Impressions of La Boqueria, Barcelona
I love food markets. I somehow (inexplicably) find myself at The Global Kitchen in Camden Market at least once a week, and whenever I travel abroad, one of my must-sees is the local market. A favourite last year was Machneyehuda market in Jerusalem, but there is another one that holds a dear place in my heart: La Boqueria.
The first time I came to Barcelona was on a school trip ten years ago, and when we stepped into La Boqueria, I was blown away. The sights, the smells, the sounds, the colours… it was so different from anything I had ever seen. It was one of the reasons I fell in love with the city, decided to do my Spanish course there a year later, and then kept coming back. This year, I spent nearly a week in Catalunya’s capital, earning my PADI Open Water diving certificate as well as consuming all the tapas and paella. One day before flying back to London, I realised I hadn’t been to La Boqueria yet, and so I sought to rectify the situation immediately.
This market certainly isn’t for the squeamish, as there is at least one stand dedicated to offal (including animal heads), as well as a number of fresh seafood stalls emitting a rather pungent odour. With some of them, the prawns, lobster, and particularly crabs are still alive and (sort of) kicking.
The main tourist trap is the fruit juice – it is brightly coloured and inviting, costing 1.50 Euro (or even 1 Euro, if you venture further to the back), but don’t be fooled. It’s watered down, with added sugar, and has almost no flavour. A pity, really, as the fruits sound unusual and exciting (e.g. strawberry, passionfruit, guanabana, and more).
The plastic cups filled with fruit are slightly better than the juices, but nonetheless they’re slightly watery, so you’re better off buying the whole fruits and chopping them at home. Just check out the exotic options…
As much as I love La Boqueria, it is very touristy, as it is located halfway down La Rambla, and is listed in just about every Barcelona guidebook on the planet. Nonetheless, there are many locals who do their shopping there and the traders are all very friendly. Nearly all of them speak English, although if you can, you’re better off speaking Spanish.
Visiting this market is always a great experience, and it is at the top of my recommendation list for Barcelona. Try and go early in the morning though, as it gets awfully crowded and full of tourists later in the day. More impressions below…