Whilst Valencia is a central hub of commerce, business, tourism and nightlife on the Spanish east coast, it is also a market town at heart. Every weekend there are countless markets going on all over the city, and there are always new delicacies on offer. Cheese and cured meats are a staple of Spanish food, and so the market style of browsing, touching, tasting and trying all kinds of varieties is perfectly suited to this kind of food. The Spanish are also an incredibly social and community-led people in general, and this only furthers the love and importance of markets in the country.
The largest and best-known of these markets in Valencia is the Mercat Central in the city centre. Right next to one of the most beautiful areas in the city, and leading into the old town of Valencia with the stunning cathedral, the market is fantastically located. It really does sit right where you would want it to, creating a bridge between the small streets of the old town and the newer roads and areas of the Plaza Del Ayuntamiento (the central meeting point, festival, and party spot and also plenty of great restaurants).
But the market is not just a tourist spot to see what old Valencia was like, and is actually a fully functioning and busy spot for locals to find the very best quality ingredients, meats and vegetables.
Much like any other market, there are meat, vegetables and then an assortment of other random things. There are plenty of touristy souvenir shops and the like, but if you can ignore these, the rest of the market is a local paradise. My particular favourites are the seafood and meat sections, where you can find the best of what you know... and then plenty of things you've never seen before in your life. Seafood markets are always particularly fascinating for me, as the sea seems to produce animals that look incredibly strange to our neat chicken-eating eyes.
For me, the market is one of the best places in the city to find beef - a not that-well-loved meat in Spain. Pork and chicken take the top spots here, and so good beef can be a little hard to find. Not so in the Central Market, which is packed with hanging sides of beef, and knowledgeable butchers who can explain in great detail the cuts of beef and what to do with them for best cooking effect.
The market is also a cool place to try Horchata for the first time. This is a typical Valencian drink that sort of tastes like a sweet nut milkshake and is made from barley. It is a very popular cool drink that is absolutely ideal for humid and hot summer days.
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