Mercado Central
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Valencia's Paella Market
Centrally built in the middle of the Ciutat Vella, Mercado Central, or Mercat Central if you want to stick to the local version of Catalan is Valencia's go to market for Paella produce. Set in a magnificent Art Deco Building, it is home to about three hundred local salesman, all who vouch for the quality of their local produce. They take pride in their surf and turf heritage and are very keen on letting you know, that their way is the best way to make paella, so be sure to ask for a few opinions and see which one work best for you. As you walk in, the mixed odour of seafood, saffron, pimento paste, fresh vegetables and the background sound of spoken Valencien make this place a perfect experience of what it is like to live in Valencia. But what is more interesting is the mixture of the spanish and catalan cultures of food, when you see the hanging jamons and cured cheeses on one side and the fresh out of the mediterranean seafood on the opposite. On the east side you can find the a few small eateries, that have fresh paella and tapas prepared around eleven o'clock in the morning, so if you are a dedicated foodie (like me), this is an official lunch stop! Do not forget to buy some cigalas (crayfish) and the boqueron to make at home, as I am sure you will not find similar taste when you buy them back home. .
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Sip a Cup of Orxata
If you’ve had Mexican-style horchata, then you’ll recognize the Spanish version, orxata, which originally hails from Valencia (the name is Catalan in origin). Instead of horchata’s blend of rice, cinnamon, and vanilla, though, orxata is made from tiger nuts, sugar, and water, giving it a distinctively different flavor. It’s often served ice-cold as a summertime beverage, frequently with a small pastry for dipping, called a farton. You can find orxata at several juice stands inside Valencia’s Central Market.
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Meet at the Market
Everyone raves about Barcelona’s Boqueria, but I preferred the intricate detailing of Valencia’s Central Market, considered one of Europe’s oldest permanent markets. The imposing, dome-topped building has amazing orange-motif mosaics on the walls and ceiling, and the windows feature colorful stained glass elements, letting in plenty of natural light. Valencia is known for seafood, so a large part of the market is devoted to seafood of all kinds, but you’ll also find butchers, breads and baked goods, eggs and dairy, and produce, as well as Spanish-style orxata (made with tiger nuts) and smoked paprika. If you haven’t completely spoiled your appetite by wandering and nibbling through the market, there’s a row of sidewalk cafes just outside, ready to serve up a freshly grilled tuna steak for lunch.
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Spice Things Up with Smoked Paprika
While wandering through the crowded aisles of meats, seafood, produce, bread, and sweets at Valencia’s Central Market, keep an eye out for the bulk spice stalls that sell Spanish smoked paprika. This robust, smoky spice has a hearty umami flavor and is nothing like the bland paprika many Americans are used to — although it will add an entirely new dimension to your deviled eggs. A little goes a long way, so a small packet makes a perfect, inexpensive souvenir for your favorite home chef or your own kitchen.
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Browse Valencia's Best Edibles in a Modernista Market
Located along a stretch of the city that once housed a popular street market, Mercado Central was designed by disciples of renowned modernista architect Luis Doménech Montaner, and built in the early 20th century. Here, you can shop for the city's freshest fruit, veggies, meat, fish and seafood under soaring domes made from iron, glass and ceramic tiles. Stock up on briny olives, regional cheeses, artisan charcuterie, and fresh-baked bread for a picnic lunch for two.
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