Barcelona, like many Spanish cities, has plenty of markets to choose from. One of the most iconic is the Mercat Sant Antoni, which is located in the Eixample district, in the neighborhood of Sant Antoni. This market is actually bigger than the more famous Boqueria market, and doesn´t attract nearly as many tourists, so it´s a bit more authentic and ideal for those who want to mingle with the locals.
Just make sure to have a dictionary on hand because many of the vendors speak only Catalan and Spanish (which makes the transactions a bit more complicated, but also more of an adventure).
The Mercat Sant Antoni was designed by Antoni Rovira i Trias in 1882 and was the first market to be built outside the city walls. The structure is made of metal and at the main entrance you´ll flind the Barcelona coat of arms and a plaque showing the year that the market was built.
During the week the market sells primarily food. The market is known for its reasonable prices and there is a huge assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables. The fish section is in the middle, where visitors can find an amazing variety of local seafood. Shopping at the market is a great opportunity to sample fresh local products and of course it´s also a money saver since cooking for yourself, even if it´s just a picnic on the beach, is much more economical than eating in restaurants.
On Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday there is a clothes market. And while they might not be the most stylish in the city, here´s where you´ll find that colorful flamenco dress or extra pair of socks at a bargain price. Household items such as towels, sheets, and kitchenware are also sold here.
Sundays are when the market really comes to life. This is when the market sells second-hand books, magazines, old photos, and stamps. It attracts collectors from all over the world hoping to buy, sell, or trade their favorite items. Even if you´re not a collector it´s an excellent place to spend the morning browsing and pick up something to read at the beach or a photo to take home as a souvenir.
There´s no need to restrain yourself, because many of the vendors will deliver to your home for a small surcharge. This is a great option if you´ve bought too much to carry or want to do some more sightseeing with lugging around your purchases.
There´s no ideal day to come, but if you plan on buying only food then midweek is best as its isn´t nearly as crowded. If you come at the weekend then you should arrive as early as possible. This way you will be able to avoid the crowds and have the best selection. Visitors who come in summer should be aware that many of the food stalls close during the month of August, which is when the Spaniards traditionally go on holiday.
When you´re done with your shopping head over to Els Tres Tombs across the street for a drink and a bite to eat. This bar/restaurant has been around for years and is considered a city institution. It´s open from 6am to 2am, attracting anyone from businessmen stopping for lunch to young people having breakfast after a long night of partying. Prices are reasonable and there´s a terrace out front that gets sun nearly all day long.
The Mercat Sant Antoni is currently being remodeled, as part of a plan to renovate all of the city´s major markets, with the objective of improving their services and infrastructure. The new market will have three underground floors, one of which will be used for loading and storage and another while will have a parking lot with more than 300 spaces.
The new market will also have 8 different entrances, which will make it more accessible. The renovation is not expected to be completed until the end of 2010. In the meantime a temporary market has been installed on Ronda Sant Antoni, between Comte d’Urgell and Villarroel, but it only has food stalls.
Address: Comte d’Urgell, 1
Phone: 924 234 287
How to get there: Metro L2, stop Sant Antoni. | Bus 13, 24, 37, 41, 55 and 64.
Web site: www.mercatsbcn.com
Opening time: Monday to Thursday & Saturday, from 7am to 2.30pm & 5.30pm to 8.30pm. Friday, from 7am to 8.30pm.