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Posted by on Jul 24, 2016 | 111 comments

Barcelona’s Markets: A Burst of Color

Spain’s markets and food halls are on another level.

They provide an opportunity to taste the best of the area, region and, even the country, under one roof.  I am not exaggerating when I say you can spend hours trying different things on these gastronomic temples.

After visiting the Mercado San Miguel in Madrid and the Mercat Central in Valencia, I was ready for the Barcelona’s markets.

I visited the city many years ago and since I only had one day to explore (insane), I didn’t stop by any of the markets. I vowed not to make the same mistake on a future visit.

That is why on my way to the waterfront, through Las Ramblas, I kept my eyes wide open.  I was trying to spot the entrance of the Mercat Saint Joseph (better known as La Boqueria) on my right hand side.

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

Now, let me tell you a thing or two about this market.

  • It is the most famous market in Barcelona
  • It is on the busiest street (actually, streets because Las Ramblas is more than one street) in the city
  • It is touristy, crowded and a little bit on the theatrical side (things are arranged in a very appealing way)

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

Having said that, I still think this market is worth a visit.  Why? Because the variety of goods is impressive, there are bursts of color everywhere and the tapas bars in there are frequented by top chefs (they are that good!).

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

That first visit I started to describe above was a total fail.  My husband and I got inside but it was impossible to walk around.  The crowds were massive.  We left and returned another time when things were on the calmer side. Therefore, that is my advice to you.  If you get the canned sardine feeling, run away and return at another time! Or, try to hit the market close to open time.

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

For excellent tapas, stop by any of the following:

  • Pinotxo Bar
  • El Quim (their specialty is fried eggs with baby squid)
  • Kiosko Universal (for great seafood)

Other less famous bars are:

  • Bar Central
  • Bar Boqueria

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

If you prefer to eat on the go, there are many vendors offering quiches, turnovers, pastries and even noodles and burritos (ahem!).

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

IMG_8081

For those who prefer to snack, the options are limitless. Stalls offer fruit, chocolate covered strawberries, candies, macaroons, fresh fruit, olives, nuts, chocolate and Iberico ham.

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

If you see somebody selling coconut milk on a plastic cup, make yourself a favor and get one.  The one we tried at the market was delicious (remind me of the one my grandmother used to get from fresh coconuts).

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

If you are interested in visiting a less crowded and touristy market, you can stop by Mercat Santa Caterina in the Old City.

Santa Caterina Market was built in 1845 to provide the neighborhood’s blue-collar community with food related items. This was the city’s first covered market. A refurbishment, in the modernist style, was completed in 2005. An undulating roof is attached to the building by a wooden structure, and a vast mosaic of colored ceramic pieces, representing fruit and vegetables, boldly breaks with the traditional look of a market.

The photo below (from Barcelona.com) shows an aerial of the market.

Mercat Santa Caterina, Barcelona, Spain

Mercat Santa Caterina, Barcelona, Spain

I loved strolling around the almost empty market.  We had breakfast at one of the bars and proceeded to take a look at the colorful produce.  We found several food related products that served as souvenirs.

Mercat Santa Caterina, Barcelona, Spain

Mercat Santa Caterina, Barcelona, Spain

Mercat Santa Caterina, Barcelona, Spain

Mercat Santa Caterina, Barcelona, Spain

Mercat Santa Caterina, Barcelona, Spain

Mercat Santa Caterina, Barcelona, Spain

Mercat Santa Caterina, Barcelona, Spain

Mercat Santa Caterina, Barcelona, Spain

Mercat Santa Caterina, Barcelona, Spain

Mercat Santa Caterina, Barcelona, Spain

Mercat Santa Caterina, Barcelona, Spain

Mercat Santa Caterina, Barcelona, Spain

Mercat Santa Caterina, Barcelona, Spain

If you are a really fan of markets, may be interested in paying a visit to Sant Antoni Market.  I didn’t have the opportunity to visit but reviews indicate it is bigger than La Boqueria with no tourists on sight.  This is a good place to mingle with locals and food lovers (there is a tapas bar on site).

Comparisons tend to be unfair for many reasons but I feel like I have to give my opinion in this case.  I would chose to visit any Madrid market over a Barcelona market. I find the food offerings in Madrid superior.  The best food Spain has to offer is better represented there.

Yes, Madrid markets are touristy too but there are tons of locals (or at least people from the Greater Madrid area) in the market.  In Madrid, there are common eating areas.  That allows you to have a conversation with other while eating.  That alone is a great opportunity to get recommendations or learn more about daily life in Spain. If you are a food lover, this is something you should give a thought.

What market in Barcelona would you like to visit?

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Make sure you pay a visit to one of Barcelona's best markets

 

111 Comments

  1. I’ve only been to the Boqueria and even if I don’t get to see another market in BCN, I’d be content to go back over and over to the same Boqueria.

    • Since it is in Las Ramblas, it is the easiest market to visit. I think visitors should stop by and take a look (and eat something).

  2. A feast for your eyes and your stomach.

    • That is right Jim! You feel like a little kid in a candy shop in a place like this.

  3. Great variety of photos from the market. I did not make it to this market in Barcelona but I wish I did. The last several fresh fruit and veg shots are my favorites.
    Rhonda Albom recently posted..Classic San Francisco ImagesMy Profile

    • Rhonda, those veg shots are some of my favorite too. I was amazed by the variety of tomatoes. They had some I had never seen before.

  4. Looks very pretty and tasteful. A very good add posting for visitors to Barcelona. Thanks for showing us.
    S.C. recently posted..Street meetingMy Profile

    • Thanks! I am a market fan, so, you are going to see me posting about the subject a lot.

    • You feel like you want to get everything that you see!

    • Thanks for stopping by! I am glad you enjoyed the post and got a bit hungry ;0)

  5. I have also written about both those markets having visited them and you’ve portrayed their wares and customers very well. I found, that as is true of all crowded tourist places in Barcelona I spent so much time making sure no one took my money or camera that the full charm of the place was tarnished. Your photos are spectacular – it is tough to take them in crowded low light settings, and you nailed it.
    Jackie Smith recently posted..London ~ We Are Where we Are!My Profile

    • Jackie, Barcelona is not my favorite city in Europe. I enjoyed my stay last year and will like to stop in the future to visit the Costa Brava. But, like you mentioned, the crowds can take away part of the charm.

  6. OMG now my mouth is watering from those delicious pictures and my own memories from walking through there back in 2012! I definitely need to go back! #CityTripping

    • Yes, I think you need to go back. Being in Spain feels great!

  7. WOW! Hello to my happy place, food, color, and culture. This market is fabulous. I could spend days in it.

    Lisa @ Life Thru the Lens

  8. I love visiting markets in Europe! They are such fun! And I’m always surprised at what kinds of foods are being sold. Yes, you can get the typical fruits/veggies, but the cooked meats, delicious coffees, dairy products, and (in some cases) artwork often make for an interesting adventure. If/when I go to Barcelona, I’ll have to keep my eye out for this place. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    #citytripping
    Mandy recently posted..A Walk Through Savannah, GAMy Profile

    • The markets I have highlighted in here are a must in Barcelona (in my opinion). Like you, markets are one of the things I like the most in Europe. Which ones have you visited?

  9. Fabulous photos of one of my favourite places…La Boqueria in Barcelona, and also of the market in the old city…I think I’d like to go there to avoid the crowds. We have a day in Barcelona between planes in November, and a market visit is just the thing!
    Kay
    An Unfittie’s Guide
    Kay L. Davies recently posted..One can never have too many socksMy Profile

    • There you go! Stop by one of these and you will get the complete experience. You can have tapas, buy snacks for the rest of the day (or week) and get souvenirs (I am not into buying souvenirs but the things you will get in here are edible or useful).

  10. I forgot to have lunch before coming to your blog! Now I’m starving! The colours you captured are AMAZING!! I think I would stick to Mercat Saint Joseph when I go to Barcelona for the first time. I don’t mind touristy since I’m tourist afterall. Hahaha.. Maybe if I get to visit Spain for a second time, I would head to the markets in Madrid. #CityTripping
    Bumble Bee Mum recently posted..Hokkaido Self-Drive Trip (June 2016) Part 4: Asahikawa – Sounkyo – ShiretokoMy Profile

    • It is true what you day about tourist. We complain about them but we are part of them. But, do use my tips to try to enter the market when it is on the calmer side.

    • I should have gotten one of those berry baskets. I have never tried the rounded ones. I think they are called currant.

  11. Markets are the best, you see so much life there. I love how some of your photos look completely abstract, focusing on colour and shape not on the food itself. #citytripping

    • Thanks Rebecca! I thing you can find a lot of patterns in places like this. Yes, you are taking photos of food but I chose to see them as pieces of art.

  12. I can’t wait to visit Spain in September and stuff my face! All of your pictures make me so hungry 😀

    • Nice! I think this is your first time in Spain, right? I am going to be in Central Europe the first weeks of September.

  13. Our friends loved visiting the markets in Barcelona on their trip there! That sucks that the first time you visited everything felt so claustrophobic, but that’s great that you came back and that you had a better experience!
    Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders recently posted..A Walking Tour Through PortlandMy Profile

    • I guess I learned that lesson the hard way on Madrid. The first time we stopped by a market it was madness. We returned the next day and couldn’t believe how different was the experience with less people around.

  14. So cool!! I love markets all around the world – both the touristy ones and the local ones. Like you said, they are such a great way to get a feel for the local food and they are a photographer’s dream!
    Lauren recently posted..A City Of Inspiration: Dubrovnik, CroatiaMy Profile

    • You have to let me know about some markets you have visited. In that way, I can visit if I am in the specific city.

  15. Mercat Santa Caterina looks lovely and without the crowds of the more famous La Boqueria. #CityTripping

    • I know, that is why I am presenting the option to those who do not want to be surrounded by the masses.

  16. food…lots of food! I wish Greek markets where like that.I’ve seen La Boqueria in Barcelona but didn’t get in. I have a photo of the entrance because I liked the sign!
    Anna recently posted..The Essential Guide to NaxosMy Profile

    • You should have gotten in to take a look. I will like to visit Greek markets. That is one thing I didn’t do when I visited Athens.

    • Cadiz is a city that I would love to visit. Unfortunately, I have not made it to the south of Spain yet.

  17. Everything is displayed like candy in a candy store. What abundance. Nobody goes hungry there!

    • Looks like an interior decorator put the displays together. So beautiful!

  18. Wow, Barcelona looks so incredible. Visiting markets is my favorite thing about seeing a new place. The colors and smells are all so incredible!
    Amanda recently posted..Anniversary Weekend in Squamish, BCMy Profile

    • Amanda, I love visiting markets too. I do not want to leave once I am there.

  19. You are so right, Spain’s markets really are on another level! My favorite market in Barcelona is the Mercat de L’Abaceria in Gràcia. Not a tourist in sight!!!

    • Oh no! I stayed in the Gracia neighborhood and didn’t know about this market. I have to stop by on my next visit.

  20. Wow! So busy and colorful! I think I will spend a long time at the dessert booths 😛

    • Right? You can spend days in here devouring only desserts. Did you see the macaroon variety they have?

    • Well, now you know. Hope you can visit one day.

    • I really enjoyed the colors. I love when I discover colorful places during my travels.

    • I wanted you guys to get an idea of why this market is so special.

  21. I love markets and I love to visit local markets in places I travel to; sadly, not all my travel companions feel the same way. Wish I’d checked out local markets when I was in Barcelona.
    Buckeroomama recently posted..HomeboundMy Profile

    • I get your feeling. That is why my husband is my best travel companion. We both have a passion for food and enjoy activities related to it.

    • Which ones have you visited? I like to get ideas to plan upcoming trips.

  22. La Boqueria really is quite something, isn’t it – I only had a quick wander round on my visit to Barcelona but I could easily have spent longer walking and nibbling. I hadn’t come across the other markets though, and I think it would be great to get a taste of the less touristy ones, especially if that’s where more locals tend to shop. #citytripping
    Cathy (MummyTravels) recently posted..Travel tips: Sleep problems after a holidayMy Profile

    • I can understand how some people do a quick walk around and leave when there are tons of other people around. i was lucky to revisit during a time when the market wasn’t packed.

  23. Wow, the crowds you spoke of at the beginning would have been enough to put me off, but my oh my the colours and the variety of fruit, veggies and yummy foodstuffs looks beautiful. Some great hints and tips, thank you!

    • Well, the market is popular for a reason. All the beautiful displays attract tons of people. But, I believe the market can be better appreciated if visited at the correct moment.

    • Yes, it went thru. Not sure why WordPress decides to throw some comments in the spam folder. I have to be monitoring and approving things.

  24. OMG, RUTH! I am literally on the verge of drooling! this looks out of this world. one of my favorite ways to get to know a new city is to check out their LOCAL markets. all the fresh fruits and vegetables look amazing!

    • Thanks Carrie! I get your feeling. There are tons of good stuff there.

  25. Interesting to hear your thoughts on Barcelona markets and why you enjoy the Madrid ones more. Although they may not be as impressive, the pastries look amazing! Wouldn’t mind one right now!
    Brooke of Passport Couture recently posted..The Story of Hand Block PrintingMy Profile

    • Well, I am throwing my opinion out there. In the Madrid vs. Barcelona battle, Barcelona tends to win. However, I prefer Madrid.

  26. Oh wow! I would have loved to see this market when I was in Barcelona 8 years ago. I’ll have to put it on my list for next time.

    • Right, this would be a great addition to any itinerary.

  27. You have made me super hungry with your pictures and descriptions. I absolutely loved Mercado San Miguel in Madrid…Spain does have the best food markets – perfect for trying out the local dishes in a relaxed environment. Good tip about leaving and coming back if too busy. Thanks for linking to #citytipping
    Elizabeth (wander Mum) recently posted..Review: Trespass Girl’s Floral SwimsuitMy Profile

    • I love Mercado San Miguel. I like that market better than La Boqueria.

    • That is true. You only see some parts of the roof from the front. it is a nice feature but not one visitors and regulars can appreciate that much.

    • Truth is I was sick in Barcelona. I tried some stuff but I had to take it easy (which was not good).

    • That is true. At least, I have not seen something similar in the West Coast. I have heard there are more European style markets in the East Coast. Would like to visit those one day.

    • You guys would go crazy taking pictures! You have to visit one day.

    • I love when a post or article bring good memories of a place I visited. It feels different when you are reading or seeing pictures of a place you have actually visited.

    • I am visiting Central Europe soon and I have already a list of the markets I want to visit.

    • A lot of good stuff in these markets. I would not mind to go back and only stop by them.

  28. I got really hungry reading this post, Ruth! Love the riot of colours in the market and the food looks amazing. I do love food 🙂 I also really appreciated your honest opinion on Madrid vs Barcelona markets. I’ve been to Madrid but not Barcelona – partly hesitant to go because the main purpose of my trips to Spain is to practise my Spanish, but I hear people in Barcelona don’t like that 😛 I’ll probably go at some point, but glad to know I’m not missing out on much in terms of the food markets at least!
    Michelle | michwanderlust recently posted..Chilling in Chiang MaiMy Profile

    • Glad to share my opinion. As I said, it is a matter of preference. You are not the first person that mention how people from Barcelona do not enjoy talking Spanish. I am am not a connoisseur of the city but I didn’t feel judged or frowned upon by speaking in Spanish. As a matter of fact, people started conversations in Spanish. Maybe you should give the city a try.

  29. I love Spanish markets! Although I do agree that the central market in Barcelona is a bit too touristy and crowded. When I visited I was so worried about getting pickpocketed that it was hard to enjoy myself. I should’ve checked out the Santa Caterina market as that sounds way more up my alley! Beautiful, colorful pictures as always! Thanks for sharing and linking up 😀

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing your opinion. Since I went back to the market when it was less crowded, I wasn’t scared of being robbed. But, I tried to be aware all the time.

    • Totally! That is why I like to spend more than one day on a city.

  30. I love all the colors in a local market, and this one looks amazing. After a trip through my suitcase would no doubt be bulging with things I’m probably not supposed to bring home but can’t resist!
    eileen g recently posted..5 Activities For an Easy Cape May, NJ VacationMy Profile

    • We brought home some things and enjoyed them while at home. My husband wanted to buy certain things but I was sure they were going to be confiscated at the airport.

  31. I enjoyed this Post. Yes, the market is worth to visit. Each capture is fantastic.

    Thank you for the nice comment. ☺️
    // Heidrun recently posted..Montagfrüh…My Profile

    • You are so sweet! Thanks for leaving a comment.

    • Glad you liked them!

  32. Hello, wonderful photos of the market. I am sure the sights, sounds and smells were just amazing. All the food looks delicious, I would want to try it all. Thanks for sharing your visit. Happy Wednesday, enjoy your day!

    • Your welcome! Markets are some of my favorite places in the world.

  33. Interesting! I’ve just got back from Barcelona and we visited the Boqueria on our last day – I think we were a bit too overwhelmed and tired to really take advantage of it! We did buy some fresh fruit though and it was gorgeous. Luckily it wasn’t too crowded either, but just busy enough that we didn’t want to hang around too much. I like the comparison you drew with the Madrid food markets – I don’t remember going to them (I went to Madrid quite a long time ago!) but I think I’d appreciate the same things as you. I’ll have to go back to check!
    Rachel ¦¦ A Nesting Nomad recently posted..6 (more) unmissable sights in New YorkMy Profile

    • Well, at least you experienced La Boqueria in a way. But, my heart is a 100% with the markets in Madrid.

    • You are right! It would be nice to have a kitchen in order to cook up something with all these great produce.

    • There is plenty of that in the market too!

  34. I love getting to hear about markets in different parts of the world! I try to visit them in each city that I visit and love trying exotic fruit!

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