After I recovered my extremely existential outing at Sagrada Familia, I decided to walk to El Mercat de la Boqueria in Raval for lunch.— this is an extremely long walk after already having walked extreme amounts that morning.
If you’ve been to Barcelona or you’ve read some guidebooks about the place, you’ve probably heard of it: La Boqueria, Barcelona’s largest and oldest food market in the old city, filled with fruits and vegetables from all over the world, fresh cuts of meat, fish, and cheese. Smells from every country, a wall of fresh juices (1 E) and barrels of spices, nuts, sweets, and bread. Foodie heaven, but not unlike any other mercados in the world. What makes it different, and interesting (at least to me) is its history.
To understand it, you have to know a little bit of Barcelona’s city planning history… After the Roman Empire, the city began to expand to what we know as El Gotico, El Born, and Raval, separated by Las Ramblas. Las Ramblas (now the most populated walking area of the city) was formerly a large wall, closing La Ciutat Vella (Gotico and El Born) from the rest of the area. Raval started as the outskirts of the city and eventually grew to become part of the medieval Ciutat Vella, with its narrow, romantic winding streets Travelers looking to buy and sell goods, along with local farmers selling produce set up a market outside the city gates, and thus, La Boqueria was born. Because the original city was too small, the market remained outside the walls and has grown to what we know today.
Entering La Boqueira is a labyrinth of sights and smells and colors. It’s easy to get carried away or lost, but everything you find is interesting enough that you don’t even mind. It’s loud, but not overwhelming. It’s still a place where travelers and locals mingle, sharing both local and imported goods. I found plenty of Latino market staples, as well as some Asian and Middle Eastern. It’s also an excellent place to people watch. I realized how different my former homes were after visiting… While you can find your classic supermarkets easily around the city, there’s something really special about watching an elderly couple help each other pick out produce and walk home with a small roller cart of groceries. It’s authentic. The families who shop there have been doing so their whole life and they’ve built their community around it.
The city is full of similar-styled and stocked open-air markets, but this one is rich in history and excitement, so you shouldn’t miss it. There are also plenty of tapas bars and restaurants to choose from. However, do me a favor and don’t make the tourist-trap mistake I did! I arrived too late (2:40pm) and most of the stalls were beginning to close for the day. I was starving and tired so I climbed the first stool I saw and ordered 2 tapas + Sangria. They were good, but not 20Euro good… Buying a baguette and some meats, cheeses, and olives is always a favorite of mine, and a much better option than the tapas. But if you love seafood, definitely buy something fresh to make at home (gravlax!? Steamed mussels!?) and let yourself get lost in your own culinary experience. Bon appetit!