Valencia is one of the largest cities in Spain, only behind Madrid and Barcelona. Valencia is well known for its beautiful architecture, history, rich culture, and exciting nightlife scene. No visit to this spectacular city would be complete without visiting the Central Market of Valencia, also known as the Mercado Central de Valencia.
The central market of Valencia is the largest of the markets in the city, and you can find it in the heart of the Valencia Old Town. It is thought to be one of the oldest markets still in use in Europe, earning status from the Spanish government of a “Heritage of Cultural Interest” site.
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Exploring Valencia’s Central Market
Before it even comes fully into view, the Central Market of Valencia is a breathtaking site. This massive building covers over 8,000 square meters; at first glance, it is easy to assume it is a cathedral. The building has an unusual roof with sloping sections and domes at different heights.
However, the sheer size and scale of the market is only possible to appreciate when you enter the building. If you visit early in the morning, you’ll find it is pretty quiet, giving you a greater appreciation of the patterned tiles of different hues, ornate iron vaulted beams, and streams of sunlight dancing off the intricate stained glass.
During my visit to Valencia in October, it was not peak season, so there were not massive crowds. This provided the opportunity to take a few moments to look up and marvel at the stained glass dome showing the array of Valencian fruit.
This market provides a true symbol of the lifestyle and culture of the city. Valencia is known worldwide for its fruits and vegetables, which are produced on the fertile plains surrounding the city and showcased in the Central Market.
If you’re a foodie, you’ll be in gastronomy heaven with some of the freshest and finest foods in the area on display here.
The Story Behind the Central Market of Valencia
The Mercat Central site has an impressive history. It was used as an open-air market from at least 1839, but some argue it was used as a market for many years before that date.
However, by the end of the 19th Century, the local authorities were interested in using the space for an indoor market. The city launched a campaign of architectural competitions to find the best design for the new market.
The winning design featured the Valencian Art Nouveau, a modernist style that exemplifies how steel and glass can create a magnificent building. The domes on the roof provide a cupola at the heart of the building, providing an appearance reminiscent of an Italian Duomo cathedral.
The intricate slopes and domes of the roof create pools of light that complement the iron columns, stained glass, and ceramic tile inside.
Construction began in 1914, but it would take 14 years to build the 8,000 square meters of space across two floors. This created ample space for hundreds of stalls, including its “central” bar. While this is a draw for tourists, it is also a regular spot for locals and those living in Valencia.
Getting to Valencia’s Central Market
There are several ways you can get to the Valencia Market. Valencia has an excellent public transportation system with buses and metro stops near the Central Market. For example, the local number 7 bus stops next to the market, or you can take a bus to the town hall and then walk for a couple of minutes.
You can buy single tickets when you board the bus or use the ticket machines to purchase a pass for use on the buses or the buses and metro system. These can be handy if you plan on moving around the city during your stay to take in all the sights.
The City Hall Square is also connected to two metro lines. Both the red and green lines connect to the Xativa station, which is only a couple of minutes walk to the square. You’ll only need to walk for two minutes from there to reach the Central Market.
If you’re feeling energetic and enjoy moving around, you could rent a bike in Valencia. The city is very bike-friendly as it is quite flat, and in the historic center, vehicles are limited to only a maximum speed of 30 kilometers per hour. There are both public bikes for rent and many companies offering rental bikes. You can easily park a rental bike in front of the market.
Of course, if you’re staying near the city’s historic center, you may simply be able to stroll to the Central Market. There are a number of hotels in this area, just a few minutes from the market and other attractions.
What’s on Offer at the Central Market
If food is a highlight of any city you visit, you will enjoy it immensely in Valencia. Valencia has quality fresh produce that features heavily in the Central Market, making it a foodie paradise.
As soon as you enter the market, the rainbow of bold colors cries out, epitomizing Mediterranean life. The 1200-plus stalls offer fresh fruits and vegetables, including locally grown oranges, beans, and tomatoes. You’ll also find cheese, meats, nuts, seafood, and spices. If you love fish, stop by the stalls offering live eels! There is even a stall dedicated to saffron, providing a dark, spicy perfume that extends to other market areas.
If you’re not staying in self-catering accommodations and can prepare your own meals, you may wonder whether to visit the Central Market of Valencia. However, there is also something for those who don’t want to buy produce at the market.
The Central Bar is a traditional market bar where you can enjoy assorted dishes, sandwiches, and tapas. So, you can sit and savor a bite to eat and a drink while you watch the hustle and bustle of the market.
Whether you want to discover the wealth of fresh produce available in the city or simply enjoy the cuisine, this is a magical place that you shouldn’t miss on the itinerary for your visit to Valencia.
As Spain’s third largest city, Valencia draws millions of tourists each year. While there is much to see and do in this city, the food is a major factor. This makes exploring the gastronomy in the area a must.
Although Spain is famous as a whole for paella, purists argue that this is a Valencian dish. This is why paella is listed in Valencia on large and small menus, and you’ll find it even at some tapas eateries in Valencia.
The Albufera Lake wetlands provide the ideal conditions for growing rice, so this grain is locally sourced and used as a base for chicken, seafood, and rabbit paella. Paella is also one of Spain’s best vegetarian food options, as varieties are made with white beans, artichokes, and other vegetables.
If you’re looking for a lighter bite while you’re exploring the city, be sure to try coques. These are savory or sweet pastries that are almost like a type of pizza. Essentially, they are a flatbread piled with yummy toppings.
If you’re visiting the Central Market in the morning, hop by Bar Central for Almuerzo, also known as the second breakfast. This is a Valencian eating trend, where people stop for a mid-morning “breakfast” snack.
One of the popular options at Bar Central includes morcilla and scrambled egg sandwiches. However, if you’re more of a sweet-treat person, watch out for bunyols. These are fritters with pumpkin incorporated into the dough. Bunyols are traditional treats in Valencia’s Las Fallas festival, but you can also find them at other times of the year.
Tips for Visiting the Central Market
The Central Market of Valencia is a must-see, but it’s also important to make the most of your visit. If you’re wondering if they speak English in Valencia and have concerns about finding out details from locals, rest assured most locals speak some English to help visitors. However, for a seamless trip, take note of these tips:
- Check the Opening Times: Checking the opening times before you head out is a good idea. The central market is typically open Monday to Saturday, from 7.30 am to 3 pm, but the opening times can vary, depending on local holidays and other circumstances.
- Check the Map: As discussed, the Central Market is massive. The market is laid out with “streets,” each with its own name, making it easier to navigate, but it is still easy to get a little lost. So, if you’re looking for specific stalls, be sure to check the map of the market.
- Visit Early: The market can get noisy and busy, so plan your visit before midday. This will help you to avoid the crowds and have the space to admire the market features.
- Carry Some Cash: While many stalls have card readers to pay for your purchases with your debit or credit card, having some cash on hand for smaller purchases is advisable. You’ll also need coins to access the restrooms on the underground level via the turnstile gates.
- Consider a Tour: If you’re only in Valencia for a short time and are unsure if you can dedicate time to the Central Market, consider booking a tour. Many walking tours feature the major sites, including the central market, so you won’t miss out.
Nearby Places to Check Out
There are lots of things to do in the city, but here are some of the best attractions near the Central Market of Valencia.
- La Lonja de la Seda (Silk Exchange): This is one of the best-known landmarks in Valencia. It was built as a hub for silk and commodities traders in the 15th and 16th centuries and now has UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The exchange has stunning Gothic architecture and is a must-see for visitors. This attraction does require an entry ticket, but it is often included in city tours.
- Museum of Ceramics: Ceramics played a vital role in Valencian commerce, and this is showcased in the Gonzalez Marti National Museum of Ceramics. This features what is arguably the best example of Spanish Baroque architecture and contains the largest national collection of ceramics. These date back to the 18th century, but there are also contemporary period pieces, including some exhibits created by Picasso.
- Plaza de la Virgen: The Plaça de la Mare de Déu, or Plaza de la Virgen, is centrally located in the city. It is not only a beautiful spot with a lovely fountain, but it also has three emblematic buildings surrounding it: the Cathedral of Santa Maria, the Palace of the Generality, and the Basilica of the Virgin of the Desamparados.
- Church of Los Santos Juanes: This church is just around the corner from the Central Market. This church has been reconstructed from its original 13th-century Gothic style due to fires over the years but still retains an impressive facade. This includes a walled-up rose window from the older church and a central niche decorated to display the Virgin and Child, angels, and other inspiring symbols and statues.
Be aware that as of November 2023, the church of Los Santos Juanes is under renovation, so visiting inside may not be a valid option.
Final Thoughts on Valencia’s Central Market
Valencia is a vibrant city that draws millions of visitors each year. While there are plenty of attractions, don’t overlook the Central Market of Valencia if you’re planning a visit.
The market perfectly exemplifies the vibrancy and richness of the city, allowing you to experience the atmosphere locals enjoy all year round. If you time your visit, you may even see the market decorated to celebrate local and national festivities. The market at Christmas is particularly spectacular.
You can wander the stalls to take in all the wonderful produce, enjoy food at the Central Bar, or simply take in stunning architecture. The market is a must-see attraction, even if you’re not planning on buying anything. It is centrally located, with other attractions nearby, so be sure to plan a visit into your travel itinerary.
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