I’m a HUGE fan of food markets. They are something I seek out, wherever I am in the world – from Barcelona’s Boqueria and Melbourne’s Queen Victoria to local street-markets in Cambodia and Thailand, I’ve visited them all. So, a trip around Malaga’s Mercado Central de Atarazanas is always a pleasure, every time I’m in Malaga city, as well as featuring high on the list of places to take visitors to.
The Moorish arched entrance blends seamlessly with 19th century industrial design and the huge, colourful stained-glass window, to create not only a beautiful back drop but also to tell the history of the origins of this bustling market-place.
Set near the heart of the city, Atarazanas has undergone many transformations since it was originally built in the 14th century as a shipyard, when the waves of the Mediterranean Sea lapped at its entrance. Over the years, changes have seen the building used as a convent, military arsenal, hospital and medical school before finally being demolished in 1868 and re-built using the current iron structure, as the city food market, in 1879. Further renovation took place from 2008 to 2010, when Málaga’s Atarazanas market was once again restored to its former glory.
You might not expect to be given a warning when you visit a city food market, but as you walk through the main entrance, which is the only remaining marble archway of what was once a seven-arched shipyard, I can guarantee your senses will explode!
Taste, sight, smell, hearing and touch – the clean interior of Mercado Central de Atarazanas has it all, from pig’s ears to pink Himalayan salt!
The market is structured into three naves – fish, meat and fruit and vegetables, and with more than 250 stalls there is surely something to tickle your tastebuds.
As you wander around, take in the dazzling displays of freshly-caught fish with their scarlet gills and scales glistening under the spotlights. Marvel at the kaleidoscope of colours in the artistically displayed fresh fruit and vegetables that smell like they’ve been picked only that morning. And savour the counters of aromatic cheeses, spices, bread, olives, dried fruits, nuts, sausages and hams, where the stall-holders are usually happy to let you taste before you buy.
A cacophony of sound fills the market, as the competing stall-holders call out to prospective customers and in turn are interrogated by discerning shoppers, eager to discover where the produce is from and how it should be prepared.
I love to watch the locals, who are not only trying to buy the freshest seasonal produce but also socializing with their neighbours as they block the aisles with their roller-trollies, discussing the latest gossip.
Shopping is a much more personal experience in Atarazanas market and, with so many stalls to choose from, cheaper than most supermarkets, too.
If you have time and are ready for some lunch after feasting your senses on all the wonderful produce, then make your way to one of the tapas bars at either end of the market, El Yerno or Cafe-Bar Atarazanas – they are both equally good. Stand near to the bar and you will soon be noticed by one of the staff who will make a space for you. It’s standing room only and always crowded, but well worth it to taste the freshly-cooked, mouth-watering pinchos de gambas, atun o cerdo (skewered prawns, tuna or seasoned pork), boquerones al limón (deep-fried whitebait with lemon) or frito de verduras (tempura-battered vegetables), which you can wash down with a caña (small beer) or vino tinto (red wine).
Whether you are a foodie visiting Málaga or a local living nearby, you won’t want to miss a visit to this authentic food market.
Where is YOUR favourite food market?
Mercado Central de Atarazanas
Calle Atarazanas 10
Open: Monday to Saturday, 8am – 2pm.