Fresh products at La Boqueria Market in Barcelona.

La Boqueria market: Barcelona on a plate

The breathtaking market of La Boqueria is a place where you can feel how Spaniards love to eat well. If a market ever existed in heaven, perhaps it would look like this. The multi-tiered counters bursting with the freshest food, a rich assortment of products from all over the country, noise, din and the anticipation of a generous meal. La Boqueria is worth visiting not only for the sake of its products – the authentic atmosphere of Catalonia is what distinguishes it from other markets.

The origins of La Boqueria

La Boqueria was first mentioned in 1217, when the market found itself on the outskirts of medieval Barcelona. Initially it was an open space surrounded by columns, locally known as a place for buying meat. By 1470, it had acquired the nickname “the pig market”, as it was best known for its offer of pigs, hogs and piglets, slaughtered or still alive.

La Boqueria

An impressive entrance to the Catalan realm of delicious food.

Entrance of La Boqueria.

For most of the time, the marketplace did not have any official status. Everything changed in 1826, when the city authorities agreed that the place needed a building. An official status followed, meaning the formal opening of La Boqueria in 1853. The iconic metal roof of the marketplace appeared in 1914.

Where does the name La Boqueria come from?

By the way, did you wonder why this place has such a name? No one is actually really sure about the origins of the name “La Boqueria”, with the marketplace already being around for more than eight centuries. Among historians, the most likely explanation is that the name originates from the Catalan word "boc", which translates to goat. The ending “eria” is common in Catalan to indicate a place where the particular goods are being sold – in the case of La Boqueria, goat products. So for example “argentería” means a place where silver (argentum) is being sold.

Come early

Arriving early at La Boqueria means the freshest seafood and a lot of choices.

Fresh seafood at La Boqueria.

What to expect at La Boqueria?

Entering La Boqueria market for the first time, you might get overwhelmed with all the options you have here. Seafood of all sorts, fruits of all colours, and delicacies of all prices make up an abundance of products. Getting lost in the choices of La Boqueria isn’t necessarily much of a problem, but if you prefer to keep the overview, we recommend using the plan of the stands available at the official website of La Boqueria.

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Narrow street in the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona.

La Boqueria market is originally known for its meat and fish rows. Perhaps not a very practical choice for most travellers, unless you live in an apartment with your own kitchen. Various bars and little restaurants still give the opportunity to have a bite of the fresh products offered at La Boqueria. Here and there you can pause at a little bar to taste magnificent jamón, cheese, seafood, patatas bravas and everything else your heart desires.

Little bars of La Boqueria

Perfect choice for tasting local tapas and other typical Catalan snacks.

Typical bar at La Boqueria.

If you are looking for a souvenir, a piece of original Spanish dry-cured ham (jamón) can be a really nice option. Jamón can be purchased in the form of a full-weight leg or in smaller quantities, tightly packaged and sealed upon request. There are two main types, Serrano and Ibérico. The latter is considered the most valuable, costing almost twice as much as Jamón Serrano. Ibérico ham comes from boars that are exclusively fed with acorns, which is why the colour of the meat has a dark shade and is also called “black leg”.

His majesty the jamón

One does not simply pass by the tastiest alluring aroma without trying.

Pata negra at La Boqueria.

The elegant but gloomy market hall of La Boqueria is brightened up by stalls offering fresh fruits and vegetables of all colours of the rainbow. Here you get an idea of how rich the Mediterranean is in terms of gifts from nature: young potatoes (Spain harvests up to four crops per year), exotic fruits you may have never seen before, berries and all kinds of freshly squeezed juices.

Another part of the market that you cannot miss, is the Catalan delicacies, especially if you’re looking for souvenirs. Here you can enter a world of fine black truffles, foie gras, various species of (living) snails, rare aromatic herbs, wild berries and much, much more. Feel free to ask one of the merchants for help searching your product.

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Barceloneta Beach by evening.

What to try from Catalan cuisine?

Speaking about the most famous market in Barcelona, one involuntarily wonders what is Catalan cuisine? The answer lies in the location of the region. Proximity to the sea provides locals with the freshest seafood. Its fertile soil lavishes locals with juicy vegetables and fruits all year round. And do not forget that this is also the land of shepherds, hence the local love for meat meals. The intricate combinations of all this form the essentials of the delicious Catalan cuisine. Now let’s take a look at some of the most celebrated dishes that you definitely need to try.

Tapas

These small snacks are not just a nice quick bite, but an integral part of Catalan culinary culture.

Various tapas at La Boqueria Market.

Tapas is what a Catalan evening starts with, the local appetizer that goes very well with wine or beer. No bar trip is complete without them. The most common options include Boquerones, consisting of anchovies soaked in vinegar, Queso Manchego, a goat cheese appetizer, Bacalao which is salted cod with tomato, often served with bread, and Banderillas, a hearty kebab dish with seafood, eggs, vegetables and olives.

Escudella

The recipe of this Catalan dish has hardly changed since it was first mentioned back in the 14th century!

Escudella, a Catalan dish.

Catalonia offers a huge number of main courses with such a variety of products, traditionally based on either meat or fish. We’ll start with meat here.

A very popular choice is homemade pork sausage called Botifarra. It is simply fried or used in tapas along with Pa amb Tomaquet – bread grated with tomato, sprinkled with oil and salt.

Don’t be confused if you see the name Xai Rostit Amb 12 Cabeçes d’All. It is one of the most delicious things you can try! Literally, this can be translated as “Lamb roasted with 12 heads of garlic”. We suppose the name speaks for itself!

Another popular dish is Escudella. It is a stew with meat, beans, potatoes and sometimes pasta. It can be placed on the table in two ways. The first is when broth, meat and vegetables are served separately, the second is when everything is served together. It is especially popular during the cold seasons and at Christmas.

Tasty?

Fideuà is the Catalan version of the most popular Spanish dish, paella!

Fideuà in a pan.

Time to add some marine flavors and talk about the most delicious Catalan seafood dishes. Without them, it is impossible to fully enjoy Catalan cuisine.

Let’s start with something light. The traditional dish Esqueixada is an easy yet tasty salad made of peppers, tomatoes, onions, red wine vinegar and minced bacalao. Bacalao is a salted cod, very typical of the area.

Want something warm instead? Then don’t miss Suquet de Peix. This is a seafood stew with potatoes, garlic and tomatoes. Seems like nothing special? You are wrong. Its taste can change every day! It all depends on what the fishermen caught in the morning.

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Aerial view of Barceloneta Beach.

Last but not least, it would be a crime not to mention Fideuà. This dish is similar to the original seafood paella from Valencia, but this version is cooked with short noodles instead of rice. Its delicate taste can be partly explained by flavourful monkfish, squids and shrimps that you will find inside. But even more impressive than its fantastic taste is the way it is served. They put it on the table in the huge frying pan where it was cooked, hot and hot. Yummy!

Crema Catalana

A mouth-watering dessert that will captivate you with its taste from the first spoon.

Crema Catalana.

Those who have a sweet tooth will also have something to enjoy! Catalan cuisine will surprise you with the most delicate dessert –°rema –°atalana. An extraordinary soufflé with a caramel crust, which is prepared on the basis of eggs and milk with the addition of cinnamon. Throw away the thoughts of dieting, just try it!

Remember, in Catalunya, it is customary to dine quite late. Restaurants are typically open for lunch from 13:00 to 16:00, and for dinner usually from 20:00 to 23:30.

What to do after visiting La Boqueria?

Gothic Quarter

With its narrow alleys, restaurants and lovely boutiques it is one of the most impressive parts of Barcelona.

Gothic bridge in Barcelona.

Having enjoyed the gastronomic abundance of La Boqueria, you might well be ready to enter another maze. La Boqueria is located only a few steps away from one of the most beautiful parts of Barcelona, the Gothic Quarter. Filled with winding narrow alleys and medieval buildings, the Gothic quarter is known as a true maze. Especially in the heat of summer, El Gòtic is an excellent retreat. Have a look at our article about the Gothic Quarter to make the most of your quest through Barcelona’s oldest part.

Find hidden gems, like beautiful shopping streets or lovely terraces, the finest pieces of architecture in the style of Catalan Modernism, or the greatest parks and beaches with our free map of Barcelona.

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Sunset over Barcelona.

If you want to keep exploring the local cuisine, take a walk over Les Rambles to Plaça Reial. On this ample but picturesque square, you will find many restaurants and cafés with terraces offering local tapas and paella.

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