La Boqueria

La Boqueria, Mercat de Sant Josep, St. Joseph’s Market…. Whatever name you use to describe it the sights and smells will be the same. This bustling conglomeration of food stalls, restaurants and tapas bars is one of Barcelona’s most often visited attractions. That last fact is all the more interesting since relatively few tourists seek fresh produce on their wanderings. But here one can find that and a great deal more.

La Boqueria market
La Boqueria market

Set in a structure built in 1840 La Boqueria is an artistic treasure as well as a culinary one. The sign itself above the entrance, a fine Catalonian example of Art Nouveau, is well worth a look. The glass and iron enclosure comprises (and partially hides) a 19th century building that shares much with its cousins throughout the city. Aspects of the market are still being re-discovered. Several Ionic-style columns were only uncovered in 2001 after a long absence.

But the art on display resides as much in what is sold there as where it is sold. The endless palette of colors formed by artichokes, oranges, carrots, ham and fish of all description requires a photograph (or, better still, a visit) to truly convey. If you’re looking for an afternoon snack, a drink or just a fascinating look at the best market in Europe, you could find none finer.

Anyone wanting to wander through La Boqueria has a number of options. Seen from above it would resemble a hub with spokes.

At the center are the fish sellers who offer an array of local species so fresh some of them are still wiggling. Barcelona is on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Wander in any direction and you’ll run into mushroom stalls offering some of the world’s finest truffles. Move one way and you’ll see the juiciest cherries to be found anywhere on the continent. Stroll the other way and you’ll come upon zucchini so fresh the blossoms are still attached.

Set around the perimeter are a number of great bars and restaurants. The Pinotxo (Pinocchio) is famed for its wide selection of drinks, its excellent tapas and its extraordinary collection of bar stools. Don’t miss seeing the ceramic portrait of the famed marionette character displayed there.

The El Quim de la Boqueria is another superb option. In a city full of outstanding tapas bars, El Quim stands near the pinnacle. The bar is full of great food, lively customers and sports a happy atmosphere. Locals often enjoy the fresh squid for breakfast.

The exterior of the market provides several interesting sights as well. Just outside the entrance are animal stalls that sell birds, lizards and other small pets.

La Boqueria is about halfway between Carrer del Carme and Carrer de l’Hospital, close to the Liceu metro stop. It’s not far from the famed cathedral, La Seu, in the center of Barri Gotic (the Gothic Quarter). St. Joseph’s Market is open from early in the morning until late in the evening, but the liveliest times are in the afternoon.

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