If there is one place with a rich and extensive gastronomic heritage, it is the town of Villajoyosa.
In a coastal location with a deep-rooted fishing tradition, renowned chefs and restaurants attest to the quality and uniqueness of the gastronomy of this beautiful town with its colourfully-painted houses.
This culinary tradition is reflected in its central market and in the different products that are so typical of the town, that can only be found there and are, naturally, always of the finest quality.
A main market is, of course, a nerve centre of any town and this one is no exception. It is located in the heart of Villajoyosa, in Calle Canalejas, very close to the Town Hall and Calle Colón (the main shopping street), so that visiting the market and going for a stroll through the surrounding area is a good way of understanding and experiencing what makes the town tick.
So, if you’re visiting the municipality or if you're staying at the Montíboli, we suggest that you pay a visit to the food market: a fascinating experience is guaranteed!
Villajoyosa’s food market began life in the 1940s and was located in the same place as it is today.
The market used to have a very pretty facade that served as an entrance to an interior which was like a town square (without a roof) with a dirt floor, where small stalls displayed their products in white booths with green, metal shutters. The market was the heart of the town, always lively, and was one of the meeting points for fishermen, farmers, chocolate-makers and residents alike. In the old market there were also some small arches (like those in fish markets) that separated the flower sellers’ and greengrocers’ pitches. Families worked together and helped on the stalls and to this day there are still third- and fourth-generation families who continue to run their stalls in today’s market. Consequently, these people have expert knowledge of the market, of the products sold and their quality, and will no doubt be able to help you.
In 2003, Villajoyosa’s 100-year-old market gave way to the present-day market, renovated by architects from the Soto & Maroto firm whose metal, concrete and wood facade simulates the silhouette of a castle, a feature that is not surprising considering the many watchtowers and castles used in the town’s renowned Moors and Christians festivities.
The new building seeks to transpose the idea of the traditional canopied markets in town squares (like the original market – you could say this is a modern reinterpretation) to a light-filled indoor market where you can wander round the different stalls shaded from the sun and protected from bad weather.
Inside, the central market has over 20 stalls selling a broad range of produce: from fishmongers, stalls selling salt-cured foods, bakeries, butchers, delicatessen stalls, greengrocers, wine-sellers, frozen food stalls and lots more.
Stalls such as Á taula, Ca Barto, Carnicería Batiste, Carnicería Lloret, Charcutería Carrión, Congelados Santa Marta, El Forn d’Aznar, Frutas y Verduras Mari Carmen Riuaes, Peixos Lauramar, Pescatería García, Salazones Álamo, have been serving their loyal customers for many years and recommending things to try.
Villajoyosa’s market is famous not only in the town itself, but also in the surrounding area: people come from Benidorm, La Nucia, Sella and Alfaz del Pi to Villajoyosa to do their shopping, attracted by the quality of the town’s produce.
The broad range of gastronomic treats on offer makes the town a foodies' heaven and inside the market you can find seafood and fish freshly caught in the bay of Villajoyosa, locally grown fruit and vegetables, salt-cured produce, pickles, preserves, wines from Alicante, and much more. Local, home-grown, home-made, fresh foodstuffs, mindful of their carbon footprint, and – most importantly – with a deliciously tempting look about them.
Among the most sought-after products are traditional charcuterie, such as longaniza blanca (dry-cured white sausage), morcilla de cebolla (blood sausage with onion), blanquet and sobrassada etc, and also the local variety of pumpkin. Specially-favoured from the bakeries are the cocas floreadas, rellenas and escaldadas (different types of flatbreads with various toppings or fillings), the traditional toñas, almond cakes, borreguets and sequillos. Fish is the most prized product in the market, with varieties such as frigate mackerel, tuna and the fresh whiting brought directly from Villajoyosa fish market delighting shoppers and browsers alike, as do the shellfish.
But, if there’s one thing that Villajoyosa is celebrated for, it’s the mouth-watering salt-cured products such as fish roe, salt-cured tuna, budellet, capellá and polp sec, highly-appreciated by local customers for their excellent quality, distinctive character and flavour.
Having said all this, there is no doubt that the star of the show is the red prawn. And naturally, as in all markets, there is a bar to be found. In Villajoyosa’s market there is La Cantina el Gallina, a small bar where you ask for a drink and they grill whatever you have bought in the market, whether it be red prawns, razor clams, sardines or vegetables, so that in La Cantina el Gallina you can enjoy the best products at market price.
You can also find typical, 100% home-made local dishes to take away, such as bollets a la lloseta, olleta de blat and pebrereta. In the market itself you can enjoy oysters with champagne or a good Alicante Designation of Origin wine, or taste oils from the Region of Valencia, honey and craft beers.
Walking round the town’s market will make you feel like a small child again, with smells transporting you back to the past, enjoying life in the slow lane whilst being captivated by the friendliness of the stallholders, and also the authentic life of this attractive coastal chocolate-making town.
The market is open 7.30 am to 2.30 pm from Monday to Thursday and on Saturday, while on Friday opening times are from 7.30 am to 2.30 pm and in the afternoon from 5.30 pm to 8.30 pm. So don’t miss out on paying it a visit if you are in the town or are on holiday in the region, as the market is a symbol of the local culture of Villajoyosa. Also, as well as being able to buy and taste produce, whilst walking round inside the market you can enjoy an excellent photographic exhibition that will be changing throughout the year.
Other activities that this market offers include the gourmet wine week and other initiatives by the stallholders themselves, such as an afternoon enjoying nardo, a typical Villajoyosa drink prepared using an old ice-cream maker, or the creation of tapas for tasting on different stalls.
We recommend that you visit the market on Fridays or Saturdays, as these are the days when there is most atmosphere and when you can see the hustle and bustle of the market in all its splendour and maybe have a small drink or bite to eat at one of the stalls or in the market canteen.
You’ll find all manner of customers in this extraordinary market, whose external appearance is reminiscent of a castle, ranging from those who have shopped there all their lives to new generations, passing through people from neighbouring towns and villages plus many tourists including French, Germans and Norwegians, all eager to take the opportunity to do their shopping in this most interesting of places.
If you visit the town’s market you're bound to have a highly-entertaining day, rather like Juan Echanove in his TV programme Un país para comérselo, enjoying one of the most inspirational and traditional gourmet experiences: in Villajoyosa people eat outstandingly well, their cuisine thanks to the excellent produce on which its cuisine is based.
Do you want to try this gourmet experience?