The Boqueria Market (or Sant Josep) market is the most well-known and spectacular of the 39 food markets in Barcelona and the largest in Europe.
Located just off the Rambla between Carme and Hospital streets, the Boquería Market is a riot of colour and activity and is now a major tourist attraction.
The Boqueria Market is said to have taken its name from the place where goats (boc, in Catalan) were slaughtered and their flesh sold. The city gate by this site was known as the Boqueria Gate.
The first thing you see when entering Boqueria Market from the Rambla are the fruit stalls on either side of the main alley. An incredible array of colourful fruits tempt the thirsty visitor, especially as they’re so nicely presented and packed for quick consumption.
You can take your choice from pre-packed, ready to eat fruit salads, pineapple, mango, kiwi and a seemingly endless range of exotic fruits and fruit juices. These stall have now started to offer tacky sweets and other stuff, which is a bit of a shame.
Just off this main alley you can buy all the same stuff at a more reasonable price, especially if you can do without the packaging. But it certainly is a sight worth seeing.
The market is (more or less) organised; fruit and veg to the outside, then pickles, olives, grains and pulses.
Then come the stalls selling meat chicken and offal (incredible displays of innards, brains, whole heads, trotters, tongues, tripe, gonads, goolies and gizzards).
The inner circle is devoted to fish, fresh, preserved and shellfish. And what a selection! A friend of mine, an international chef working in Britain and Switzerland had never seen anything like it. “I wouldn’t know where to go to see fish like this. It all comes cut and prepared”, he said goggle eyed at the tuna two foot across. And indeed, it’s outside most people’s experience to see everyday shoppers snapping up a moving lobster or seeing the lady of the stand hitting the mussels to make sure they stay closed and fresh.
The salt cod stands are curious, too. You can see the cod’s progress through the various baths.
It starts as a rock hard piece of salt incrusted fibre, and, when complete, it has become a succulent chunk of three-inch thick cod steak.
Delightful in batter or in one of the traditional Catalan sauces.
Take a glance at the spice stalls and you’ll think you’ve been magically transported from Boqueria Market to Marrakech.
Marvel at the varieties of wild mushrooms, fresh and dried…
Don’t miss a drink and bite to eat at the justifiably world-famous Pinotxo, a bar just to the right of the main entrance.
A timeless classic, Pinotxo –written up in newspapers, food magazines and guides the world over– has just a dozen or so stools, no written menu and turn over is pretty quick at lunch-time with the next row of punters hungrily peering over your shoulders to see what’s on offer.
The owner Juanito, or one of his acolytes, will sing out what’s choice for the day.
In fact, Pinotxo is always busy, and an early, hefty breakfast there among a crowd of weary but happy fellow debauchees has helped me recover from a long night out far too often…
Owner Juanito Bayen is a charming and joyous character in his striped waistcoat and bow tie. He always has a smile and a cheery word for his customers and is on top of the whole show, sorting out orders in given in broken Spanish with a Japanese or German accent and quickly passing them on his nephew Albert, the cook.
If you love good food and great character, you’ll love Pinotxo.
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