Historic València has seen franchises and ‘cuquis’ cafes everywhere that change the urban landscape at a rapid pace. Take the walk from San Vicente to La Lonja, crossing San Agustín and going through narrow streets; end up on María Cristina Avenue and discover that in the section that leads to the World Heritage building there are up to five souvenir shops and two bicycle rental establishments.

Who is the commercial proposal focused on? More and more foreign visitors visit Valencia. The owner of the shopping store in Plaça dels Porxets knows this well, a legendary establishment where you can buy old postcards of the city or orange labels, among others. The latter is what tourists who come in more and more often take away, attracted by a dilapidated colorful façade that still retains the essence of Valencia from before. “In the last two or three years the panorama has changed a lot, a lot… especially since the pandemic,” he explains.

From its shops to the Plaça del Mercat, where the Central Market of Valencia is located, tourists are the majority. On terraces enjoying a plate of paella despite it being half past eleven, on a stool, sitting, trying the churros or on the steps that lead to the market. Inside, you don’t want to imagine it. The saleswoman we asked says that “it’s not the busiest day, there are worse ones” and celebrates that a different bathroom was created for the workers because getting to the door was almost a miracle with such a stream of people. Especially on cruise days.

The city has changed, and the Merchants Association of the historic center of Valencia knows it well. Its manager, Julia Martínez, explains how in recent years they have been concerned with asking the different local governments to pedestrianize streets and widen sidewalks (they have achieved 11 and 20, respectively), knowing that this new urban policy would attract walking and consumption, “But there are times when we wonder if we are working for the enemy.”

Martínez explains that the phenomenon is something like a ‘perfect storm’: “The streets look more attractive, and that attracts investment, but then the owners raise the rents and end up expelling local businesses. To this we add that it is difficult to find generational change,” he argues.

He considers that tourism helps – “of course it does” -, although not all types. For example, in souvenir shops the customer only spends between 5 and 12 euros; On the other hand, in shoe stores or fashion stores they already look for made in Spain and that is where the merchant ends up satisfied. “The marathon tourist, like the one who came to Valencia last week, spends in the city because he visits it with his family, eats in restaurants and then comes back anyway. That is what interests us,” he adds.

The lack of generational change is one of the aspects of this new reality. This is what happened in the old rope shop on San Vicente Street, now converted into a low-cost shoe store where the old shelves of the previous business can still be seen. Many customers still come to the Granja San Andrés Confitería, located two stores to the right, asking about that establishment, says its owner.

This pastry shop endures despite the attacks, and it has been providing service for more than 85 years. Meringues, coconut or yolk cakes attract the usual crowd, and their croissants and dumplings attract tourists or neighbors passing through. “We resist as best we can, but here we are. We have few tourists because fewer come to this stretch of street,” he adds.

Tourists on bicycles, tourists at a steady pace behind a guide with a wireless microphone, tourists as a couple, as a family, or alone who stop to have breakfast and even to try the Valencian esmorzar. The hospitality industry is very popular in these new times, and this is also confirmed by Julia Martínez, who points out that if an owner can rent his premises to set up a shop or a cafeteria with a terrace, he will opt for the latter. “And this is what is already happening, and between hospitality and franchises they are keeping the premises. As is happening on Colón Street, which is already a large shopping center; indigenous commerce must be sought in the arteries,” he says. .

The walk culminates in Plaza Redonda, where during the day the central kiosks sell regional products oriented to the fallero, but also souvenirs, such as bulls and flamenco, a typical souvenir that has little to do with the city they visit. It is in this square where tourist tours usually end. At night, its side establishments bustle with diners who end up strolling through Carme, the heart of València. But that’s another report.