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.
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?