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The Top Markets in Barcelona, Spain

Mary works on international development projects and writes about the interesting attractions in countries where work has brought her.

La Boqueria

La Boqueria

The Markets in Barcelona

Much of the world shops everyday in local markets filled with small stalls or even "barrows". In Barcelona, these traditional markets are still going strong. Buyers know the sellers and get their food everyday or so from the same families they bought from for generations. Discussions on items are intense. Provenance of each item can be crucial.

These markets which had been there for generations are the centres of daily life. Shopping is not just an exchange of money for products, it's a social experience of meeting friends and getting updates on the neighbourhood news and gossip.

They are not the cheapest way of marketing food but they ensure absolute freshness in a highly competitive environment in which one's spongy orange or mushy tomato can cost a merchant her reputation. These markets are noisy, they're smelly, and they can be chaotic but at the end of the shopping you leave with a smile on your face.

The locals say that there are about 40 markets in Barcelona. Each barrio or neighbourhood has its own distinct market reflecting their culture and lifestyle. Here are some of the top local neighbourhood markets in Barcelona you'll enjoy visiting:

  1. Boqueria Market
  2. Caterina Market
  3. Sant Antoni Market
  4. Mercadillo de la Plaza de Sant Josep
  5. Mercat de la Concepcio
  6. Fira de Sta. Lucia
  7. Christmas Markets
La Boqueria

La Boqueria

La Boqueria

Just to show you how old this market is, it was mentioned as early as 1217. At first, it was just an open market with a few tables selling meat. It was not until 1826 when it was formally recognized as a market and only 1840 when the construction of a building started.

Today, it is as popular as ever especially in the summer months when Barcelona is inundated with tourists, so if you want to enjoy this market, visit in the winter and although there is still a crowd, you can easily navigate it and enjoy the freshest meal you can savour in Barcelona while satisfying your penchant for people watching.

La Boqueria is located right in the center of the city and you will definitely not miss its entrance as you promenade in Barcelona's most walked-in street, Las Ramblas. If you go earlier, you will find the locals buying the day's produce for their family meals but later in the day, you will find a throng of tourists sampling what Barcelona has to offer their palate. As with most markets, there are several Tapas stands and the food is fantastic and fresh.

You can sample in cone shaped paper cups some of Spain's famous jamon serrano, jamon bellota, jamon iberico, sweets, cheese, fruits and vegetables, fish and other Catalan specialties cooked from the fresh produce sold in the market. Just perch on a stool in one of the tapas bars, cafes or restaurants of which the market has several and try out the fried padron peppers or the baby squid. Some of the best meals we had in Barcelona was from this market. Below is a sample of the dishes we enjoyed.

Food in La Boqueria

Food in La Boqueria

Jamon Stall in La Boqueria

Jamon Stall in La Boqueria

Spice Stall in La Boqueria

Spice Stall in La Boqueria

Santa Caterina

Just an easy walk from the Gothic Cathedral of Barcelona, this market is mostly used by locals. Its distinctive ceramic coloured roof imitating the flow of the waves is this market's artistic feature.

The best thing to do is to walk over there for lunch or coffee after a visit to the Cathedral and the Gothic area and enjoy the food prepared by some of the best restaurants and tapas bars in Santa Caterina from the fresh produce in the market. You can check out their selection of jabugo ham made from the village of this name in Huelva, a province of Spain.

The village of Jabugo is located in the northern part of the province about 658 meters above sea level. The pigs in this area feed mostly on a diet of acorns from holm oaks and forage in what the locals call the dehesa, large tracts of sparsely wooded land. This high acorn diet gives the ham its distinctive aroma, its soft fat marbling texture, and mouth watering flavour. To spot the jabugo ham in a store, they are distinctly long and slender with the V-shaped Serrano cut and a black hoof. The outer fat is softer and smoother in texture and you can see the brand mark on the skin. Remember, ask the stall owner. With a little effort, you can communicate.

Aside from the jamon, the market sells fruits, vegetables, fish and other meat products. Some of the restaurants serve not just Spanish dishes but also Mediterranean, Italian, Vegetarian and Asian. Hola....its great!

Santa Caterina Market in Barcelona

Santa Caterina Market in Barcelona

Mercat de Sant Antoni

This was our neighbourhood market when we stayed long in Barcelona. It was being renovated but the market went on serving from temporay facilities. Because, we were there in the winter when there was less crowd, we could really enjoy a good banter with the sellers who are just too eager to tell us what's special about their particular product and often where an Uncle lives in our home city.

The other thing we enjoyed doing here was buying our fish. As they clean what we purchased, the stall owner started telling us about families in Toronto knowing we came from this city. After a few purchases, we became good acquaintances.

The ones using this market are mostly locals so we watch what they buy and try to sample some prepared dishes not familiar to us. We could really take our time here.

Sant Antoni Market in Barcelona

Sant Antoni Market in Barcelona

Egg Seller in Sant Antoni Market in Barcelona

Egg Seller in Sant Antoni Market in Barcelona

Bacalhau for Sale in the Market

Bacalhau for Sale in the Market

Buying Fish in San Antoni

Below is a video of the fish monger in Mercat de Sant Antoni. Watch how he wields that knife as he gets you the cut just how you want it.

Video of the Fish Vendor in Mercat Sant Antoni

Mercadillo de la Plaza de Sant Josep

We just happened to stumble on this famous Art market in front of the Church Santa Maria del Pi. Artists set up tables and easels to display their art works and it is worthwhile going from one stall to the other. As you show appreciation, the artist opens up and tells you more of the paintings. There are cafes and stores in this square and you can also go in and explore the Church.

Mercadillo de la Plaza de Sant Josep

Mercadillo de la Plaza de Sant Josep

Mercadillo de la Plaza de Sant Josep

Mercadillo de la Plaza de Sant Josep

Mercat de la Concepcio

This market wants to recreate the traditional market feel in the city where people not only buy what they need for the day but also chat with friends and update each other on the latest news and gossip in the neighbourhood and the search for Catalan recognition. Located in the neighbourhood of Eixample, they have specials everyday and fun activities that you need to check out in their website.

Video of Mercato de la Concepcio

Fira de Sta. Lucia

Fira de Sta. Lucia

Fira de Santa Lucia

Located just outside of the Cathedral in Barcelona, this traditional Christmas market is the oldest having started as early as 1786. The 300 or so stalls in this market usually sell the figurines you can add to your Nativity set or "Pessebres" as the Catalans call it. There are some unusual items we saw for the first time, the Caganer figurine and the "Tio de Nadal" or Christmas log.

Usually, the Caganer is perched on top of the tent roof of each stall with his partly naughty, partly guilty smile. For those of you who yet has to meet the Caganer, this is the Catalan addition to the Christmas Nativity Scene. The figurine is in the act of pooing and what is really funny is that the stores have done a figurine of the most famous people and celebrities in the same position. Take one home of Presidents and others as a conversation piece!

The "Tio de Nadal" or just "Caga Tio" is so much part of the Catalan Christmas tradition and in this market, there is a giant one that attracts many children. From the 8th of December, the Feast of the Immaculate Concepcion, the children start to feed and pamper Caga Tio with sweets and other treats until it gets bigger and full of presents.

On Christmas Eve, the Caga Tio in homes is placed close to the fireplace and the children sing a song as they whip the log ending with a thumping for Caga Tio and a command to the log to poop out presents. Then, the children leave the room to pray for special presents, giving the parents time to put in sweets and a gift each. Then, the children come out to enjoy the pooped out presents. Caga Tio ends this pooping with a salted herring, a head of garlic or onion, or a pee leaving a bowl of water. for bad childrem!

In Fira de Sants Lucia, is a giant Caga Tio and kids come and whip him to poop presents. We usually found a group of kids gathered there with their sticks hoping for a sweet or two.

"Tio de Nadal" Christmas Logs

"Tio de Nadal" Christmas Logs

The Caga Tio Song

Here's the English translation of the Caga Tio song:

Shit, log,
Shit nougats (turrón),
Hazelnuts and mató cheese,
If you don't shit well,
I'll hit you with a stick,
Shit, log!

Christmas Market in Barcelona

Christmas Market in Barcelona

Barcelona Top Christmas Markets

The Fira de Sta. Lucia is not the only Christmas market in Barcelona. They city is full of them during Christmas.

Last Christmas, we were in Barcelona and enjoyed spending time in the Christmas markets. I always pick up a figurine or two to add to my Nativity set or to give away to friends. I never pass up on some of the traditional Spanish sweets. So, here's a list of some of these markets you can explore:

  • Christmas Market in La Sagrada Familia

Located right in front of the Church, this market opens 25 November to 23rd December from 10 in the morning to 10 at night. When we visited, the market was just opening and it was here where we had our first introduction to the Caganer.

  • Three Kings Fair in Gran Via

Starting on 19 December to 6 January, this spans the Gran Via from Muntaner to Calabria. It is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. As we stayed in Gran Via, we often strolled here and my husband bought a hat and I got our grand daughters some of the beautifully designed fashion jewelry.

There is orginal art, hand made items, beautifully designed jewelry, organic beauty products, artisanal products and toys. Many of the creations are influenced by Gaudi"s ideas. You can also find the "carbon de azucar" which is the traditional gift for Three Kings. Most gift-giving in Spain does not take place on Christmas Day but on the Feast of the Three Kings.

  • Christmas Market in Nadal de Sants

Located in Carrer Joan Guell - Placa de Sants from the end of November to the 23rd of December, this market is dedicated to artisans works. Again, the influence of Gaudi and Miro are evident.

  • Mercat de Nadal de Pedralbes

Located in the Plaza Monestir de Pedralbes, this is just a one day Christmas Market at the Pedralbes Monastery where you can enjoy a guided tour of the Monastery and listen to the beautiful Christmas carol singing. Usually on the first Sunday of November but check for the announcement.

  • Plaza de Catalunya Christmas Fair

On the Plaza de Catalunya, from 22 December - 4 January, this fair features Responsible Consumption promoted and organised by the Barcelona City Council and showcases sustainable gifts and activities encouraging responsible use of products and services. A whiff of sanctimoniousness as a balance to some of the extremes elsewhere.

Your Choice of Barcelona Markets

The Top Markets in Barcelona: Location and Opening Hours

Local MarketsLocation Hours

Boqueria

La Rambla, 91, 08001 Barcelona

Monday to Saturday: 8:00 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday: Closed

Santa Caterina

Avenida de Francesc Cambó 16

Mon, Wed and Sat 7.30am-3.30pm, Tues, Thurs and Fri 7.30am-8.30pm

Sant Antoni

Carrer del Comte d’Urgell 1

Monday to Saturday: 8:00 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday: Closed

Mercadillo de la Plaza de Sant Josep

Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol, 08002 Barcelona

Monday to Saturday: 8:00 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday: Closed

Mercat de la Concepcio

Carrer d'Aragó, 313-317, 08009 Barcelona

Winter time - Since september 4th to july 16th Mondays and Saturdays from 8:00 to 15:00 pm Tuesday to Friday from 8:00 to 20: 00h Summer time - Since july 17th to September 3 Mondays to Saturdays from 8:00 to 15:00 pm

Fira de Sta. Lucia

Avenida de la Catedral

Daily from 10.30 to 22.30; Fri 24th November to Sat 23rd Dec

Christmas Markets

La Sagrada Familia, Santa, Gothic, Gran Via

Christmas Season

Tips to Make your Market Visit More Enjoyable

Traditional markets are the souls of neighbourhoods and for visitors interested in getting a feel of the city, these are the places to explore and hang around, taste some local dishes and have a glimpse of the local culture. In Barcelona, there are several where one can have fun in (especially if they follow these few tips):

  • Go early in the produce markets so you can hobnob with the locals buying what they need for the day. Have your coffee and breakfast there or if it is later, your lunch. The cafes there make the most tasty dishes from the fresh produce. In other words, plan your visit with a meal in mind.
  • For Christmas markets, go in the evening so with the lights on, you can really have a feel of the Christmas spirit.
  • Bring cash and small change as, sometimes, the stalls don't take cards.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes with a hat especially in the summer . Don't wear valuables and make sure you take care of your cameras and phones
  • Don't forget to bring cloth bags for your purchases.

Most of all, prepare yourself to have fun and not be bothered by the crowd or the heat or the small alleys or the unfamiliar language. Get into the spirit of the place and make it a far richer experience for everyone.

© 2018 Mary Norton

Comments

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on October 30, 2020:

Yes, it was my first time to see, and I was fascinated. I can see how much the kids enjoyed it.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on October 27, 2020:

The log that poops out presents is one I never heard of before. How funny is that? What a cool take on our hanging stockings by the fireplace.

Blessings,

Denise

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 05, 2020:

It is now fun to do virtual traveling like this because of the pandemic. Thanks for writing about the markets in Barcelona. You got to see many more than we did on our visit there.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on September 12, 2019:

I hope you do. Thank you for your interest.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on September 11, 2019:

Thank you for so much helpful information. I have taken notes, once again, just in case we get this one done from our bucket list.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on December 07, 2018:

Like you, I always enjoy exploring traditional markets. I remembered the colourful markets of India with saris hanging all over. You have so many beautiful things there especially fabrics.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 07, 2018:

Very interesting and informative article about the top markets of Barcelona.

Like many others, I enjoy exploring the markets. And I love traditional markets, as compared to shopping malls. The local markets convey a lot about the culture and traditions of the local people.

Thanks for sharing!

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on October 29, 2018:

Oh my Dianna, it is one of the cities we have visited that really impressed us. You need to explore your roots there.

Dianna Mendez on October 28, 2018:

Mary, reading this was like being a part of your visit. I have family roots in Bracelona but have yet to visit this wonderful place. Thank you for bringing it home for me.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on September 28, 2018:

You must have enjoyed more the local colour as today, the city is now organized for tourists.

Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on September 27, 2018:

I was there once, multiple decades ago. Your resource page would have come in very handy. Of course when I visited it was travel books and before cell phones lol!

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on September 13, 2018:

Ha ha...Li-Jen. Can't escape being a teacher but thank you for your comment. Hope you are doing well and writing more.

Li-Jen Hew on September 11, 2018:

Hey Mary. I do appreciate traditional markets and I hope the tradition will go on. I didn't know that the Caganer is considered holy. It's nice to see your article written in a casual yet teaching style. I feel safe and comfortable reading it... it's like bringing back memories of school with bullet point notes. :)

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 30, 2018:

You are such a talented artist. You would truly enjoy it.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on August 29, 2018:

Wow, thanks for including the art market. I love it! I wish I could be there to see for myself. How exciting.

Blessings,

Denise

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 13, 2018:

Yes, Barelona is full of markets and one of our favourites is the Sant Antoni which I am sure will become even more popular after the renovation.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 12, 2018:

My visits to Barcelona are never complete without calling in on La Boqueria. After reading your article, though, I realise that there are many others worth visiting.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 02, 2018:

Yes, the market culture in Barcelona is worth it. I am sure you'll enjoy it.

Krzysztof Willman from Parlin, New Jersey on August 02, 2018:

The food looks and sounds delicious. If I ever go to Barcelona, I'd definitely want to check out these markets. Great information on the history and culture of these marketplaces.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 02, 2018:

La Boqueria is fun and typical of markets in Barcelona. We stayed longer so we got to see more but I have to admit there are many other attractions we’ve missed and, for you, being there in the Olympics is special.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 01, 2018:

The only one of the places you mentioned that we got to see was La Boqueria. It would be fun to have more time in Barcelona and get to see all of the others you got to see and enjoy. Thanks for your virtual tour.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 27, 2018:

Thank you for the feedback.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 27, 2018:

You are right. In fact, we are having some in our dock here in Canada.

Eman Abdallah Kamel from Egypt on July 27, 2018:

It is a very helpful article.

Glen Rix from UK on July 25, 2018:

Try the white sangria, a speciality of Barcelona, whilst you are there

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 25, 2018:

Everything is from fresh ingredients so food is really tasty.

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on July 24, 2018:

I would love to visit Spain and I'm sure these old markets would be one of my favorite places. BTW, the food looks so enticing.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 24, 2018:

Thanks Dora. Yes, it was fun to be there Christmas. Not much crowd and one can have a more meaningful interaction with the locals. Hope you're feeling better now.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 23, 2018:

Great information on the markets in Barcelona, and how to maximize the visit. I'd love to tour the old La Boqueria market, and I'm sure that the Christmas caroling in the one day Christmas market is well worth the wait.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 21, 2018:

You're right Glenis. You won't enjoy it at all.

Glen Rix from UK on July 21, 2018:

And too hot!

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 20, 2018:

Thank you Margaret. Hope you will visit this city. Not in the summer, though. It is inundated.

Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on July 20, 2018:

Mary, your wonderful descriptions and images really bring these markets to life! If I'm ever lucky enough to visit Barcelona, I'll bring this article with me.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 18, 2018:

There are more markets there than what I've included and they are all fun to explore.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on July 18, 2018:

I love looking round markets, and I'd love to visit Barcelona. It looks beautiful to visit all these markets.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 15, 2018:

Do enjoy your travel there in Peru and I look forward to your sharing your experience with us.

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 14, 2018:

I love markets like this and would love to go to all of them! I’m in Peru right now and this afternoon spent a few hours at a local market bargaining my way through the aisles. I love the experience!

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 12, 2018:

Thank you Bede. Yes, it was an amazing cultural immersion. The voice in the video is my husband’s. He enjoyed going to that market and bought fish just for the fun of it. That was fried squid what we had, their version of calamari.

Bede from Minnesota on July 12, 2018:

Mary, what a wonderful experience it must have been to have this cultural immersion. Is that fried calamari I see? Wow, it looks yummy! One more question: who does the speaking, your or your husband, or both?

manatita44 from london on July 12, 2018:

Thanks Mary.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 12, 2018:

I'm sure, one day, you'll go.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 12, 2018:

Yes, that market in Sagrada Familia is fun but I think next time you visit, behind the exhibity of chasubles, there's a small chapel just for quiet meditation. No cameras and loitering.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 12, 2018:

We enjoyed the paellas, too. Shopping is great especially when you happen to be there for the end of season sale.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 12, 2018:

Yes, Bill. There's always a market to explore especially in the summer when farmers' markets open. It's always fun to explore.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 12, 2018:

I would be there. I love to stroll through markets. It's amazing to me that around the world, markets are a constant. No matter the area you visit, you can always count on finding an outdoor market.

Travel Chef from Manila on July 12, 2018:

I love shopping in Barcelona! Most shops that I've visited offer great choices at very affordable prices. Oh, I enjoyed their paellas too! Love Gustos!

manatita44 from london on July 12, 2018:

The Caga Tio Song

Interesting poem (smile)

Quite a useful list, tips and opening times to peruse for the would be visitor. I explored the Sagrada Familia and its surrounding markets. Quite fun.

Those Christmas logs are really interesting and Sant Antoni have a lovely design. This crowd in front of La Boguera looks like they are going to church. Lol. No, good food does cost a wee bit more, but is usually worth it. Great scenery, including the food. Peace.

stephane zed on July 12, 2018:

i will like to travel for there

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 11, 2018:

Thanks Linda. They truly are interesting in that it gives you more insights into the local culture.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 11, 2018:

I love reading about the places that you've visited. The markets that you've described sound very interesting. They look like great places to explore.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 11, 2018:

That was what we often did so we could sample some of Spain's specialties.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 11, 2018:

Yes, interacting with the artists in this market was really fun. You can get some original pieces at reasonable prices.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 11, 2018:

There's always a second time and this time, you know what to do.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 11, 2018:

Thank you Eric. Your tipper is right because you can walk almost everywhere in and from that area.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 11, 2018:

We did, too, especially the local specialties.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 11, 2018:

Thanks GlenR. We enjoy markets as well and you are so right that the Log Song does not express well the local colour.

Maria Elizabeth from Cheshire/Greater Manchester, UK on July 11, 2018:

Lovely article Mary, intrigued by your descriptions and I’m rather tempted to try the regional tasters at the food stalls.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on July 11, 2018:

With the plethora of food stores we have in our area, it's difficult to imagine shopping in a market environment like this. But it would be interesting to see this in action. The Mercadillo art market would be fun. Thanks for sharing!

Ced Yong from Asia on July 11, 2018:

Great writeup, Mary!

I was in Barcelona four years ago and because I was rushing to too many places, I only spent 10 minutes in La Boqueria. Now I wish I've been more sensible! :(

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 11, 2018:

'72 met a Spaniard in a hostel in Lucerne who gave me the skinny on where in Barcelona to stay. He said the key was to get close to La Boqueria. And go at the crack of dawn for just food for the day.

I loved this article as all of yours, thank you.

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on July 11, 2018:

These markets are amazing. I could happily spend my entire day browsing their wares. Lovely.

Glen Rix from UK on July 11, 2018:

Great article, Mary. I love to visit the local markets when travelling and wrote about the market in Alicante in one of my earliest articles.

The markets in Southern Europe are, as you say, best early in the morning during the hotter months - the fish markets, in particular, get smelly later in the day. The Log Song doesn’t translate into English very impressively LoL :)

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