Secret architectural gems of Málaga - the Salamanca market

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100 year old neo-Arab opulence housing very down-home Málaga market.

The Mercado de Salamanca is one of those fabulous opulent oddities that gets built and becomes part of the fabric and identity of the neighbourhood, but is often little known outside the locality. Otherwise known as the Mercadillo del Molinillo, as that's the name of the barrio in which it is located, it was built between 1922 and 25, and has had nearly a hundred years continuous use as a local market. Its forty-something stalls sell predominantly fish and seafood, fresh meat and vegetables, and a few more esoteric offerings.

The design of this otherwise utterly functional little market is breathtaking. Designed by one Daniel Rubio Sanchez it is one of the cities best examples of Neomudejar architecture. Located in the Barrio El Molinillo, it's only three or four blocks walk north up the river bank from the old historic centre and is well worth a visit. The detailing and the two facades are exotic and evocative, and it contrasts starkly with the plain and gritty apartment blocks around it. 

It is a proper functioning market with two long narrow passages flanked by tiny stalls. The workspace behind is barely big enough for two people to pass each other, and you may wonder how one could make a living from such a small space with such limited stock and footfall. But all of the stalls are working and manned by local traders and the customers are unmistakeably local as well with barely a tourist in sight, despite its proximity to the bustling centre.

It is due for a major 1.85 million full restoration, meaning it will be closed for a year. However, this can't happen until the replacement temporary market is constructed, allowing the 40 or so merchants a place to trade during the renovation. They are after all an essential and longstanding component of the local economy. So currently you can see the market bearing the scars of its ninety plus years of existence. It's looking characterfully shabby, grubby and even a bit sad. The renovation will no doubt make it startling and impressive once again, and it remains to be seen if it will succumb to the commercialisation that much of the old city has been subject to. It may even outshine its big brother the Atarazanas, though given the tiny cramped stalls and long narrow alleys within, it's hard to imagine how it could ever sustain the kind of popularity Atarazanas now enjoys. It will probably remain a discreet and fascinating jewel known mostly to locals. Catch it soon before the renovation shuts it down, and then come back to see the splendid results. It is a magnificent building still, and we look forward to seeing it reborn, Pheonix-like, to shine once again.

Located on the corner of Calle San Bartolomé and Calle Salamanca, in the barrio El Molinillo.

Open from 8 until 3pm Monday to Saturday. It's still not clear when the renovation will start and it is already several months delayed, so stay tuned.