The Mercado Central is the biggest of the public markets scattered across the city of Valencia, and it is definitely worthy of a visit if you’re on holiday. Admittedly it is a very popular destination, and so you should steel yourself for the crowds. It’s always fun though, and a great way to observe Valencia residents going about their daily lives.
Valencia Mercado Central History:
Originally built in 1914 over four years, the premises used to be an open-air market called the Mercat Nou since its inception in 1839. In 1910, the city held a contest to find an architect to design a closed roof market. The winning designer was Enrique Vidal, a local that had studied in Barcelona. The Mercado Central Valencia has been designated as a “Spanish Property of Cultural Interest”, a very important distinction.
This market is ginormous. Having been to some of the other bigger markets in Europe, I can assure you that this is quite big. In fact, it is one of the biggest in Europe at over 8,000 square meters, which is just a bit larger than a soccer field.
You can therefore imagine how big that is and why it contains over a thousand stalls, selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to condiments such as olives, nuts, and different varieties of cheese.
The outer rings of the market have the butchers who cater to every need. Meats include cow, goat, and of course the Spanish staple Jamon (ham) as evidenced by the giant hanging slabs of cured ham legs. The most expensive type being the Jamón Ibérico (pigs fed only the best acorn and other herbs).
This breeding process makes the Ibérico ham extremely expensive, and the prices can be as high as €500 ($585) or more for a leg of ham. Taste it though, and you can understand why it´s so dear. It simply melts in your mouth. I for one, only like this type. My husband is not as choosy. Needless to say, I don’t eat it often.
Inside The Mercado Market:
The design of the building is Valencian Art Nouveau, with a lot of cast iron, wood, and polychromed tiles as well as colourful ceramic. I encourage you to look up at the ceiling as it is quite beautiful. You can see some hints of Gothic style that is popular with a lot of the other older historic sites in the neighborhood.
Part of the fun is crowd-watching as well as sampling some of the offerings from the merchants. Make sure you get a smoothie of fresh squeezed juice from one of the stalls as they are so insanely fresh and delicious. It is usually very crowded, which of course can be understandably annoying to the locals who just want to get their groceries done.
One of the most popular destinations inside of the market is the Central Bar, a tapas bar owned by the two Michelin star winning chef, Richard Camarena. Thanks to his fame, this tapas bar has become a must-visit destination in Valencia. Waits for tables at the bar can be up to an hour, and the prices are very dear indeed.
One of my favorite sections to visit in the Mercado Central is the fish section. I am a big lover of seafood, and you can find pretty much every type of seafood in there. They have the biggest scallops l have ever seen in my life, with prices to match. It is important to notice the pricing of goods.
They might look cheap with the displayed prices, but upon closer scrutiny, you will notice they are priced per 1/4 kilogram. I’ve been burned a couple of times and ended up paying way more than l intended :-), so buyer beware. After living here for a while now, I know that the prices here are much more expensive than at the other markets, so we rarely visit except to people watch. Are you ready for your great leap into ex-pat life yet?
On the side streets around the market, you will plenty of stalls selling tourist merchandise and paella pans, along with plenty of tapas bars that are much more affordable than the Central bar inside the market. If you’re lucky enough to snag a table outside, you will be treated to sights such as buskers with beautiful voices, and young men selling knock-off designer merchandise.
Where is the market?
The market is located in the Old Town:
PLAÇA CIUTAT DE BRUGES, S / N
Monday – Saturday 7:30am – 3:30pm
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Have you been to the central market in Valencia yet? If not, does a visit sound good?