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Atarazanas: A Visit to Malaga’s Market

by Silke Elzner

Malaga’s Market is located right in the city centre. Its name, Atarazanas, is hard to remember but has a long history. The market hall is located on the site of the old Arab shipyard (hence the name). A place where tradition and history meets everyday pleasures and culinary escapades.

I have a weakness for markets, in particular those that can be found in Southern Europe. Not every city around the Mediterranean has a market to write home about, but that’s different in the case of Malaga. Atarazanas may not be the best known market in Spain (thank you, Barcelona), but it’s definitely one of the top things to do while visiting Malaga. It is certainly the best market to see in Andalusia.

The indoor market is open all year round, from 8.00 am to 2.00 pm, from Monday to Saturday. It’s the place where locals go grocery shopping – every day and not just for special occasions. Just like with other market halls, it’s a wonderful all-in-one-destination to experience the depth and variety of the local culture. Come with me, as I explore the market stalls one fine Thursday morning.

Gambas are an important ingredient in the Spanish kitchen. These ones are fire engine red.

Gambas are an important ingredient in the Spanish kitchen. These ones are fire engine red.

Fresh Produce, Tapas, and a Lively Atmosphere

The second you enter the Malaga Market you are surrounded by sights and sounds and smells. The market halls are booming, people stroll along the stalls, pick colourful fruits from the vendors, order fish to be cut into fillets. There are small groups of tourists, admiring the wealth of Spanish delicacies, all coming together in this one special place. Chorizos and gambas, sweet strawberries and sardines, cinnamon and pickled olives.

There are some real culinary highlights here, some of them seasonal. Look out for cherimoya, a custard apple kind of fruit. Try some of the pickeled baby aubergines, served with their stem like a bunch of flowers. Homemade patés made from duck, chicken and bacalao. Shrimps in all colours and sizes. Tied bunches of cinnamon and licorice root.

It is busy, but not too much. You don’t need your ellbows to negotiate your way around the aisles. The halls are bright and airy, the smells subtle, the floors clean. We stop at a tapas stall, order some paella and fried padrón peppers. We wash it down with sangria while standing, watch other customers order empanadas and tortillas from the counter. Our little lunch is so enjoyable, we finish it off with a glass of local vermuth from the small keg for dessert.

Some vendors sell homemade delicacies such as these patés. The one in the front is quite interesting: duck with chocolate.

Some vendors sell homemade delicacies such as these patés. The one in the front is quite interesting: duck with chocolate.

A Historic Place in the Centre of Malaga

Atarazanas is a historic place, so it makes sense to pay attention to the details while there. Malaga’s proud seafaring past can be best seen from the outside. Look up to the beautiful stained glass windows. On the other side there is a giant horse-show shaped arch. It’s the last one remaining out of seven from a time, when the Moors used the site for building ships.

You may wonder why anyone would think of building ships in the centre of the city, with no water in sight? Well, not so long ago, this area of the city was still the waterfront. Look around you – tall apartment buildings, cafes, cars and shops everywhere. It is hard to imagine how Malaga must have looked like a couple of centuries ago.

Today, the market halls combine medieval Arab architecture with early Industrial design. The ornamental iron supports and shutters blend in perfectly with the old stone from Moorish times.

Malaga's Atarazanas Market has a lot of historic appeal. The iron lace on the roof is from the early 19th century.

Malaga’s Atarazanas Market has a lot of historic appeal. The iron lace on the roof is from the early 19th century.

Atarazanas – A Very Spanish Experience

Before we return to the tran station, the nearest being Centro Alameda, we ponder about whether or not to take home some fresh safran for our next paella.

If you are visiting from another country, you may have the same idea. Don’t forget that there are certain customs regulations in regards to alcohol and fresh food, in particular if you are travelling back to countries outside the European Union like the United States. It’s best to buy and consume on the spot, or at least before you head to the airport.

But even without buying, a trip to Atarazanas is still worthwhile. Just indulge in the sounds and smells, the mix of voices and the buzzing activity of the locals. Try some of the exotic fruits that came all the way from Africa. Admire the fish that lay there in a pattern. And just enjoy your very, very Spanish experience with all your senses. More photos as you scroll down!

Spices and herbs add colour and flavour to the Spanish cuisine. Here you can see spice parcels that include laurel, oregano and more, perfect for meat dishes and ragouts.

Spices and herbs add colour and flavour to the Spanish cuisine. Here you can see spice parcels that include laurel, oregano, thyme and more, perfect for meat dishes and ragouts.

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The pretty stained glass windows tell proudly of Malaga's seafaring history.

The pretty stained glass windows tell proudly of Malaga’s seafaring history and cultural heritage.

Customers order tapas at one of the handful of bars inside the Malaga market hall.

Customers order tapas such as fried fish and seafood specialities at one of the handful of bars inside the Malaga market hall.

Seafood and fish can be bought fresh or from one of the food stalls where it is prepared fresh to your liking.

Seafood and fish can be bought fresh or from one of the food stalls where it is prepared fresh to your liking.

The markets are also a great place to try some of the local and traditional dishes such as fresh cakes and pastries. The prices are moderate.

The markets are also a great place to try some of the local and traditional dishes such as fresh cakes and pastries. The prices are moderate.

Spanish people love croquettes, little bitesized balls that are filled with fish, meat or vegetables and deep fried. A popular late night tapas dish.

Spanish people love croquettes, little bite-sized balls that are filled with fish, meat or vegetables and then deep fried. A popular late night tapas dish.

Shrimps in all shapes and sizes - the variety is almost overwhelming.

Shrimps in all shapes and sizes – the variety is almost overwhelming.

The seafood aisles are particular enjoyable, with snails, mussels and crabs are vying for attention.

The seafood aisles are particular enjoyable, with snails, mussels and crabs are vying for attention.

Sardines are a staple in Malaga, but other fishes are also eaten on a regular basis.

Sardines are a staple in Malaga, but other fishes are also eaten on a regular basis.

Silvery fishes arranged to a cross pattern to lure more customers.

Silvery fishes arranged to a cross pattern to lure more customers.

If you like fish and seafood then Atarazanas Market is definitely a top thing to see in Malaga.

If you like fish and seafood then Atarazanas Market is definitely a top thing to see in Malaga.

The sweet cherimoya fruit comes straight from Africa. Andalusia is a huge fruit growing region, and the produce on the market is amazing and fresh.

The sweet cherimoya fruit comes straight from Africa. Andalusia is a huge fruit growing region, and the produce on the market is amazing and fresh.

This dragon fruit is sold with a spoon. The Markets in Malaga are great if you want to snack on new foods.

This dragon fruit is sold with a spoon. The Markets in Malaga are great if you want to snack on new foods.

Spices and herbs add colour and flavour to the Spanish cuisine. Here you can see spice parcels that include laurel, oregano and more, perfect for meat dishes and ragouts.

Spices and herbs add colour and flavour to the Spanish cuisine. Here you can see spice parcels that include laurel, oregano, thyme and more, perfect for meat dishes and ragouts.

Cinnamon sticks and liquorice roots, walnuts and spiced bread.

Cinnamon sticks and liquorice roots, walnuts and spiced bread.

Spaniards love to cook with tomatoes. This black variety is bigger than in your wildest dreams.

Spaniards love to cook with tomatoes. This black variety is bigger than in your wildest dreams.

Zurrapa is a meat based spread, a typical dish from Andalusia.

Zurrapa is a meat based spread, a typical dish from Andalusia.

These pickled aubergines are simply delicious and can snacked on right here and there.

These pickles aubergines are simply delicious and can be snacked on right here and there.

Many fruits are not your usual supermarket staple. Make sure you buy at least one piece of fruit and discover a new flavour and texture.

Many fruits are not your usual supermarket staple. Make sure you buy at least one piece of fruit and discover a new flavour and texture.

Hams and cheeses are a specialty of Spain. This stall at the markets sells the very best products, which shows in the price tags.

Hams and cheeses are a specialty of Spain. This stall at the markets sells the very best products, which shows in the price tags.

Hungry? Just order some of the fresh fish and have it cooked right here and there.

Hungry? Just order some of the fresh fish and have it cooked right here and there.

Boquerones are small sardines in olive oil, vinegar and garlic. They are Malaga's most favourite tapa. A must-try when visiting the city.

Boquerones are small sardines in olive oil, vinegar and garlic. They are Malaga’s most favourite tapa. A must-try when visiting the city.

Before leaving, try a glass of cooled vermouth, a speciality of Malaga.

Before leaving, try a glass of cooled vermouth, a speciality of Malaga.