Markets (mercados) are a common sight in towns and villages throughout Andalucía, and are an essential part of Spanish life, largely unaffected by competition from supermarkets and hypermarkets. They are colourful, noisy and entertaining and an experience not to be missed, whether you plan to buy anything or not. Markets thrive throughout the province and are the centre of life in towns and villages.
Some towns have markets on one or two days a week only (always the same days), while others have daily fruit and vegetable markets from Mondays to Saturday. In rural and coastal areas, market days are varied in local towns so they don't coincide. There are also Sunday markets in some towns and flea markets (or boot sales) in several of the coastal towns which are largely patronised by foreigners and a good place to pick up cheap second-hand English books, as well as household items. Aside from the latter, there are generally three kind of markets: indoor markets, permanent street markets and traveling open-air street markets that move from neighbourhood to neighbourhood on different days of the week or month. There's often a large central market in the cities and many towns and neighbourhoods of large cities have indoor covered markets.
They are controlled by the local government and are found in most towns and many large villages. Markets usually operate from 9.00 am until 13.00 pm, although in cities and some towns they occasionally open again on Fridays after siesta time. A variety of goods are commonly sold in markets, including food, flowers, plants, clothes, shoes, ironmongery, crockery, hardware, linen, ceramics, cassettes, carpets, and leather goods. However food markets remain the most popular and are, without doubt, the best place to buy the freshest vegetables and fruit, particularly that which is in season. The stalls are grouped together more or less according to the types of food they offer. Closest to the entrance are the butchers with meat hanging from hooks across the front of the stalls. Most of it is sold either as filete, sliced into thin steaks and priced according to its tenderness and position on the carcass, or in lumps for stewing.
The next group of stalls belong to the fish merchants. Depending on the season and what the boats have brought in, their counters will be piled with different types of clam, some finer and more expensive than others. Beyond the fish stalls are the delicatessens and grocers with cheeses, York and smoked hams, olives, dried chickpeas, lentils, beans, salted pork, sausages, big circular drums of salted sardines and bacalao, a strong smelling salt cod eaten everywhere in Andalucia
Then there are the vegetable and fruit stalls. Many of them deal in only three or four varieties, huge bunches of carrots with their fronds still attached to show their freshness, waxy sand-covered potatoes and big misshapen tomatoes which are sliced and served uncooked with olive oil, chopped garlic and rough salt. Others sell everything in season. The vegetable merchants may have broad beans, green beans and peas, cabbage and chard in winter, dark curling spinach, little tender-skinned marrows, green and red peppers, aubergines, orange chunks of pumpkin, yams, cucumbers and large purple onions, mild flavoured and sweet. The spice lady, an essential figure in every Andalucian market whatever its size, has a wooden trestle table brimming over with sacks of herbs. Coriander, marjoram, fennel, black peppercorn, cumin, thyme, rosemary, lavender, bay leaves, rough salt, sticks of cinnamon, expensive cloves, dried red peppers threaded on twine for flavouring stews, nutmeg and mace, shelled almonds for sweets, verbena for tea, and tiny boxes of precious saffron to colour paella.
Flea Markets or Car boot Sales
These markets are of a more modern creation. Some like the Sabanillas Sunday car boot sale grew out of nothing ten years ago. They tend to sell antiques and souvenirs, leather goods, arts, crafts, paintings, sunglasses leather goods, CD's and fashion accessories.
The following markets are open every day in the summer and often go late into the evening with entertainment and food. They tend to sell unique art objects, handmade jewellery, ceramics and local crafts.
Andalucia Medieval organises medieval markets and activities throughout Andalucia. The markets take place in an area decorated in a medieval style and include lots of stalls selling hand crafts and food. There are also musical and theatrical performances throughout the day and plenty of actvities for children. The medieval market in the village and castle of Cortegana in Sierra de Aracena is perhaps the biggest and best established in Andalucia.