If you were to make a list of the ten most iconic places to visit in Barcelona, without a doubt one of them would be the Mercat de La Boqueria, in English La Boqueria Market. Situated right in the heart of the city centre, and easily accessible from Las Ramblas, it’s the most visited food market in the city, with thousands of visitors every day. Many of them are tourists, but it also attracts people who live nearby, especially in the Raval quarter, who go there because of the great variety and quality of produce available.
Although most people know the market as La Boquería, its actual name is el Mercat de Sant Josep (Saint Joseph’s Market), as you’ll see from its distinctive sign as you enter from Las Ramblas. The name originates from the old convent of the Carmelitas Descalzos, who were popularly known as Josepets because of their worship of San José. The convent once stood where the market has been since 1836.
It seems that the term ‘La Boqueria’, which now refers to the Sant Josep market, derives from the stalls that used to sell meat of the ‘Boc’, a Catalan word that refers to a male goat. Back in the 13th century these stalls were set up in the area that La Boqueria market currently occupies.
But the market’s origins are in fact older, because there was previously an outdoor market at the Pla de la Boquería, just a few steps from the Gran Teatre del Liceu.
What products to buy in the market?
Meats, nuts and dried fruits, seafood and fish, preserves, fruit and vegetables can all be found in abundance. The market has over 300 stalls where you can find almost anything, whether it’s local produce or from all over the world. As well as buying things in the market stalls you can also stop for a drink in one of the bars, or a meal in one of the restaurants in the market. Here you can try the fresh produce of the market, which is always of the best quality.
The market at La Boqueria is twinned with Borough Market in London, and there are frequent collaborations between the two. One example of this was the presence of La Boqueria stalls at the reopening of the London market in 2008.
Breakfast and lunch in La Boqueria
One of the best times to visit La Boqueria is first thing in the morning; there’s still a great atmosphere there at this time of day, but there won’t be as many tourists as later in the day. If you do decide to go to the market first thing, we recommend you have breakfast in one of the bars that you’ll find there. Amongst them, two of the most authentic where you’ll be able to taste the high quality of the products are the historic Pinotxo Bar, run by its charismatic owner Juanito, and El Quim de la Boqueria, masterfully led by its owner Quim. Both bars should be a compulsory stop for you during your visit to La Boqueria, as you’ll be able to enjoy anything from a cooked breakfast to one of their elaborate dishes at lunchtime.
Boqueria Market + Paella Cooking Workshop
Many well-known chefs buy the products for their restaurants in the Mercado de La Boqueria, whether personally or with the help of their staff. It’s also quite common to find them taking a break in the market whilst walking from their restaurants or workshops, as is often the case with Ferran Adrià.
It’s not possible to reserve tables within the bars in the market. There are few stools for customers; as these places are the best options in Barcelona for eating quality food near Las Ramblas, and especially in such an iconic place as La Boqueria, you should expect to wait a bit, but it’s well worth it. You might also consider eating in one of the restaurants located under the arches of La Rambla, where it’s likely to be easier to find a table, especially in those where you’re able to reserve a table, such as in the excellent Casa Guinart.
The best places to eat in La Boqueria
Some of these bars and restaurants can be found in little stalls within the market, where the done thing is to eat at the bar, seated on a stool. This might not sound very relaxing, but it’s the most authentic way to get to know the daily life of the city, both gastronomically and culturally.
If you can’t find a place to sit within the market, or if you’re in a hurry, you might like to buy some food to take away from one of the many stalls that offer this option. We should add that some of the most wonderful products on sale in the market, especially in the summer months, are the freshly squeezed juices that many of the greengrocers’ stalls sell. If you happen to be walking through the market towards the end of the day, you might even find some special offers on these products.
Photo gallery and video
La Rambla 91, Barcelona
Opening Hours of the market
Monday to Saturday: from 08:00 until 20:30.
How to get there
Metro: Liceu (line 3) and Catalunya (lines 1 and 3).
Buses: lines 9, 14, 59, 91 and tourist bus.
By foot: It’s easily accessible by foot from anywhere within the city centre..