Advantages The best market in the world? ...Probably.
Disadvantages You will loathe the sight of shrink-wrapped vegetables when you come back...
|Is it worth visiting?|
Our plans for that day were not to visit la Boqueria, but having got off the metro at the wrong station, there it was, right in front of us, so we decided to have a quick look. We ended up spending most of the morning there, and even went back another day to buy a few things. This busy Barcelona market is really a must-see.~Las Ramblas~
The market is situated off La Rambla de les Flors, one of 5 Ramblas, which are basically wide pedestrian avenues. Las Ramblas are the beautiful heart of the city, and no trip to Barcelona would be complete without a stroll down these bustling boulevards. There is something here for everyone, whether you like shopping (or window-shopping) or people-watching, and families with children will find plenty to look at, from the stalls selling birds and other animals, to the 'living-statues', some of which are really quite good. On la Rambla de les Flors, you will see dozens of flower-sellers, creating a glowing display. And right across from the metro station Liceu (line 3), the Modernista iron and glass structure that houses the market can be seen to the side of the main thoroughfare. Let's enter…~La Boqueria~
This market will grab every one of your senses. It is a visual feast, a riot of colours as your eyes are attracted by piles of vibrant fruit and vegetable, exotic looking fish, olives, pimientos, and much more. And those fruit and vegetables really smell, unlike the pale copies we found in our supermarket. Beautiful fresh smells, which mingle with the cooking smells from nearby tapas bars. And of course, in such a busy place, the noise contributes to the general ambience. I don't mean that the place is particularly noisy, but these are typical market sounds, as purchases are made, the freshness of some products is proclaimed and bargains are announced the old fashioned way - using lung power. Catalan is the language of Barcelona, but people are quite happy to speak Castilian, and you usually find someone that will speak English if you need to. And with the senses of sight, smell and hearing so abundantly engaged, it won't be long before you want to get your hands on some of these products, and have a taste of the generous amounts of foods that surround you on all sides. At that point, I wish we had been staying in a place where we could do our own cooking, as everything seemed so fresh, exotic and tasty.Despite its picturesque appeal, this is by no means a market just for tourists. Locals shop here (they don't know how lucky they are to be able to do that on a daily basis), and the city's top chef come here for fresh supplies. Just stroll around and fill your soul with the sights and smells. Some of the more unusual sights I remember were the ostrich and emu eggs (omelette anyone?), the valuable dried wild mushroom and strangely, various dried insects (giant ant-like creatures, beetles, etc) which came in tins or packets.
The meat might be a little different to what we are used to but my chief impression was that of flawless hygiene everywhere. Personally, although they wouldn't be my meat of choice, I am not perturbed by the sight of pigs' heads or sheep's brains. Using every part of an animal reared for food may seem very old-fashioned, but it makes sense in a world where resources are finite. What you will mostly see, though, are cured hams hanging at every butcher's stall (with the pig's trotter still attached!). If you don't fancy taking a whole one home, you can buy a smaller piece which the stall holder will be more than happy to vacuum-pack for you.After having feasted your eyes on all the goodies on display for a while, you will be ready for a spot of lunch. Take a seat at one of the bars, and order your choice of tapas. Although tapas are not strictly a Catalan creation, many of the tapas available here will be typical Catalan dishes, just small portions of them. I really recommend that you do this as it is a cheap and cheerful way of sampling many of the local dishes. If you have company for your meal, try and order different things so you can share. And if you are not too sure how much to order, don't worry, as you can always order more if you are still hungry. They will keep track of what you have ordered behind the bar.
There is also an interesting stall selling cookery books, should you wish to try your hand at Catalan cuisine when you get back. Be warned though… Your trip to Tesco to try and find the necessary ingredients may feel a little boring and bland.~A footnote~
The various guides and tourist information sites make much of the problem of pickpockets. I personally feel Barcelona suffers from a slightly unfair reputation on this score. Of course, the problem exists, but not more than in most very touristy places. Just adopt a few safety measures, mainly by keeping your valuables close to you.
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