A trip to Barcelona wouldn’t be complete without at least 1 trip to the fantastic Mercat de la Boqueria, one of the largest and most famous marketplaces in Europe. Although you will be one of about a thousand tourists at any given time, it’s a must-see place that showcases the local food culture, fresh catches from the sea, and most importantly the live spirit of the hard-working merchants. Located in La Rambla in the Gothic Quarters half-way between Plaça Catalunya and the beaches (right in front of the Metro stop Liceu), it’s easy to spot the wrought iron entrance to this famous market. Although the market can be historically dated back as far as the early 12oo’s, it settled into its current location in the early 1800′s.
Just in front of the entrance is a wonderful jamón shop that specializes in the marvelous jamón iberico de bellota, cured ham made with free-range acorn-fed Iberian pigs that have the most flavorful and aromatic fat. The men behind the counter will skillfully shave as little or as many slices as you want, from a wide range of selections. You can also buy pre-sliced vacuum sealed packs to take home with you. I had a few slices of the Joselito Gran Reserva 2006 ham- the intense nutty aroma instantly perfumed my nasal passages as the tender marbled fat melted quickly on my tongue, leaving a faint delectable aftertaste and a smile on my face. At 169 Euros a kilo, it wasn’t cheap, but it was worth every bite. There are many more jamón stalls scattered throughout the market, so you can get your fix every few minutes as you slowly browse.
I loved walking through the meat section, slowly checking out the infinite displays of beautifully prepared organ meats from all types of animals. Most people may quickly pass by these butcher cases in horror or disgust, but I had my nose pressed tightly up against the glass, imagining the tasty dishes that would be created from the fresh tripe, tongue, hoofs and brains. If only I had enough time to eat everything here…
The seafood stalls also offered a wide variety of local fish and mollusks, even some that I had never seen before. Everything looked absolutely fresh and beautiful. They even had about 10 stalls solely dedicated to Bacalao, the Catalan specialty of dried salt cod. My favorite photo from the Boqueria market is this close up of the razor clams. Raw, uncensored and strangely erotic, these live navajas looked so delicious.
During my stay in Barcelona, I strategically chose a hotel in the Gothic Quarters that was a short walking distance to the Boqueria market. I knew that I would be frequenting this market at all times of the day, and my plan worked perfectly. One of my favorite activities to do was to enjoy the fresh fruit juices at any of the numerous fruit stalls by the entrance to the market. For only 1 Euro a cup, they offered a wide variety of juices from orange, strawberry, kiwi and mango, to watermelon and pineapple. I was hooked on the bright magenta colored dragon fruit juice that was light and refreshing.
The wonderful Boqueria market is closed on Sundays, but open from 8am on all other days. The amazing tapas bars, freshly squeezed fruit juices and hand-carved slices of Jamón Iberico de Bellota are waiting for you. Come to Mercat de la Boqueria, the heart of Barcelona, and experience how this city center pumps energy and life into the souls of all who fall under its spell.
Random trivia: According to legend, the dragon fruit was created thousands of years ago by fire-breathing dragons. After the dragon was slayed, the collected fruit would be presented to the Emperor as a treasure and proof of victory.