Valencia's Mercado Central

Chuck Mon, 2014-07-28 07:30

Anyone who reads our blog regularly or who knows us knows that we love the markets in Europe, and in Valencia we've found the granddaddy of all markets.


Now I'm talking about fresh food markets, not a shopping center. Sometimes the markets are permanent installments in their community, sometimes they are morning markets on a certain day of the week. They are usually bustling, exploding with sights, sounds, and smells, and full of local people selling (mostly) locally-produced products. Here in Valencia, that makes for an awesome confluence of sun-drenched fruits (yes, like oranges), hams and sausages, and fresh-from-the-Mediterranean seafood. Oh and let's not forget the incredible breads that they are very adept at across the Iberian peninsula.
The Central Market of Valencia (aka Mercado Central) is a permanently installed market near the heart of Valencia's old town, just blocks from the cathedral. It is the largest market of its kind in Europe, which makes it a top destination in Valencia. We've been a half-dozen times now, and there are always tour groups marveling at its size and diversity. The market even has a dome--like a cathedral--topped with a statue of a parrot, apparently the mascot for the market and no doubt a nod to the parrots we've seen nesting in high perches in the neighboring blocks. Even European markets need branding.
Long Lost Cousins


Fresh Butcher Shop



Iberian Hams


According to the market's website, there are 400 vendors at Mercado Central. To put that in perspective, Perimeter Mall in Atlanta, the second largest mall in the state of Georgia, has 200 stores. Granted the stalls of Valencia's market are considerably smaller on average than a store at Perimeter Mall, but you can imagine it's more than enough to keep the thousands of people who visit each day quite busy and well-supplied with everything from cherries (the best anywhere) to octopus (we haven't bought any, mainly because we have no idea how to prepare it).
One of those vendors is Ros Frutas y Verduras (Fruits and Vegetables), a family operation run by Juan Jose Ros. We ran into them on our first visit and even though our Spanish is sorely lacking, we got across to the lady waiting on us that my last name is Ros, I'm from Atlanta, and my great-grandfather came from the nearby island of Ibiza. She "introduced" me to Juan Jose, and they managed to get across to me that his last name is Ros, that he knows some family went to Mexico and Cuba, and that the name is more prevalent in southeastern Spain than in Barcelona as I had been brought up to think.
It might be an odd way to do some ancestry research, but on a subsequent visit I brought Juan Jose a piece of paper with my name and the names of my father, grandfather, and great grandfather. I added birth years and death years and indicated next to my great-grandfather's name that he came from Ibiza around 1865. I used Google Translator to (try and) say, "Maybe someone in your family knows more" and "You can email me...I can translate written Spanish." They nodded understanding of the family tree--and in fact Juan Jose introduced me to his father, who happened to be working with him that day--but in regards to the request that maybe someone knew more, they just shrugged. Perhaps I'll hear from them one day.
Fresh Eels for Sale





Chicken Feet 2 Kilo Special!


It's become one of our favorite activities to stroll over to the market in the mornings a few times a week to pick up some fruit or sandwiches for a picnic. This market alone should put Valencia on the radar for any traveling foodie. The market is open Monday through Saturday, mornings until 2:00pm.
On Sundays until 2:00pm, though the Mercado Central is closed, the surrounding streets come alive with an open-air market. It's not quite the same as the indoor market open the other six days of the week, but it's still a fun way to spend a few hours. We'll leave you with a few images from the Sunday afternoon market.
Sunday Afternoon Open Air Market


Colorful Display of Thousands of Phone Covers



Lori: So Many Choices!