Are we all natural born ‘buzz seekers’? We talk a lot about thrill seekers but what about its more subdued counterpart? Forget the crazy adrenaline junkies out there and think comforting and familiar levels of energy, a certain ‘hustle and bustle’ if you will. Those places that welcome you into their throng of vibrant activity to fill you with a comforting sense of familiarity.
Maybe it’s just me but I’m always drawn to the buzz of a great market. In Barcelona, a visit to one of the astounding markets can sometimes be the main event of the weekend. The sights, the sounds and the smells….well not all the smells, lets be honest, there’s a reason girlfriends don’t arrange to meet at their local markets fishcounter before flouncing off for their saturday morning gossip fueled frappuchinos.
Needless to say Barcelona is certainly well known for its buzzing markets, so whether you’re in for just soaking up the atmosphere or up for filling your fridge full of fresh fancies here is our pick of the cream of the crop.
Where else could we start than the world famous Boqueria market, ideally located just off La Rambla, this is the cities ultimate market experience. Tourists and locals alike flock to this historical market place to awaken the senses and revel in the bursts of colors, sounds and smells. Dating back to the 1200’s the market has been through many changes but non more successful than its commercial rebirth in the 21st century which has reaped endless rewards, including ‘Best Market in the World’ awarded in 2005.
The early bird catches the worm certainly applies to this market due to its huge popularity so it’s advised to arrive early to ensure you see the best produce. This market not only offers an incredibly extensive selection of produce but it’s also unique for the pain-staking lengths the market owners go to to present their stock, which is a mesmerizing combination. Vibrant displays of fresh fruit, veg, meat and fish are in abundance but the market also offers much more. From crepes and handmade chocolates and sweets to locally produced cheeses and wines. The chillis and spices add a vibrant dimension to the aesthetics of the market, but the more sensitive shoppers may want to avoid the various offal stalls that can make even the hardiest of meat eaters feel a little queasy.
This is also a superb people watching spot, so take the weight off in one of the many tapas bars and take in the buzz of this world class market. A real feast for the senses.
San Antoni Market
If you’re looking for a local market, sans tourists then San Antoni is just the place. Larger than La Boqueria and with a warm and friendly atmosphere this market, located just the other side of the Raval is a great spot to get some local advise and information on the local produce as the stall owners are really helpful and very happy to spend time talking you through their offerings. This market also boasts an extensive selection of clothes, shoes and homewares and on sunday pulls in an impressive collectors crowd looking for second-hand books and stamps. This is actually a long standing ritual with the locals who come to San Antoni in search of a literary relic, to swap stamps or just to browse.
Santa Caterina Market
This 19th Century market is a mish-mash of modern meets historical. The modern woodwork design and colorful contemporary roof is an interesting contrast to the 15th Century relics that surround this central market.
This is a really vibrant market with some of the tapas stalls being a top location with locals for their weekend brunches. Filled with energy and excitement this is a fantastic market brimming with personality. The stall owners are extremely friendly and enjoy chatting with you about not only about their products but also about themselves and their city, so this is a refreshingly sociable place. This is a top spot to take in the local scene and you will find that more often than not the prices are cheaper than La Boqueria. Interesting finds here are the oil and vinegar shop, the somewhat novel ‘frozen foods’ section and try not to miss the ‘egg lady’.
Mercat de la Concepcio
If you’re on a quest for a more fragrant market experience, then head on down to Mercat de la Concepcio for the freshest smelling market in town. This fantastic flower market is colorful, sweet smelling and is perfect for a relaxed Saturday morning amble. Even the most avid of gardeners will discover flowers never seen before as the range of flowers available is extremely extensive and unique. Wake up and smell the roses and head to this charming place just off Calle Valencia for a floral frenzied market experience.
Fira de Santa Llucia
The festive edition for our top picks is Fira de Santa Llucia where you can find everything you need to get you in a festive mood. This market does get extremely busy at the weekends so make sure you’re prepared for a little bit of an onslaught to get your festive wares. Although it can be a little ‘survival of the fittest’ at peak times, it is definately worth it as everything you can possibly think of is all there under one roof. Keep your eyes peeled for the traditional Catalan figurine, the ‘Cagnares’. This defecating figurine is surprisingly used in their nativity scene as it symbolizes fertilization and hope of the coming year. This tradition is so loved by the Catalan people that even the Catholic church haven’t been able to ban it.