Mercado Atarazanas in Malaga

Imagine getting your groceries where Pablo Picasso used to get them. On a holiday in Malaga, Picasso’s hometown, turn this thought into reality. Just head to Mercado Atarazanas, located right in the middle of this Andalucian city. The Mask of Zorro star Antonio Banderas, who was also born in Malaga, might have bought some salted fish within this very marketplace, too.

Also known as Central Market, Mercado Atarazanas has been providing seafood, meat, vegetables, fruits, and spices to the hungry masses since the 19th century. Stalls brimming with peppers, tomatoes, bananas, grapes, shrimps, clams, and more fill the area, drawing a hundred thousand or so customers every month. Besides providing the best ingredients for a culinary feast, Mercado Atarazanas is also the venue for a bit of socialising.

It hasn’t always been this way, though. During the time of the Nasrids, the Moorish kings who used to rule over Iberia, this market site was a shipyard, the waves of the Mediterranean once splashing against its fortifications. “Atarazanas” actually means “a place where ships are repaired” in Arabic. In the 15th century, when the Catholics conquered the city, it was turned into a convent. It also served as an armoury, hospital, garrison, and medical school.

The lone remnant from the past is a horseshoe-shaped marble arch – the only one left of seven – which today serves as an entrance to Mercado Atarazanas. “Only God conquers, praise be to him,” says an engraving on its exterior, done in Arabic calligraphy.

Are the sights, sounds, and smells of Mercado Atarazanas too overwhelming? Then take a breather at the cafés just outside. The market is open from Monday to Saturday, from 8 am to 2 pm.

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