Lonely Planet Writer

Valencia’s historic Mercado Central market celebrates 100th birthday this month

Valencia’s striking Mercado Central is celebrating its 100th anniversary this month. The historic market, housed in a gorgeous Modernist building, is today still used for the purpose with which it originally opened – selling top-quality meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and other food to Valencia locals.

Mercado Central in Valencia.
Mercado Central in Valencia. Image by Heinrich Hecht/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Authorities decided to build the market in 1881, but it didn’t open until 1928, 47 years later. The cornerstone was laid in 1916 which is why the 100th anniversary is being celebrated this year. Festivities have included fireworks, a ‘Festa al Mercat’ with regional dances, and most tantalisingly, two giant paellas.

Increasingly popular with tourists, the wrought-iron, ceramic and glass structure has been hailed as an architectural gem. “It’s a little risky to say so, but I haven’t seen another one like it,” urban planner Carles Dolç told El País. “There are bigger ones, like the one in Santiago de Chile, which is enormous. But from an architectural point of view, there is no comparison.” Dolç says that the market rivals La Lonja as Valencia’s loveliest building.

The market covers an area of 8162 square metres and can hold 959 food stalls. Although the building is only 100 years old, the area has been home to markets for over 1000 years, since Muslim traders set up stalls here near the city wall. The market included elements that were innovative for the time, such as a huge underground parking space for deliveries in a crowded part of town.

Residential buildings and two convents were bulldozed to make way for the market. The market square has been congested with traffic for years so is slowly being pedestrianised. At the same time, a car park is being built behind the market to improve access.