Reputedly one of the world’s great markets, expect divine fresh food, new tastes and ridiculously large amounts of people.
Like a giant vacuum, Mercat de la Boqueria’s one-hundred-plus-year-old pavilions suck crowds of people off La Rambla and into its covered, wrought iron darkness. The ornate stained-glass awning has greeted market goers since the 1840s (though there has been a market in this position since the thirteenth century) promising a place to get fresh-off-the-boat seafood, farm to table produce and super strong coffee.
From the moment you enter its grounds, you’re greeted with budget friendly snacks that make for the perfect intro into what is to follow. At Artesania del pernil Fèlix i Gabriel (stand 889), cones of Serrano ham and impeccably cured meats can be snapped up and munched down on for 2 euros.
The volume of tourists within is intense and it’s hard to stop and appreciate your surroundings or to take a closer look at the delicacies on offer, propelled by the surge or seething humanity. This is also ground zero for pickpockets, so make sure your valuables are in money belts and you’re holding tight to phones and cameras. Thankfully the main artery is the worst and at any point you can veer off and explore the side aisles that offer just as much without the heightened anxiety levels.
The array of foods change and the prices drop considerably as you step off the main promenade. From the initially enticing confectionary stands with bright Barcelona lollipops (Vidal Pons (stand 471)), creatively sculptured marzipan and artisan chocolates and nuts, the focus shifts to cones of instant breakfast and lunch foods and butcher shops. Full legs of jarmon allow for fine slices of the meat to be sampled, while full legs, trotters and all hang from meat hooks above.
Barcelona’s position on the Mediterranean ensures there will always be an exquisite representation of seafood on offer. By the time we make it here, most of the direct from the trawler fishmongers have packed up for the day, casting a less than appealing aroma of seafood mixed with bleach. Gladly there are one or two vendors still open and who haven’t yet bathed their stainless-steel tubs in Clorox. One is attracting a tour group by offering mollusk tasting, while a shopper at Peix Mari Carmen (stand 795) is negotiating the price of some shimmering whole salmon.
The stalls on the market edge are a blend of delicatessens, cafes and eateries. If the hams, olives and samples of tapas were the starters, you’ll be ready for your main dish. While our dinner plans are elsewhere, we certainly liked the look of x and x.
Mercat de la Boqueria is a fantastic market but to get the most from the experience, make like a local and be there just as it opens to see it without the massive crowds.
Mercat de la Boqueria is one of the world’s oldest markets. Today it’s a tourist attraction more than a market. If you find this one appealing, explore some of the more local offerings.
La Rambla, 91, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
Mercat de la Boqueria is open from 8am to 8pm daily except for Sundays when it is closed.