Shopping is one of my least favourite pastimes, so it may come as a surprise to learn that I love browsing markets or souks. The hustle and bustle with stalls overflowing with vibrant colours and interesting shapes is captivating, holding my attention for hours.
La Boqueria or Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria if you wish to be formal has apparently been voted the best covered market in the world. I was unable to confirm this claim but it is undoubtedly one of the premier markets and a ‘must visit’ of the Barcelona attractions.
There has been a market here since it was constructed in 1840 although the name dates back as far back as 1217. Initially it was not a covered market, the metal roof was added in 1914 and still exists today.
The eclectic displays of fish, fruit, vegetables, meats and cheeses are fantastic, the range of colours is dazzling and the care taken to arrange some of them to their aesthetic best must be painstaking. Those that need to indulge their sweet tooth can find stalls with intricate displays of temptation; rich chocolates and candied fruits.
The scents drifting down the aisles can range from pungent to extremely fragrant, with fish, aromatic spices and delicate floral perfumes teasing the passers-by. The vendors are a little quieter than some other markets but most of the senses are kept alive with energy of the place.
Even at relatively quiet periods there appears to be a heaving mass of people shifting from one colourful display to another more aromatic one.
The produce on offer is sourced throughout Catalonia and is always of the highest quality and freshness as only the best vendors are permitted to trade in La Boqueria. This ensures that Catalan cuisine is portrayed at its best, the market becoming a showcase. It is advisable to make any purchases however away from the central stalls, the smaller stalls located down the many aisles leading from the main thoroughfare offer reduced prices and it is where the savvy locals choose to buy.
Located in the Ciutat Vella district of the city it is easily accessible from exciting Las Ramblas with its many restaurants, bars and pulsating vibe. It has a slightly ‘touristy’ feel to it, but it has become a Barcelona institution, vendors, street performers, artists, florists and plenty of people enjoying themselves. It is true many stag/hen groups are now choosing to party here but then it does have the right atmosphere.
Combined La Boqueria and Las Ramblas make a perfect way to spend an afternoon which is likely to extend beyond and into an evening in the city.