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Exploring the Boqueria Market
La Boqueria market, a daily fiesta stuffed with color and life, is the stomach, sensorial nerve center, and heart of the city, conveniently located on the Rambla near the crossroads of the Ciutat Vella.
Just as people tend to be most themselves in the kitchen, Barcelona is most itself in its food markets, and no European city has more covered, open-air markets than the Catalan capital, with a staggering total of 40. Paris lost its mid-city produce market, Les Halles, in 1971, but Barcelona has managed to maintain its most famous central market, La Boqueria, along with 39 other steel hangar-covered neighborhood food emporiums spread all over town. Although similar in their brightly illuminated and colorful displays of fruits, vegetables, wild mushrooms, meats, cheeses, and hundreds of species of fish and seafood, each of these markets has its own distinctive neighborhood flavor and architectural personality, but none of them surpasses the Boqueria's rich color and vitality.
The Boqueria's History
Europe's oldest mid-city food market, the Boqueria market, officially Mercat de Sant Josep, was designed in 1840 as a neoclassical square by Francesc Daniel i Molina. The square was hijacked by the meat market that operated in Pla de la Boqueria just down the Rambla. La Boqueria grew from the late 19th century until 2001, when a remodeling project revealed the original columns.
Boqueria's Top Buys
Cheeses, dried wild mushrooms and peppers, herbs, spices including saffron, sausage, and jamón ibérico de bellota (acorn-fed Ibérico ham) are the prime products available at the Boqueria for visitors to the city who, unless they have a kitchen in a rented apartment, are probably not in the market for fresh fish, lamb, or beef. As the Boqueria has developed into a major attraction, more and more fruits stands sell handy little boxes with assortments of melon, grapes, and berries for healthy and economical nibbling and noshing on the march.
A Visual Feast
The Moderniste stained-glass trim at the top of the Rambla entrance to the market and the neoclassical Doric columns around the edges are the architectural gems of the market. The Vidal Pons and Soley vegetable, fruit, and wild mushroom displays on the left at the entrance are the most colorful stands, while Pinotxo, the Boqueria's world-famous counter is to the right. The fish and seafood amphitheater at the heart of the market is a mid-city breath of salt sea freshness. To the left is one of the Boqueria's prettiest corners. Past the Verdures Ramona stand and the excellent El Quim de la Boqueria restaurant, across from the Genaro seafood counter, is Jesús i Carme (stall #579-81), a Van Gogh painting of peppers, nuts, vegetables, new potatoes, and tiny onions. In the eastern corner is the popular Kiosko Universal restaurant counter with terrace tables under the massive columns, while Avinova (#703-07) displays red leg partridge, pheasant, and hare.
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