You’d have a hard time finding anything better than Barcelona for food, as far as being a hub.
Since 19th century La Boquerìa has been the beating heart of the city and every morning, hundreds of sellers roll up their blinders, happy to recommend you the leading local and international gastronomic goods.
La Boquerìa is the most famous market, located in El Raval neighbourhood with an entrance to the market from no less famous La Rambla. Very similar to Borough Market in London or Or Tor Kor Market in Bangkok, the quantity and variety of fresh goods at La Boquerìa is undreamed. However, even if you are not after buying anything at the market, it is doubtless worth a visit just to soak up the atmosphere and real Barcelona vibes. The market is a refined metaphor and a quintessence of Catalan life. It is not just a regular market to grab some food for quick or proper dinner, but rather a significant monument of gastronomy, and even more, perhaps – La Boquerìa walls remember world history and day-to-day declares general thesis of generations – if you ignore the past, you cannot value the present.
The early conception of La Boquerìa market dated from the 1200s and has expanded as nearby towns joined the trade. The first of Barcelona's local markets were opened on Saint Joseph's holiday, on the 19th of March 1840, after four years of working on the land literally. El Mercat de San Josep de La Boquerìa has lived a lot of lives. In the early 13th century paddlers set up stands, offering fresh meat in the open air near the Mediterranean Sea, just outside the medieval city wall.
The Boquerìa was strategically located on the path to the Llobregat river on the old Moorish trading way, an excellent point for promenading purveyors. It was principally a meat market; the name itself derives from the Catalan word for goat, boc. Accordingly, boquerìa in Catalan means butcher.
The beta-version of the Boquerìa market changed for centuries. Farmers, fishermen, and butchers selling whatever they had on hand were rotating every week until the early 1800s, when the market relocated a few hundred meters up the Rambla. In those times the central part of the street was a dense concentration of convents, monasteries, and other religious buildings, thus salesmen set up whatever open space they could squeeze in. During the Carlist Wars that had reversed the city and church establishment, the Convent of Saint Joseph was burned down and ruined – after centuries of moving up and down La Boquerìa got a chance to fix itself in a place where it still resides up today, blessed memory of the convent. Catalonia's general captain, Marquis Campo Sagrado also started to constitute major rules for travelling market areas that were converted into a sizeable square after the convent was gone.
By the end of the 19th century, a contemporary market’s plan began to develop: more than 300 stalls and stands, all in all, organised and merchandised by the type of products they offer. Fruit and vegetable dealers received the special right to employ at La Boquerìa in 1861. Until this time, fresh flower sellers were allowed to engage with this part of the Rambla. Some merchants started to add a flower to the shopping packages.
Gaslighting was installed at La Boquerìa only in 1871, just a day before Christmas Day. In 1913, after several years of half measures, the city government officially completed the construction of the cast-iron roof over the square, installing the perimeter area of La Boquerìa that still stands today.
La Boqueria is the market that has fed the city for over 800 years; while Columbus sailed the ocean, during the time of Inquisition, the Spanish Civil War, and the decades of Franco’s regime. This is the place that shaped common Catalan food into one of the most exquisite and sophisticated regional cuisines in Europe. And this is the market that inflamed the modern gastronomy revolution of the early 2000s, and made Spain one of the hottest food destinations in the world. Such movement was always driven by a correct dedication to product and seasonality.
Nowadays La Boquerìa is a must-visit place because of its architecture, atmosphere and range of sales. In 2005 it was awarded the best market of the year in the sixth edition of the International Public Markets Conference. CNN considered it to be the world’s best market in 2017.
At the central entrance to the market, there is a Modernista (Catalan modern) arch designed by Antoni Falguera. The arch, which was restored in 2012, is constructed of blue, yellow and brown stained glasses in various geometric shapes and supported by two columns decorated in Trencadís style (broken tile shards used to design a mosaic) typical for Modernista.
Above the central entryway to La Boquerìa is the Pla de l'Os, the Bearsplace. Times ago wandering jugglers let their bears dance here. The square, which was a small part of the Rambla, is decorated with a mosaic of Joan Miró, created in 1976. On the reverse side, you may find a pretty unusual building, the Casa Bruno Quadros, also known as Umbrellas House (La Rambla, 82). The Casa Bruno Quadros was a vivid example of the city transformation undergoing during the 1888 Universal Exposition. Today, the building lures tourists with its embellished facade in form of delicate umbrella decorations. Architect Josep Vilaseca had decided to combine a range of pre-Modernista styles with French Orientalism elements; as the result became the frontage, decorated with copper screens and original dragon figure, inspired by Chinese legends. It is worth highlighting its balconies and gallery set on the top floor.
La Boquerìa bears testament to the gorgeous and rich Catalan gastronomy. Frankly, you can find almost everything in there: seasonal vegetables and exotic fruit, fresh local fish and seafood, high-grade meat, imported tinned goods and preserves, legumes, cheeses, species, nuts and tons of other products. Literally, you can spend hours browsing through the colourful walkways Catalan specialties, classic and contemporary fare. And do not miss the numerous small eateries and restaurants located under the cover of the market’s porch, as they’re an ideal place to sample all the food.
Like any other tourist location in Barcelona, La Boquerìa can be difficult to know the best way to enjoy it. The market opens every morning at 8 AM, which is an excellent time to start to observe all this bright area has to offer.
From 11 am approximate, the market is filled with plenty of one-day standers – this flow will make your experience a bit more crammed, so the earlier you come, the better impressions you will get. Actually, an evening visit is also a worthwhile option. Most of the tapas bars and restaurants normally take last orders at 8.15 pm. That means you will not miss the major crowds, but it also increases your chances to take a seat in the centre of the market while the stalls are closing. Try to feel like local people. It means, eat like locals. Look and think like a Barcelonian. Tapas bars offer high-quality, passionately prepared dishes, making it a great option if you would like to try some of the very best Catalonia cuisine has to offer. Wandering around La Boquerìa, you will have dozens of choices to try, but in addition to a variety of tapas you may taste, one thing you definitely do not want to miss – the traditional jamón ibérico.
Behaving Barcelonian manner, do not be shy to search for the best deals offers. It is not a secret, that traders of the first-line stalls pay higher rent and usually have higher prices than others at the back. So, if you are looking for something you fancy, have a wander down the passages and try to pick it up deeper in La Boquerìa. Old tricks work at all times – if people have trodden a path, it is worth following. Of course, following traditions. So, eat, pay, love.