If you live in the Aragonese capital, surely you have passed by the Central Market of Zaragoza many times, maybe even without paying attention to it. If you are from outside, surely you want to know the reasons to visit this beautiful place. Wherever you come from, invest a few minutes to admire it. Walk around it, look at the glass windows, the forges that adorn the windows, the columns and their finials… Then, if it is open, enter it, walk through its galleries, take a good look at the ceiling decorations, the iron arches… After having spent time studying it, you will surely understand that it is one of the most visited places by tourists, and that even school guided tours are organized to get to know it.
The Central Market, one of Zaragoza’s architectural treasures, opened its doors in 1903 to replace the market that merchants had been setting up in the same place since the 13th century. Its designer, the architect Félix Navarro, was inspired by the Parisian bazaar of Les Halles and the Machine Gallery of the Universal Exhibition in Paris, and opted for stone, iron and glass as materials. That is why its appearance is reminiscent of many buildings seen in the great European capitals.
Following the bases of Modernism, the building was decorated with plant, animal and mythological motifs, which, moreover, were very much in keeping with the activity that took place in it; that is why, if you spend some time observing the interiors, you will discover references to agriculture, hunting, fishing or, directly, fruits (on the crestings you can see rams, artichokes, rabbits or bunches of vines, for example) and even the lion rampant, symbol of the city of Zaragoza.
It is also easy to find allegorical symbolism to the activity and products of the market in the enameled cards that decorate the frieze of the upper part. These decorative pieces also served as a kind of guide to locate the different stalls (the fruit vendors under the drawing of the fruit, or the game marked by the rabbit, for example). As a curiosity, the person in charge of painting these figures was Elías García Martínez, the original artist who painted the Ecce Homo of Borja that Cecilia ‘restored’ in 2012.
A symbol of the city that was on the verge of disappearing.
Let us now tell you a curiosity about it, did you know that this building was declared a Historic Artistic Monument in 1978 and an Asset of Cultural Interest in 1982? It is possible that yes, because it is a well known fact, but you may not know that it was about to be demolished in the 70s. Yes, as you can hear, the urban redevelopment of the area made the City Council consider demolishing it or, at least, changing its location to favor traffic. However, and fortunately, after many citizen protests, the retailers that operated in it reached an agreement with the consistory so that the Central Market would continue in the place where it had been built 70 years ago, guaranteeing its survival. In addition, they undertook to finance part of the renovation and remodeling project.
Successive renovations to adapt it to the times.
The Central Market of Zaragoza has been renovated on several occasions, the most important of which took place in 1982, 2008 and, recently, in 2019. All of them have served to adapt the space to the modernization of its activity as a market, always respecting the exterior appearance.
In the last renovation, the result of which was made known to the people of Zaragoza in February 2020, the market was opened even more to the city. For this reason, large windows were installed to allow passers-by to see inside and also help to create an open, uncluttered space for visiting the different stalls. In addition, four restaurant stalls and a small stage for concerts were installed, with the aim of turning the market into what it was when it was set up here centuries ago, a meeting and socializing point where, in addition to shopping, Zaragozans could spend time in the company of family and friends.
They are grouped under the name ‘Rombo Zentral’, which encompasses four different premises: Matiné, Mixtura, Mueso and Mambo, each specializing in different products (breakfast, seafood, grilled food and cocktails, respectively) that they make using the products sold in the market stalls. It couldn’t be fresher.
And from one of the terraces of these stalls we finish this small review of the history of this great architectural monument of Zaragoza, but the Central Market has much more to show you, so we recover the recommendation with which we began: the next time you pass by it, take your time to discover this modernist treasure. Stroll around, buy products of proximity and with solidarity and human values and enjoy Zaragoza in a different way.