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.
The Mercat Santa Caterina is located in Ciutat Vella, in the district of El Borne. The original market dates back to 1844, when land was given to the Barcelona Town Hall in order to build a market. Construction was completed in four years and the market opened in 1848. It was the first covered market in the city and quickly became an important center of commerce.
Unfortunately, by 1997 the market had lost its luster. It was close to center but in what had come to be known as a relatively poor area of the city. It was surrounded by dismal apartment blocks and hadn´t been properly maintained in the years before. The roof was decayed and the market had become so dilapidated that many citizens thought it should simply be demolished.
Enrick Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue, the husband and wife team of EMBT Arquitectes, lived in the neighborhood and felt that demolishing the market would be a huge loss for the area. After much discussion with politicians, planners, and the official board in charge of the city´s markets, they submitted a proposal and eventually won the bid to refurbish the entire market. It soon became an urban regeneration project that went beyond the market stalls and included not only the market but also new housing blocks, a parking lot, and an organic waste deposit. As any of the local residents will tell you, the renovation of the market was a great success and has given new life to the neighborhood.
The project was delayed because during the initial phase of the restoration they unearthed the archaeological remains of the 15th century Gothic Monestir de Santa Caterina, a Dominican monastery that burned down in 1835. Other religious buildings and a late-Roman necropolis were also revealed. Archeologists spent time studying the remains and debating what to do, and with the collaboration of EMBT they found a solution that would allow the remains to be protected and displayed at the same time. There is now a small archeological museum set in the east corner of the market, along with a series of lights and viewing funnels in the public plaza, so that the public can view the relics.
EMBT kept the market´s walls on three sides, and on the fourth side they designed an entirely new facade. They included a new public plaza and two social housing blocks containing low-rent apartments for the elderly. Below ground is the loading bay, where fresh produce and goods are ferried to the main market hall by lifts and porters.
Of course, the most striking feature of the market is the colorful, undulating roof. It consists of a mosaic of 325,000 hexagonal Spanish tiles in 67 colors set in mortar, which form an abstract pattern of fruits and vegetables. The tiles had to be cut by hand due to the precision of the curves of the roof. The roof covers 5500 square meters in total. The structure is composed of wooden arches supported by tubular steel beams. The roof has received so much attention that it has become a symbol of the city of Barcelona, much like the Sagrada Familia or the cathedral, and its image can be found on posters, postcards, and the like.
Inside the market there are over a hundred stalls selling amazing varieties of meat, fish, fresh produce, and frozen and preserved items. There are also stalls selling non-food items such as flowers or perfumes. And to give it a modern touch, computers are being installed in all stalls which will allow stall holders to take orders by email to be delivered to their computers. The restaurant Cuines Santa Caterina (http://www.cuinessantacaterina.com/), which is part of the famous Tragaluz Group, is located here as well. The restaurant offers Asian, Mediterranean, Italian, and vegetarian food and is an excellent (and reasonably priced) choice for lunch or dinner. They also serve tapas and breakfast. And if you fancy something else, there are also several other bars that offer snacks and drinks in the market.
Markets are an essential part of Spanish life, and visiting them is the best way to get a sense of the culture. While the majority of Catalans buy some of their goods at the supermarket, they will also tell you that the highest quality food comes from the markets, and most of them will visit one of their local markets at least once a week. Also, for those that visit Barcelona and stay in rented flats with kitchens, there is nothing better than buying fresh food from the market and taking the time to create a homemade meal. You can also get everything you need to create a picnic at the beach or one of the local parks when the weather is nice.
The market is open Monday from 8am to 2pm, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday from 8am to 3:30pm and Thursday and Friday 8am to 8:30pm. For more information visit the official website at http://www.mercatsantacaterina.net/.
Barcelona has many indoor and outdoor markets that can provide locals and tourists alike with enjoyable shopping experiences. La Boqueria, located right at the Las Ramblas, is probably the most popular market.
La Boqueria, which is also known as Mercat de Sant Josep, is a large indoor market specializing in the sale of fresh produce, including a wide variety of locally-grown fruits and vegetables. Fresh meat and seafood is also available.
The market has a long, long history, dating way back to around the year 1200. In fact, during the period from 1200 to 1700, La Boqueria was actually an outdoors, open-air market located directly in front of one of the gates to the old city wall (Pla de la Boqueria) where local farmers came daily to sell their fresh produce.
Construction of the current indoor market began in 1840 when the first cornerstone was inserted into the ground. In the years since then, La Boqueria has been renovated, remodeled and modernized many times.
Today, La Boqueria is considered the cleanest and best-planned market in all of Barcelona. It is well-known and highly-regarded for its impressive steel and colored-glass roof and for the noteworthy and memorable ornament (featuring a large medallion bearing the La Boqueria name) at its main entrance.
La Boqueria covers 2580 square meters of space, includes 300 kiosks (small, independent shops) and is the largest indoor market in all of Spain.
People who come into the market through its Las Ramblas main entrance are likely to be dazzled by the kiosks and small stalls with their elaborate and carefully-planned displays of tempting fruits, vegetables, sweets and nuts. Artistically-arranged so that they seem hard to resist, the combination of colors, scents and aromas make it difficult to pass some stands without making a purchase.
La Boqueria’s best feature may be its huge fresh Seafood Section. It is in this part of the market that shoppers can find an almost endless bounty of freshly-caught fish and seafood – everything from tuna to salmon to cuttle fish to an amazing array of shellfish, including many types and sizes of shrimp … mussels … octopus … oysters … lobster … and rare, but interesting species tasty enough to grace a dinner table. As is true wherever fresh seafood is sold, some of the catch may still be alive.
There are many more interesting foods available. La Boqueria is, of course, best known for fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood. However, other food items are also available. For example: many kiosks sell typical Catalan and Spanish foods, including cured cheeses … famous Iberian hams … goat cheeses … numerous varieties of olives … and much more. As you might expect, it costs less to buy these items at the market than it would cost you to order them as part of a meal in a restaurant.
Take a break … enjoy a freshly-cooked snack. If you get tired of walking through the market and shopping, you can take a break at any one of a number of food stands inside the market that will prepare a snack for you. It can be a memorable experience to select a fresh food product and then watch as it is cooked to perfection – for your enjoyment – right before your eyes. You can enjoy freshly-prepared tapas or something more substantial.
You can stop and dine at a café outside the market, too. There are a number of cafes and restaurants that dot the landscape outside La Boqueria. One of the best of these is the Ra bar-restaurant, which is located directly behind the market. The Ra Bar-Restaurant features an open terrace that is protected on one side by an interesting medieval-like wall. The restaurant is known for its excellent food and, as such, is almost always crowded. If you go there, it is likely you will have to wait for a table.
Some very useful tips: La Boqueria offers the promise of a wonderful experience. In fact, you’re likely to find foods you didn’t even know existed. Everything sold there is top quality … always fresh … and sometimes somewhat expensive, certainly too costly for shopping daily. So, here’s some advice: always ask the vendor for the price before you buy. If you don’t do that, you may find that the item you’ve purchased is more costly than you thought … and you have to pay for it because it’s already been packed for you.
* If you pay for a purchase with a large bill (like a 50 Euro note, for example), always let the vendor know that’s what you are giving to him – a 50 Euro Note. If you don’t, chances are good that the vendor will claim you paid with a smaller bill, you will not be able to prove otherwise … and you will lose money unnecessarily. Also … check your change before you walk away from a stall where you’ve made a purchase. Be sure you received the right amount.
* It’s also a good idea to “shop around” before you buy. There are 300 stalls (kiosks) in the market, many of which sell the same food items. Some vendors may sell more cheaply than others. For example: shops in the front of the market at its main entrance tend to charge more than other shops because they are set up to attract the attention of tourists.
* La Boqueria is a customer-friendly market. You’ll find that many vendors will willingly – and happily – scale fish for you … chop cuts of meat for hamburger … or provide other, similar services – if you ask.
* Finally, if you’re interested in a bargain, go to La Boqueria late in the day, between 5:00 P.M. and 6:00 P.M. This is the time when vendors are getting ready to close their stalls for the day … are a little tired … anxious to go home … and may be willing to empty their shelves for you by selling their remaining produce at discounted prices. Significant savings are often available. In fact, visitors to the market in summer can enjoy cool, refreshing granizados (fresh fruit cocktails served in plastic glasses) for as little as 1 Euro for two drinks. That’s a bargain!
Here’s a warning: La Boqueria is a popular market and is almost always very crowded. Large crowds draw pickpockets. Always keep your belongings close to you and if you happen to hear loud “whistling” … be even more observant. A pickpocket is probably somewhere close.
La Boqueia is open six days a week, Monday through Saturday, 8:00 A.M. to 8:30 P.M.
How to get there:
The market is conveniently located in the center of the city right at the Las Ramblas avenue. It is easily accessible on foot. For those coming from other Barcelona districts, simply take the Metro, Green Line #3 and get off at Liceu stop.
Locals know that a trip to La Boqueria is worth the effort, a chance to buy some of the finest and freshest produce, meats and seafood available anywhere in Barcelona. If you’re a tourist or traveler, in the city for a few days, plan to spend a few hours in this wonderful indoor market. It will become a memorable part of your trip.