Valencia's Mercado Central: colours and flavours

The Mercado Central or Central Market of Valencia is one of the oldest markets still in use in Europe and has been declared a ''Heritage of Cultural Interest'' site by the Spanish Ministry of Culture. After about ten years of work it was inaugurated in the course of 1928 and decades later, in 2010, it was completely renovated. It's a popular spot among tourists as well as locals, as it’s the perfect location to immerse yourself in the heart of local culture and to get lost in its numerous aisles filled with local products. Altogether, it's a must-see on your holiday in Valencia.

Central Market Valence

An architectural pearl

The building is situated in the heart of Ciutat Vella, the historic city centre of Valencia, which is very close to several tourist attractions and numerous shops, bars and restaurants. The modernist building style is impressive to say the least and is a beautiful example of 20th-century architecture. The impressive 8,160 square metre structure is home to 900 stands, selling some of the area's freshest and finest food. Local legend has it that there has actually been a market of some sorts on this very site since about the 14th century.

Terrace Mercado Central ValenciaUpon entering the building, the first thing we notice is the sheer scale and size of the market hall itself, with its ornate iron vaulted beams and hand-painted patterned tiles of all hues. The huge windows let in streams of bright sunlight, massive overhead fans and a beautifully intricate stained glass dome depicting the richness of Valencia’s fruit - a staple of the area’s produce. The market is a true symbol of the diversity of this region which produces internationally renowned fruits and vegetables. The local citrus fruit, for example, is grown in Horta Valenciana, a fertile plain surrounding the city where the largest plantations are located. 

Valence Market Entrance

An explosion of colours and flavours

The market is a gastronomic temple with many different types of food. You'll find seasonal fruit and vegetables, plenty of fresh fish, cold meats, cheeses, baked goods, olives and lots of wine. There’s a snail stand and even a stand dedicated to the spice saffron. That might sounds unusual but this is the spice used to make paella and Valencian Fideùa.

Snails Stand - Valencia Central MarketClose to the meat stalls you'll come across a stand with all types of spices. Put your Spanish into practice and ask the stall holders some questions about their produce, they are all eager to share  their culinary secrets with you.

Spices Stand - Valencia Central Market As we already mentioned, you'll find a stand filled with saffron, a crucial ingredient for making Valencian paella. Introduced to the Iberian Peninsula by the Moors, the spice is deep-rooted in the culture of the Castilla-La Mancha region. The saffron produced in Spain is considered some of the best in the world. Despite a decrease in production from 100 tonnes per year in the 19th century to 1.9 tonnes per year today, the Spanish still continue to produce saffron (also known as “red gold”), so that you can enjoy it in a tasty Valencian paella. If you wish to, you can buy a souvenir of one gram of saffron threads, which, depending on the quality, will cost you between 7€ and 20€ .

Saffron Stand - Valencia Central Market Among the best products in  the market are the cured hams. The Spanish take their ''jamón'' very seriously and you can find many different types, varying in price and quality. The best ham is known as the "pata negra" or "black hoof" which come from black pigs who live  foraging freely in fields, eating only acorns. Some of the best pata negra can be sold for hundreds of euros, it is  sliced very thinly from the top and once placed upon the tongue, the slice of meat simply melts away, leaving an astonishingly good taste in the mouth.

Jambon & local products - Valencia Central MarketThe quality and diversity of the products in the market is amazing and the majority are locally produced. The explosions of colour which fill the aisles are reminiscent of Valencia’s rich orange and lemon plantations.

Local Fruits and Vegetables - Valencia Central MarketThere are several types of very popular bread in Spain. You'll be pleasantly surprised by the variety you find on your quest for the perfect bread to accompany a slice of Jamón Ibérico. The types of bread on sale in any of these stands include  the "barra" (French bread), with a few variations like the "Pan de Abuela" (Grandmother's bread), "Pan de Pueblo" (Town bread), and "Pan rustico" which is literally rustic bread.Bakery section
If we continue our market tour, it's difficult to avoid the butcher's section, where they cut all sorts of fresh meat including beef, pork, lamb and poultry . You'll find different cuts such as heads, feet, ears, tails and even tongues. At some stands you can even buy rabbit, which is another crucial ingredient in the classic Valencian paella.Market Food - Valencia CentralAnother large part of the market is dedicated to fish. At the pescaderias (fish shops) you can find all sorts of seafood including calamares (squid rings), sépias (cuttlefish), pulpo (squid tentacles), shell-fish of all types and sizes, sea urchins, shrimps, prawns and langoustines in bright colours on packs of ice- you can even buy live eels. There really is a vast selection of fish to choose from at the Mercado Central. A lot of restaurateurs buy produce at the market, meaning that a couple of hours later, you'll be enjoying  these tasty, fresh products in your tapas dish on a calm, outdoor terrace. 

Fish - Mercado Central Valencia

In urgent need of a coffee break? The market has a great stall for the coffee lovers among us. The Retrogusto Coffeemates stall is  the best choice for a dose of caffeine while you explore the last aisles at the market. Would you rather pick up a special kind of tea? In that case, BBté : Tienda de té is the place to be. If you prefer having tapas with a nice glass of wine at the market, you should head to Central Bar, a well-known restaurant located in the heart of the market where you can eat dishes like patatas bravas, croquetas (home-made croquettes), clotxinas (mussels), frituras (small fried fish), calamares (squid) and more, for a very good price. As you can imagine, all the products they use are fresh and bought at the very same market, sometimes from stands just a couple of metres from the restaurant!

Wine Shop - Valencia's central marketAfter an enriching visit full of colours, sounds, sights and flavours you can always go to a local restaurant to try the Valencian specialty, paella. We can recommend La Riua, a restaurant in the city centre not very far from the market.

A visit to the Mercado Central during your stay in Valencia is something you can't miss out on. It's the perfect introduction to the local culture and a great place to start your visit of the city centre, with its historic architecture  and more alternative monuments, such as the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia).

Check out our selection  of holiday homes in Valencia, some of which are only a short walk from the Mercado Central. The Valencian region has a lot to offer and is growing in success and popularity every year. Don’t hesitate to plan your city trip to Valencia and discover all its secrets.

The Mercado Central of Valencia is open from Monday till Saturday from 7:00 to 15:00.

Address: Plaza Ciudad de Brujas, S/N - 46001 Valencia
Telephone: +34 963 829 100