The Boquería market is the most famous market in Spain. This is where you can see how the Spaniards like to eat. If paradise exists and there is a market in it, it clearly looks like the Boquería market in Barcelona. It has counters made of many tiers, which break down from the widest selection of products from all over Spain, the noise and a pleasant anticipation of a generous meal. It is not only worthwhile to come here for food, but also for the authentic spirit of the old Catalan market in Barcelona.
A little history
Boquería was first mentioned in 1217. It was then, on the outskirts of Barcelona, that a special place was reserved for those who traded in meat. In 1470, there appeared a “pig market” where pigs, hogs and piglets were sold alive and dead. By the end of the 18th century, fish traders had also come to the market, and in 1826 was built a market building. Officially, the Boquería market did not open until 1853; the last major change took place in 1914, when the building was covered with a metal roof.
Market characteristics and procurement on it
The famous market in Barcelona “wakes up” at 6:00 a.m. and opens for customers at about 7:00 a.m. But not exactly at 7:00, because not every counter is ready to start working so early. All counters are only open after 8:00. Every day the market offers up to 27 thousand different products, of which 40% are fresh and not subject to long-term storage, and approximately 25% need to be updated every 2 days. The logistics and infrastructure are surprisingly well established here. Arrangement of timely and fast delivery of each product turns out to be quite feasible without price hikes. This is possible due to the fact that the transport of producers of goods and cheap labor is used – illegal immigrants, ready to quickly and carefully drag boxes filled with fish and vegetables, for a very low salary by Spanish standards for 14 hours a day.
Those who like to constantly buy large quantities of products on the Boquería market are forced to get trolleys to visit this market, as this way you can free your hands and shop with maximum comfort. It is better to park your car in a parking lot in the back yard of the market. The price of parking is calculated for each hour, but usually the purchase of necessary products takes no more than 40 minutes. The most convenient sequence of purchases is as follows: first you need to buy “basic” vegetables – carrots, onions and potatoes. It should be taken into account that the market differs from supermarkets, where stocks are kept for months in cells with low temperatures filled with carbon dioxide. Vegetables are delivered to the market mainly directly from the fields according to the season.
So you can only buy them here once a week or less. They will be perfectly preserved. The harvest of northern species of root vegetables in Catalonia is harvested three times a year, so there are young potatoes with thin peels on the shelves all year round.
A significant part of sellers in the case of a large total purchase – more than 5 kg, provides a container of plastic, where you can put all the purchases and leave it under the supervision of the vegetable rows. It will be waiting for you until you buy the rest. The next stage is advancement to the fish or meat sector (which one is determined only by today’s personal preferences).
All kinds of meat are represented here. All meat products have excellent quality and meet its price. However, in any case, meat costs up to 50% less than anywhere else in Barcelona. The reason for this is the high throughput of the market, which makes it possible to almost completely eliminate any losses that may occur in stores. There are trays for specialty gourmets, they can offer the best fresh bull loin or tender lamb shoulder blade.
At the same time, there are also trays that specialize only in cheap second-rate products. On many of these trays it is possible to purchase fresh meat cuttings at the price of just a few euros for 1 kg or half a mutton head for the same small price. Many immigrants are really saved by these offers.
In the fish department of Boquería market, except Monday, when the market is inactive because of Sunday’s rest of the fishermen, all kinds of fish are available for buyers. The assortment can be divided into 4 groups. The first one is the coastal fish, which are small in size, white and hard meat, mainly used for broth cooking or strongly fried in butter and used as a light snack. Each one weighs no more than 1 kg.
The next group is the gourmet fish, which have much more juicy and tender meat and live farther away from the shore. One such fish can weigh more than 10 kg. The 3rd group – huge “monsters”, which weight – from 50 kg to 300 kg. These are swordfish, tuna and some others. They are sold, like beef, in large pieces, from which slices are cut off. The fourth group includes a variety of sea creatures, except for fish – lobsters, crabs, giant shrimps, crayfish, shells, molluscs and other aquatic animals, which are not well known to people from the Nordic countries. Most of these products enter the market alive, healthy and even energetic. They can move around on the shelves all day. Many tourists take photos near them, while the saleswomen wave irritably, chasing them away, who are not interested in the exquisite taste of these sea creatures.
Acquiring different marine creatures in Boquería requires at least minimal experience. Clear fraud, which would be related to the suitability of the products, is not tolerated here. However, in terms of value to quality, an inexperienced buyer may be in trouble. The main danger is the lack of a correct understanding of the price.
When buying a certain type of seafood, you should take into account the advice of experienced regulars in this market, which could introduce you to local sellers. This will allow you to buy sea creatures at the best price.
In the meat and fish departments, there’s not much bargaining to do. Here prices are not too high, so the maximum discount can be only 10%.
What else can be bought and seen?
It is advisable to go to the Boquería market several times, because during the first visit many people’s can’t choose something specific. However, even those who are not going to buy products here, it still makes sense to come several times to gain impressions, which in this case are guaranteed.
It’s hard to tell what to buy in this market because there’s everything here. The historical core of Boquería is the rows of meat and fish. However, these rows are useful for tourists who live in an apartment with a separate kitchen. The only suitable product for taking it home is a jamon, which is sold here in the form of a pork leg, as well as in the form of a cut, hermetically sealed for safety.
Vegetables and fruits also constitute an important segment of this market. Here you can see how rich the Mediterranean region is in terms of nature: always young potatoes, abundance of Spanish and foreign fruits, frozen fruits, berries and freshly squeezed juices.
Dried fruits, spices and nuts from Boquería are suitable for all dishes, including the most complex recipes. The delicatessen department is also an important part of the market. Here you can see and buy black truffles, live snails (subdivided into several species), rare herbs for flavor, forest berries and many other products.
How to get there?
The market is located in Barcelona’s Ramblas (one of the city’s boulevards), building number 107. This is clearly visible on the map. The nearest metro station is Liceu, and bus stops no. 14, 59 and 91 are also nearby.
Working hours are from 08:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on all days except Sunday (Sunday is a day off).