Nowadays, Atarazanas is a marketplace and a major hub of activity in Malaga city centre. However, that wasn’t always the case.
In fact, when it was first built in the 14th century, the city was very different. Large parts as we know it today (Paseo del Parque, Muelle Uno…) were underwater, and the sea shore came right up to where Atarazanas market is today. The building’s original use, therefore, was as a shipyard (Atarazanas means ‘shipyard’ in Arabic).
The massive entrance to the food market as it is now is a relic of those times – it had to be big for ships to fit through. In fact this white horseshoe arch at the main entrance on Calle Atarazanas is the only part that remains of the original building. Previously there were seven such arches, all built in Moorish style.
So, what changed?
The building continued to be used as a shipyard until 1487, when the area surrounding the shipyard had been reclaimed from the sea. This also coincided with the Christian Reconquest taking hold in Malaga. Once the Catholic Monarchs overthrew the Arab regime, they decided to turn the former shipyard into a convent.
That didn’t last very long, though, and it was repurposed to store weapons. After that, it was also used as a military hospital and medical school.
The great rebuild
As time passed, the original Moorish building was in ruins and became disused by the end of the 19th century. At that time, street vendors sold their wares outdoors in unhygienic conditions as both noise and air pollution in the city grew.
To solve this growing problem, it was decided to look for a location to open an indoor food market and the former shipyard was chosen as the ideal spot for food vendors to sell their produce as it was located in the historic centre and was close to both the river and the sea.
Architect Joaquín Rucoba was commission to design the new building and opted for a mix of Moorish and industrial architecture which was very popular in the 19th century and which also inspired the famous Les Halles market in Paris.
The original walls at Atarazanas were demolished, but Rucoba managed to rescue the horseshoe archway which he would use as an entrance to the all-new building on the exact same spot.
Above it is an iron-structure roof which was characteristic of the time and, at the northern end, is perhaps the market’s most distinctive feature – a large stained-glass window, installed in 1973.
On the glass you can see depictions of famous city landmarks, such as as the Cathedral and the Alcazaba.
Daryl is the co-founder of Malaga Guru. He is a copywriter, editor and translator who moved to Malaga a decade ago having first fallen in love with the city on his Erasmus year. After working for many years at local expat newspaper SUR in English, Daryl gained expert knowledge in life from the perspective of foreign residents and decided to co-found this site in 2016.