Barcelona: Local tips for visiting La Boqueria market

For the first couple of years that I lived in Barcelona, La Boqueria (or “Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria”, as it’s formally known) was my main market. I went there two or three times a week for fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, meats, and cheeses, and then hauled everything back to my apartment in the Gothic Quarter.

Although the products were first-rate, there were days when shopping at La Boqueria was a real challenge, because of the big crowds of tourists both in the market and on La Rambla (which I had to cross to get to the market).

These throngs of visitors have become even more of an issue in the last few years, making shopping difficult for locals who want to get their pound of shrimp for an afternoon paella. In 2015, city officials decided to limit the number of tour groups that can enter the market on Friday and Saturday mornings, the busiest days in Barcelona for food shopping. The hope is to reduce congestion and make the market popular with locals again. Tour groups will not be allowed into the market on those days until after 3 p.m.

We’ll see if this helps alleviate congestion, but in the meantime, there are still ways to have a good shopping experience at La Boqueria. With a little bit of patience and navigation skills, you can see a different side of the market that most tourists don’t even know exists.

Related: Budget hotels near La Boqueria market

The snacks up front are for tourists

Upon first glance, it may seem like La Boqueria is nothing more than a string of stalls catering to visitors, but look a little bit closer, and you’ll find that there are two sides to the market. In the front part of La Boqueria, around the main entrance, vendors mostly serve tourists with stalls offering freshly cut fruit and grab-and-go smoothies dominating the options.

While it’s pleasant to sip a citrus drink while strolling La Rambla, this is not a product that most locals would buy. Also clustered around the front of the market are vendors offering prepackaged Iberian ham and other similar foodie souvenirs.

Don’t be shy and make your way through the big crowds to find the best stalls. Photo: EnGuillem

Push through the crowds to find the locals

To get to the part of the market that locals love, you need to charge ahead, moving past the smoothies and down La Boqueria’s long aisles. Don’t be afraid to keep wading through the crowds. Eventually, the tourists will slowly fade away, and you will find some breathing room to explore where the locals shop. Take a look around, and if it looks good, it probably is!

Seafood Boqueria

Located along the coast, Barcelona has an incredible variety of shellfish and seafood. Photo: Cha già José

Shopping for seafood & meat

Eventually, you’ll get to the fish and seafood section which is always fascinating. Watch wriggling razor clams and jittery crabs shiver on blankets of crushed ice. Nearby is the meat and poultry area, and if you’re staying at a place with a kitchen, this is the spot to get fresh eggs of all sizes and colors (be on the lookout for the enormous ostrich eggs).

Ham heaven

Near the back of the market, there is a large section dedicated to Spanish ham (jamón). Stalls provide ham in its many forms, including ham flanks, hoof and all, set up for slicing. You can ask for a few grams of ham, and they will masterfully crave off tissue-paper-thin pieces.

Go ahead and try a few slices of the most famous kind, jamón ibérico. It’s not cheap, but it’s much more affordable than buying it abroad, where it can cost over $100 per pound. These stalls also usually have prepackaged ham for sale, perfect for bringing back to your hotel room or taking on a road trip to your next destination after Barcelona.

Specialty shops

Dispersed around the back of the market are diverse specialty stalls selling olive oils, salts, spices, olives and other pickled delights, and bread and sweets such as chocolates and candies. A bottle of fine olive oil makes for a nice gift, and a small tub of green olives stuffed with garlic can be a tasty afternoon snack with a glass of wine, which is also sold in shops along the market’s periphery.

Finding fresh fruit and veggies

Fruit and vegetables stalls are mostly located near the front of the market, but also be sure to check out the ample, uncovered plaza on the market’s right side. Here vendors have less formal stalls, offering their farm-fresh veggies instead from folding tables. Whatever is in season is what they’ll have on offer. If you’re hoping to make a big salad or broil some asparagus, visit these vendors first.

Go at lunch time and grab a stool at El Quim for tapas and wine. Photo: Jeremy Keith

Stop for some tapas and cava

The market is dotted with tapas restaurants. Several can be found near the front and get more attention from tourists. One of the most famous is El Quim de La Boqueria.

If the eateries at the front of the market are full, keep going, there are more in the back. Many of these restaurants are nothing more than long bars with stools around them. Take a look in their glass cases to see what tapas are on offer for the day, and then grab a seat at the bar. Order a glass of cava, a locally produced sparkling wine, and take in the bustling scene around you.

Related: Guide to tapas in Barcelona

Safety and etiquette

However, don’t get so swept up in the market’s hubbub that you set down your purse or camera. Always keep your purse in your lap and your phone near you at all times. Visitors are easy prey for pickpockets in La Boqueria.

And one more thing about cameras: Be considerate when you snap photos. Not all vendors will want you to take their picture or photos of their stalls. If you are trying to get a close-up of a razor clam on a busy morning when the fishmonger has a line of customers, she may rightfully tell you to beat it. When in doubt, ask permission. Usually vendors will say yes with a smile, and of course, it helps if you buy something.

Related: Safety tips for women in Barcelona

Bring cash

Make sure to have your pockets full of euros if you want to make a lot of purchases. Some stores might take credit cards, but it will be a lot quicker and easier for the vendor if you pay the old-fashioned way.

Also, most fresh goods are sold by the kilo (1 kilo = about 2.2 pounds), and it helps to know a little bit of Spanish when ordering. Most vendors speak English thanks to the high volume of tourists, but here are a few Spanish phrases that may come in handy.

Tour and events

Finally, despite the new limit on tour groups in La Boqueria, it can be fun to see the market with a guide. There are a number of cooking classes and food tours that go through the market. Cook & Taste is the only one I have personally experienced, and I would very much recommend it. There also frequent foodie events at La Boqueria. Check the calendar for full details.

Also keep in mind that La Boqueria is just one of many markets in Barcelona, although it is by far the most touristy. For another market in the center of the city with a more local vibe, head for Santa Caterina near the cathedral.

Staying near the market

EuroCheapo lists several affordable hotel options within easy walking distance of La Boqueria. Staying close by means you can wake up early, stroll down La Rambla and beat the midday crowds. Check out our full hotel listings to browse and book a room.


Address: Rambla, 91 Mercat de la Boqueria
Hours: Monday to Saturday from 8:00 a.m – 8:30 p.m.

The post Barcelona: Local tips for visiting La Boqueria market appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.

Source: Euro Cheapo

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