A visit to Valencia’s Central Market is a true feast for all the senses. Feel the aroma of the fresh local produce on display. Admire the grandeur of the building and the colourful stalls. Hear the vendors call out to customers. Then grab a piece of fruit and delight in its sweetness… This really is food heaven!
The Central Market is one of Valencia’s jewels of Modernist architecture, and the largest indoor market in Europe. Its vast interior, supported by tall wrought-iron columns, is decorated with beautiful stained glass and Valencian tiles bearing images of typical products from the huerta. It is a must-stop in every tour of the city (and, of course, a great place to buy some local products to take home).
As you approach this magnificent building in the historic city centre, you will see a giant parrot standing proud on top of its dome – and depicted everywhere as the symbol of the market. Why? You just need to step inside to understand. It is a reference to the animated chatter of vendors and customers that fills the air of the market from 7am to 3pm, Monday to Saturday.
Bakers, green grocers, fishmongers, butchers… all compete for the attention of passers-by. There are around 300 stalls, including shops specialised in spices, pickles or salted fish, as well as Valencian souvenirs. Do you want to cook a paella back home? You can buy all the key ingredients – even the snails from Caracoles Peribañez – and get a paella pan from the stalls outside the market for just a few euros.
Early risers can start the morning with a coffee at Retrogusto, and get their freshly baked bread at La Tahona del Abuelo or the Horno de los Desamparados. At Salazón Arte, you will find a great selection of olives, anchovies and salted cod. And those with a sweet tooth are well catered for at stalls like Xocolates Vamm.
The fresh fish and meat stalls are equally impressive, though maybe not for the squeamish. Next to the fantastic displays of glittering fresh fish you may find nests of wriggling live eels at La Parada de la Anguila, a market institution more than 100 years’ old. And butchers such as Rosa Llaris or Vacum don’t leave any part of the animals to waste – everything, from pigs’ trotters to bulls’ testicles, has a place in Valencian gastronomy.
Valencia’s Central Market is a great place to stock up on typical Spanish products such as pimentón (paprika), azafrán (saffron) or cured meats such as Ibérico ham, as well as the traditional turrón (nougat) or Valencian wines. If the temptation to buy is there, but you are worried about carrying everything back home (or taking it on the plane), you can just order it online and it will be delivered to your doorstep, anywhere in Europe. What could be easier?
Surrounded by so much delicious food, you are bound to get hungry. You could buy some fresh fruit to keep you going while you continue sightseeing, or stop for a typical almuerzo at Central Bar. This popular outlet by Michelin starred chef Ricard Camarena is famous for its great selection of bocadillos, such as the eponymous ‘Ricard Camarena’ baguette with pork loin, onion, mustard and cheese.
And if it is close to lunch time, just take your shopping to some of the bars on calle Palafox, outside the market, and they will cook it for you. You won’t get a meal with fresher products anywhere else!