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LIFE IN SPAIN

RANKED: The ten best markets in Spain

Spain’s ‘mercados’ are lively and authentically Spanish places for you to do your grocery shopping, with many of them also offering great prices. Here are the best markets across the country in terms of quality and price, according to shoppers.

dried peppers market spain
Have you been to any of the ten best markets in Spain? Photo: Vitalijs Barilo/Unsplash

Only around 4 percent of people in Spain do their daily grocery shopping at local markets, with most Spaniards (64 percent) opting for supermarkets instead.

According to a 2020 consumer habits survey by Spain’s Association of Consumers, people above the age of 65 in Spain still tend to prefer doing their daily shop at small grocery stores or markets.

This reflects how local markets, or mercados municipales, offer a glimpse into what grocery shopping was like in Spain fifty years ago, where interacting with your local butcher or fishmonger was a must.

Spaniards’ food shopping habits may be changing (around 31 percent now order their groceries online) but many still enjoy a weekend visit to their local market, where they can buy fresh food from a different source and enjoy the traditional hustle and bustle of el mercado.

In fact, many of them have been renovated and turned into trendy places to eat and shop at.

So what are the best markets in Spain in terms of quality and price?

Spanish vacation rental search engine Holidu has prepared a study to determine a ranking, analysing the data for a total of 351 municipal markets across the country.

They’ve based their ranking on four variables: the number of comments for each on Google, the average score given by these Google users, the number of monthly internet searches and the approximate average cost to fill up your shopping trolley.

This trolley, for you to reference when looking at the expense of each market, includes 1 litre of whole milk, 1 loaf of fresh white bread, 1 kg of white rice, 12 eggs, 1 kg of local cheese, 1 kg of chicken fillets, 1 kg of beef, 1 kg of apples, 1 kg of bananas, 1 kg of oranges, 1 kg of tomatoes, 1 kg of potatoes, 1 kg of onions, 1 lettuce, 1 1.5-litre bottle of water, 1 bottle of mid-range wine and a 0.5 l bottle of beer.

Here are the ten best mercados in Spain, in no particular order:

1.Mercado de la Magdalena, Ferrol: If you find yourself in this small Galician city, their local market is one of the liveliest places to visit, where you can buy some local produce and also sit down for some tapas.

Shopping trolley price: €41.93
Stalls: 30
Google user score: 4.4 / 5

best markets in spainPhoto: Zarateman/Wikipedia

2. Mercado Central de Salamanca: The historic university city in western Spain houses this century-old market next to the famed Plaza Mayor. It’s popular among locals for its fresh produce and good prices.

Shopping trolley price: € 42.14
Stalls: 53
Google user scor:: 4.4 / 5

best markets in spainPhoto: Villalonga/Pixabay

3. Mercado del Centro de Vilanova i la Geltrú, Barcelona: La Boquería market on Las Ramblas may steal the limelight in the Catalan capital but the quality and variety of food products (especially fish and seafood) have earned this market to the south of the city a good reputation.

Shopping trolley price: €42.15
Stalls: 78
Google user score: 4.5 / 5

Photo: Cornelia Bohl Smolders/Wikipedia

4. Mercado de Nuestra Señora de África, Santa Cruz de Tenerife: Considered one of the ten baskets in the world by The Guardian, this colourful market in Tenerife’s capital has hundreds of stores with local delicacies and trendy seafood bars to enjoy.

Shopping trolley price: € 50.43
Stalls: 206
Google user score: 4.5 / 5

best markets in spainPhoto: Matt Kieffer/Flickr

5. Mercado de Abastos de Santiago de Compostela: Pilgrims and locals alike enjoy the fresh produce on offer at this 150-year-old market, where quality grocery shopping and tapas bar-hopping are both possible.

Shopping trolley price: € 51.50
Stalls: 70
Google user score: 4.6 / 5

best markets spain

6. Mercado Central de Valencia: The beautifully designed market in the centre of the eastern city is full of life, aromas and colour.

Shopping trolley price: € 51.68
Stalls: 300
Google user score: 4.7 / 5

best markets in spainPhoto: Antonio Tajuelo/Flickr

7. A Batea do Mercado, Pontevedra: Another Galician market in the top-ten ranking, a must for octopus lovers.

Shopping trolley price: €52.05
Stalls selling available: 214
Google user score: 4.8 / 5

Photo: Zarateman/Wikipedia

8. Mercado Central de Atarazanas, Málaga: This 19th century wonder with beautiful stained glass windows is one of the most emblematic buildings in the Costa del Sol city, and one of the ultimate foodie spots for tourists and locals.

Shopping trolley price: 52.11 €
Stalls: 265
Google user score: 4.5 / 5

best markets in spainPhoto: NACLE2/Wikimedia

9. Mercado de Maravillas, Madrid: If you’re in the Spanish capital you may be drawn to visit the popular San Miguel market in the centre, but this huge market in the working-class neighbourhood of Tetuán is the stuff of wonders, as its name suggests.

Shopping trolley price: € 56.03
Stalls: 200
Google user score: 4.5 / 5

10. Mercado de San Antón, Madrid: A market in the neighbourhood of Chueca in central Madrid which offers history, a modern revamp, art exhibitions, rooftop views, cool bars and, of course, top quality food.

Shopping trolley price: € 58.83

Stalls: 20

Google user score: 4.3 / 5

best markets in spainPhoto: Jorge Franganillo/Flickr

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ENERGY

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

When you move into a new property in Spain you will need to change the account or contract holder over, so that any future water, electricity or gas bills will be in your name. It's not as easy as you may think; here's how you go about it.

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

Changing the name on your utility bills and the payment details should in theory be relatively straightforward, however you may come up against some common problems which can make the change pretty complicated.

Firstly, you will need to find out which energy companies have been contracted for your property.

You can do this by asking the previous owner themselves, contacting your landlord if you’re renting or asking your estate agent to find out for you.

When it comes to water, this should be provided by your local council or city, so you won’t need to contact the previous occupant for this one. 

How do I change the title over?

When you first move in, remember to note down the numbers on the gas, electricity and water meters, so you can give these to the utility companies and they can record how much you should owe, instead of having to pay for the previous occupant’s consumption as well.

Next, you will then need to contact the energy company supplying your property or water provider and ask for a cambio de titular a nombre del arrendatario o comprador (ask for a change of ownership in the name of the renter or buyer).

The process should be completely free for electricity and gas, but in some cities, you may need to pay a deposit for changing the title of the water bill, which you should get back when you vacate the property. The deposit can be anywhere between €50 and €100.

Contacting the energy company by phone may be the best way to make sure everything is done correctly, but some companies also have online forms where you can request a title change. When it comes to water, most cities will have water offices you can visit or specific e-mail addresses if you can’t contact them over the phone. 

There are a few pieces of information you’ll need to have on hand before you contact the company. These are:

  • The full name of the previous person who had the bills in their name
  • Your NIE / DNI
  • The address of the property
  • The date you moved in
  • The CUPS code (not needed for water)
  • Your padrón certificate (for water only)
  • A copy of the deeds of the property or rental contract
  • Your bank details

With all this information, they should be able to change the name over on the account relatively quickly, so that any future energy bills will go directly to you.

At this time, you can also change your tariff or amount of energy contracted to suit your individual needs.

How do I find the CUPS code?

The CUPS code or Código Unificado del Punto de Suministro (Universal Supply Point Code) is a number that identifies each individual property that receives electricity or gas. The number doesn’t change, so you could ask the previous occupant for this as it will be written on their energy bills.

Alternatively, if this isn’t possible you can contact your energy distributor – these are assigned by area and stay the same. By giving them your name, address and ID number such as NIE, they will be able to give you the CUPS code associated with your property.

What if I want to change to a new energy company?

If you’d prefer not to contract the energy company that the previous owner had, you can also choose to go with a new one. In this case, you will still need all of the same information and numbers as above, but you will contact the energy provider of your choice and the type of tariff you want to pay.

How long will it take to change the name over?

It can take between 1 and 20 days for the bills to be changed over into your name. The previous occupant will receive their final bill and then you will receive the new one from the date you moved in.

What are some of the problems I might come up against?

The most common problem is when the previous occupant is not up to date on paying their bills and has some outstanding debt. In this case, if you try to change the title over into your name, you will also be inheriting the pervious owner’s debt.

In this case, you will have to get the previous occupant to pay their outstanding bill before you can change it over into your name. If you have problems getting them to pay their bill, then you can show proof of the date you moved in by sending in a copy of your deeds or rental contract. This should in theory allow for the transfer of ownership without having to take on the debt, however it can be tricky process, often calling the energy company multiple times and waiting for verification of the proof.

What if the energy services have been cut off?

In the case that the property has been uninhabited for some time, the previous owners may have deactivated or cut off the utilities. If this is the case, then you will need to call the energy providers to activate them again. This will typically involve paying several fees to be able to get them up and running. The amount you pay will depend on the energy distributor and where the property is based in Spain. 

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