Nazareth although it sounds very similar. Turns out that the name was derived from the “lazaretto” (Lazeret in Valencian), – a quarantine station for maritime travelers that was established there at the beginning of the 18th century.
Mercado San Pedro Nolasco
Despite of encouraging summary published on the municipal website, the Market San Pedro Nolaso is actually agonizing. In recent years several of its thirtysomething stalls were successively closing and these days only one is still operating (although only sometimes). This is a sad story of abandoned area of dilapidating buildings and deserted market that not that long ago (in mid-90’s) was still a busy place. Frankly, its future is a big question mark as the Municipality still does not have clear vision regarding the future of this Mercado.
It is not even clear when the Mercado of San Pedro Nolasco was erected. The municipality claims that it was “put in operation in early 80’s”, however an old picture of the market from 1959 emerged recently on the blog: “Valenciablancoynegro” adding more confusion to the story.
What is sure – the square and the market got their names after the College and the Church of San Pedro Nolasco that was built in this place in 1640. The square was initially known as the Les Aigües before changing the name to the current one.
The bottom line – it is still rather “no-go” zone despite the fact, that it is so close to major tourist attractions like for example Turia Park and Torres de Serranos.
Mercado Torrefiel was opened on November 12, 1987 so it is relatively new addition into Valencia’s network of markets. Located in a northern part of Valencia, with its 2,300 square meters of surface it occupies the whole block between the streets correspondingly: Santo Domingo Savio, Llibrer Esclapes, Mont Carmel and d’Alemany. Its architectural form (designed by the architect F. Darder) undoubtedly reflects times when Valencia was growing outside of its historical perimeters quickly establishing new districts. These were times of massive construction projects without notable style, with the purpose to establish new neighborhoods designed as “dormitories” for the needs of agglomeration of Valencia.
It is not surprising that the Mercado Torrefiel represents the mixture of traditional fresh-food market with elements characteristic for shopping centers. In other words, you will find here stands with fresh food including fruits, veggies, numerous butcheries (Carnicerias), poultry shops (Pollerias), delicatessen (Charcuterias), fish shops (Pescaderías), groceries (Ultramarinos), bakeries (Panaderias) …. but also gift shops, hairdressers, beautician centers etc. Well, you will even find an office representing Hermaher (manufacturer of thermal windows and doors…).
The truth is that Mercado Torrefeil lost (or maybe never had) the unique charm of traditional Valencian markets where over years customers and sellers make sort of “family”. It’s definitely a sign of time (not necessarily better), but certainly our relationships are more driven by social media than direct human contacts.
The barrio Torrefeil (itself part of larger district Rascanya) is not the most glamorous part of Valencia and certainly not the magnet for tourists.