La Boqueria market
La Boqueria is perhaps the finest market in Europe. A market existed in the area near here in front of the city walls since the early Middle Ages, the name Boqueria possibly coming from boc, an old Catalan word for goat. Its origins may well be a Jewish market specialised in kosher meat (such as goat). The market moved a few dozen metres to its present emplacement when Convent of St Josep was destroyed during the 1835 Burning of the Convents. This stretch of the Rambles is still called la Rambla de St Josep and the market’s official name is el Mercat de St Josep de la Boqueria. In 1914 the Boqueria was reformed, with its grid pattern, roof and lovely Modernista gate entrance.
In the centre of the market, superimposed over the grid are two circles of stalls of fish selling an incredible range of species, most of which are freshly caught on the Tuesday and Thursday boat hauls. The zoological-gastronomic experience is enlivened by the saucy fisherwomen who attempt to entice you to buy their wares. Outside this circle is another ring, this time of a stunning array of seafood, selling in addition to shellfish and crustaceans, unlikely looking species (for Northerns Europeans, that is) such as goose barnacles and sea urchins.
The rest of the market has on offer just about everything you can imagine in quality fresh produce, including exotic fruits, game, snails, all the fungi under the sun and even bull’s pensies.
Some stalls are expensive, others very cheap. Top chefs and the rich shop in La Boqueria but so do El Raval poor and immigrants. This delicate balance is now being upset, though not yet destroyed, by the mass influx of tourism. The front and central aisles are increasingly aimed at tourists, selling drinks and snacks and ruining the authenticity of the site, but the market is so big that there are still dozens of stalls selling to Barcelonans.
Eating in La Boqueria
Places in El Raval