Barcelona is a very food-centric town, and one that entertains 7.5 million tourists annually, in addition to the usual population of 1.6 million residents. It makes perfect sense that smack in the middle of the Old City (Cuitat Vella) is the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, more commonly known as La Boqueria. Its earliest incarnation, in the thirteenth century, was as a pig market, but it wasn’t until centuries later (in 1826, to be exact) that the market was legally recognized. From there it grew in phases.
The metal roof that still shelters the structure today was installed way back in 1914.
In 2013, CNN Travel named La Boqueria the world’s best fresh food market. With its fish and cheesemongers, butchers, and greengrocers, the quality and quantity of food sold here is simply staggering. There are literally dozens of small charcuteries specializing in Spanish hams and cured meats alone. And because La Boqueria has an entrance just off Barcelona’s main tourist drag, its tiny gourmet eating spots are packed with diners, especially at lunch. You may want to time your trip to arrive just before the noon rush, or simply wait to lunch after the office workers depart around 3 p.m.
Here are three recommendations for experiencing the food of La Boqueria at its tiny eating places:
The first is Pinotxo. You can’t miss the place, as it is right near the entrance, but if you happen to get lost, it has booth number 66 and 67. There are just 15 stools, and they’re often packed with gastronomes, so you may have to hover until a seat becomes available. There’s no menu — you just point and eat — but if you must have a recommendation, the pa amb tomaquet is highly regarded as one of the city’s best examples of this tomato, olive oil, and salt toast.
Next up is the smallest of them all, the minute Kiosko La Rambla — a perfect place for a beer or a vermut (Barcelonese are mad for vermouth) and an anchovy filet, all priced at only one euro. The most intriguing thing about the Kiosko may be that you can buy anything in the market and, for a small fee, the staff will cook up it up on the grill for you. The Kiosko’s booth numbers are 557-558.
Finally, there’s Bacallaneries Goma (booths 754-755) presided over by a woman named Carmen Goma Isern, who takes her bacalao (salt cod) seriously. And to prove it, she has three locations in La Boqueria. Her bacalao topped with a Mallorcan pork sausage spread (called “sobrassada”) and a drizzle of honey and grilled is ambrosia on a plate. Since the crowds can be daunting, there’s also a selection of takeaway items, like Catalan “Fish and Chips” and skewers of salt cod fritters at Bon Apats at Booth 737, or at the neighboring Salaons at 738.
The Mercat de la Boqueria is located at Rambla 91 in Barcelona. Tel +34 93 412 1315. The hours are Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Individual stalls may vary.