When people ask me why I moved to Barcelona, I usually answer that it’s because of the food. The real answer is La Boqueria.
I still remember the first time I saw the Boqueria market more than a decade ago. The fresh produce, meat parts shown in all their glory, the friendly stall holders, great food at the seafood counters. It was love at first sight.
Although it has changed a lot since then, I still visit this market once a month.
I’ve seen it in every guidebook. Is it worth the hype?
Mercat de la Boqueria or Mercat de Sant Josep as it’s known to the locals is still one of the top tourist attractions in Barcelona.
Yes, it is full of tourists at all times, but the locals still (try to) shop and sometimes eat there. This is because the prices for fresh produce are still very competitive and many chefs still buy ingredients there.
Sadly, I can’t say the same for the food stalls though, whose menu items are getting more expensive every year. And becoming generic – fruit juices, empanadas, pizza, vegan takeaway.
La Boqueria: A brief history
In this very spot, it’s been documented that vendors have been selling meat to the city residents since 1201. The current modernist arch and roof were installed in 1914, although there was a temporary roof since 1874.
They are constantly remodelling the market and adding new stalls. A couple of years ago, they even set up a nice little park at the back where you can catch some sun! Make sure you check it out.
A few words about Barcelona Market Etiquette (applicable to most markets in Spain)
You may have read that many locals are getting fed up with too many tourists. This is definitely obvious on Las Ramblas and inside the Boqueria. I sometimes refer to this market as Disneyland where people come to gawk at the market stalls and take endless photos and vlogs.
It is really busy all the time but it is still a must for first timers to Barcelona. Just make sure you take note of a few unspoken rules below:
- Whatever you do, DO NOT touch the fruit / vegetables / chocolates / eggs etc on display. You can see that it took them hours to arrange them carefully so you can take great photos. If you touch them, get ready for some angry vendors!
- Be aware of other people around you who need to walk past and go shopping. Some will be old ladies with shopping trolleys. Please show some respect and move out of the way, especially if you’re in a big group.
- Buy some fresh produce. Yes, we know that the 1 euro juice and cold empanadas are appealing, but you can support the local economy by buying something else and not just taking endless photos.
- Be sensitive when taking photos. Do not block people who are trying to buy when you just want to take a picture for your travel blog. If they already look annoyed, ask permission before you take a photo. Sometimes, vendors have complained to me in Spanish about “rude” tourists. Don’t be one of them.
- Smile and say a few words in Spanish or Catalan. The vendors don’t speak fluent English so a few words will be appreciated.
- Carry some small notes and coins. Don’t give them a 100 euro bill if you’re buying an orange.
- Do not smoke and do not litter inside. It is a fairly clean market and you can help keep it that way.
What to See in La Boqueria
When you want to see the most interesting items not found in your local market, make sure to check out the following:
Stand 689 Avinova Aviram, ous i caça
Check out the foie gras, duck, hares and other game meat in the display case. Vegetarians, look away.
Stand 323 Ous de Calaf
Eggs of all sizes. Quail, duck, goose, and ostrich eggs. Yes, ostrich eggs.
The seafood counters in the central area
You cannot miss this section so make sure not to go on a Monday as most will be closed. Fresh oysters, live lobsters, goose barnacles, monkfish, tuna.
Where to Eat in La Boqueria
We know that these have been featured in every guide book for the last 10 years. They are still worth trying out.
Note that you should always ask the staff if you can sit down as there might be a waitlist for stools, especially during busy times. Do not just grab one. They will tell you where to sit.
This place is an institution. Have a hearty breakfast of chickpeas with black sausage or Catalan sausage with white beans (botifarra amb mongetes).
The chefs’ favourite stall when they’re off duty. Must-have: baby squid with fried eggs (chipirones con huevos rotos). Sounds simple, simply divine.
If you only want to eat seafood, head straight here. Grilled prawns, razor clams, baby squid freshly grilled from the market. This was the first stall I ever tried on my first trip to Barcelona. Still delivering great food at reasonable prices.
Tips to avoid the crowds
- Avoid the Spanish lunch break. It is best to go anytime before 12 and after 3pm. Some stalls will be closed in the afternoon so we recommend having breakfast there anytime from 7am.
- Go on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday as there will be less locals shopping.
- If you really want to avoid the crowds, contact us and we will show you around other Barcelona food markets with very few tourists.
Monday – Saturday 8AM – 8:30PM
Closed on Sundays and public holidays
Around La Boqueria
C/ Jerusalem 6, 08001, Barcelona
Open Monday to Saturday 13:30 to 16:00 and 20:30 a 00:00
Recommended by most Italians in Barcelona, this Venetian restaurants ticks all the boxes when you need a break from Catalan food. Must reserve as they are always full.
Barcelona Food Markets: The Best of The Rest
If you decided to avoid the Boqueria, you can visit these other local markets instead.
Mercat Santa Caterina
An alternative to La Boqueria, it has the same excellent produce without the crowds. This is the only market in the centre where the locals can still shop in peace so please be considerate when you go. Try the food stall in front for some authentic local food or Bar Joan at the back if you wish to meet the locals.
Where to eat: Bar Joan for quality tapas
Mercat de la Llibertat
This is a really lovely local market in the Gracia neighbourhood.
Where to eat: La Pubilla next door for a market menu with daily specials
Weekend Street Markets in Barcelona
Mercat de la Terra
Local producers (100 KM) bring fresh produce from fruits, vegetables, cheese, honey, wine, olive oil and other staples. Part of the Slow Food movement, the event motto is good, fair and just. There is also a stall selling meals, coffee and usually has a DJ and activities for kids.
Every Saturday 10:00AM – 4:00PM
Barceloneta Sunday Market (Passeig de Joan Borbo)
So you missed all the markets and everything is closed? You can go to this market on the way to the beach on a Sunday morning. You can buy everything from pastries, churros, craft beer, local wine, cured meat and cheeses. Enough for a picnic on the beach.
Sundays from 10AM – 9PM
Plaza del Pi Weekend Food Market
Try the excellent local cheese and wild honey from the various stalls. There are also mushrooms, artisan chocolate, cured meat, olive oil and other local products.
Open Saturdays and Sundays and also public holidays (if it falls on a weekend) from 11am – 8pm.
Bonus: There is usually a local artists’ market in the adjacent square where paintings are on display.
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to the Boqueria. As I said, you MUST visit if it’s your first time as it is famous for a reason. If you’ve been there before, you can check out the other markets in this guide.
Remember, do try to make it a pleasant experience for yourself and for those around you as well. Enjoy and happy eating!