Long-slit spectroscopy of the Seyfert type 1 galaxy NGC 3516 is used to determine the stellar population of the nuclear region. We show that the differences in absorption-line equivalent widths for the nucleus and circumnuclear region are consistent with dilution within the nucleus by the presence of a featureless continuum. The dilution is strongest at the short wavelengths. We associate this effect with the onset of an additional featureless continuum component due to the accretion disc. Although strongest in the blue, the dilution still amounts to about 35 per cent of the total nuclear flux at the wavelengths of the red calcium triplet lines. Using the strengths of a large number of absorption lines, we determine the stellar population of the nucleus, which we find contains a significant proportion of super-metal-rich stars (20 per cent).