Markets in Barcelona, Spain.

To Market To Market — in Barcelona

Strolling through local markets on our travels is as much a form of sightseeing as it is a shopping trip or another chance to eat out. Especially in Barcelona, where the markets are so wonderful.

Taking in the dazzling displays of freshly-caught seafood and fish, gills scarlet and scales glistening, the kaleidoscope of colours that are the exhibits of fresh fruit and vegetables that smell like they’ve just been picked, and the aromatic counters of cheeses, sausages and hams… it’s all such a delight, isn’t it?

But we also like to watch the locals and how they interact, how the competing fishmongers call out to their customers, promoting their specials, how the shoppers interrogate the merchants about this particular type of vegetable and where it was grown, or how they explain in minute detail exactly how they want a cut of meat prepared, what they’re going to do with it, how many people they’re feeding and so on.

For many of the local shoppers, their daily trip to the market is a ritual that’s as much about socializing as it is about procuring the freshest seasonal produce. I love to watch the old ladies gossip over their trolleys, the old blokes discuss the footie results over beers at the market bar, and the young mothers chat about how their kids are doing at school. Although Terence will be watching them to see what they’re buying, so he can get some too!

The markets in Barcelona are some of the best in Spain (we also love the market in Jerez) and you should include one or two on your to-do list, as much for soaking up the local scene, as for sightseeing, shopping, and eating — many of the markets have simple little local tapas bars, and more stylish, upmarket restaurants and bars, such as Cuines de Santa Caterina.

The architecture of markets such as La Boqueria on Las Ramblas and Santa Caterina in La Ribera are Modernist, built between 1888 and 1913, and are also stunning to look at.

The excellent Barcelona tourism website has pages of info on the city’s markets, covering everything from their history and architecture to where to eat, such as Pinotxo at La Boqueria.

Personally, we think La Boqueria has succumbed too much to the tourist dollar in recent years and is not as ‘local’ or as atmospheric as it used to be — there are now way too many stalls selling pre-packaged salads and juices for tourists.

We prefer markets such as Santa Caterina and La Llibertat in Gràcia, but La Boqueria is still worth a visit.

Whichever market you go to, make sure you combine some sight-seeing and people-watching with your food-tasting!

Have you been to La Boqueria? What do you think? Do you like to visit local markets when you travel?

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  1. Angela

    I *love* local markets. They show so much of the country, way more than tourist markets! I’ve visited the fish and carpet markets in Abu Dhabi and I fell in love with the carpet traders! The seller we went to served us barefoot and sitting on his carpet: can it be more genuine than this??

  2. Brett Atkinson

    Hi Lara

    Really enjoying your travels and writing. Looking to start a blog across the long weekend here in NZ – what’s your recommendation on blogging platform to use? Also, I’d love to have the functionality that Terry has with his images – with the grid that opens to showcase each pic. I’m off next for LP in late April – southeastern Turkey – but doing a few beer and market stories in Vancouver on the way.

    Brett Atkinson

  3. Kendra S

    I went to La Boqueria 15 years ago when I studied in Spain and it felt very authentic to me. So much so that I felt out of place. I had never been in a place like it. Just the booth selling gummy candies alone was a total head trip (I mean, gummy candy fried eggs?). Now that I have been to many markets around the world and go to my neighborhood farmer’s market every weekend, I imagine it is more touristy. I love that you suggested some truly local markets here, because when I go back to Barcelona, this will be what I’m looking for.

  4. Terence Carter

    Had to laugh at the gummy fried egg candies. Had a stomach bug last week and had cups of tea and ate *all* the different candies during the day. Really brought a smile to my face. The watermelon one tasted like watermelon etc!

    The Boqueria markets are touristy now but still many locals eat and buy produce there, it’s just many stands are a little *too* focussed on the tourist dollar. But don’t worry there are plenty of others that are not on the tourist trail.
    Thanks for you comment.

  5. Lara Dunston

    Hi Brett

    Nice to hear from you and thanks for the feedback!

    I used Blogger/Blogspot for my personal blog, which was dead easy and you can get it up and running very quickly, but now we’re using WordPress for Grantourismo, which you can see is so much more sophisticated, but it’s also buggier and takes a bit longer to get it looking the way you want.

    Terry was a graphic/web/multimedia/book designer in a former life though so he has the ability and sense of aesthetics to be able to make it look as beautiful as he has, but regardless, WordPress has a lot more templates than Blogger/Blogspot that you can choose from, so a lot more opportunities to create something really attractive.

    Enjoy your travels!

  6. Lara Dunston

    Hi Angela

    Did you not get to Sharjah or Dubai’s markets as well? If you loved Abu Dhabi’s you would have loved those even more!

    Thanks for calling in!

  7. Angela

    No, I’ve only been to Abu Dhabi’s local markets, I didn’t manage to go to Sharja emirate, would have loved to but I was in the UAE for only ten days! What’s a better excuse to go back? 😉

  8. Victoria

    One day I will eventually make it to Barcelona and the markets will be top of my list! Thanks for the tips on the less touristy ones to visit, I look forward to it.

  9. Lara Dunston

    Barcelona is wonderful – a foodie’s paradise. And, yes, the markets are all wonderful – esp. the non touristy ones. Thanks for dropping by! Will get in touch before we return to Singapore – hopefully early next year.

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