El Mercat de La Boquería is Barcelona’s world-famous food market on La Rambla. It’s an absolute must-visit for everyone who considers themselves even the slightest bit a foodie. Out of Barcelona’s 39 markets (yes, you read that right, 39), La Boqueria is the most important. It has become a tourist hot spot, but that doesn’t mean the quality of its products has suffered — many of Catalunya’s top chefs are market regulars, visiting every morning before the crowds arrive to have their pick of the top fruits, vegetables, fish, and animal products.
What you’ll find in this article
- What is La Boqueria and why should you visit?
- Opening hours
- How to get there
- History and architecture of this highlight
- Insider tips (like best places to eat at La Boqueria)
What is the Boquería and why should you visit it?
La Boquería is Barcelona’s biggest fresh food market, and one of the biggest in Spain and in Europe.
It’s a must-visit for anyone who enjoys food, boasting 330 stalls spread out over 2,500 square meters that sell some of the highest quality products you can find. It is the place to go to find some of the best jamon and best seafood in Barcelona.
If you’re staying in an apartment with a kitchen, cooking some typical Spanish and Catalan recipes with the top quality products you buy at the market can be really fun.
Despite it attracting many tourists, the market still retains its authentic vibe.
It’s also one of the best places to find gifts and things to take home with you, like excellent Jamon and local cheeses, which sellers will have no problem vacuum packing for you so they can go in your suitcase.
Tip: Make sure to visit the market with an appetite, and don’t be intimidated by its foreign-ness. Try as many things as you can and soak up the atmosphere.
There are many bars among the stalls and around the outside of the market that serve excellent food. They’re usually crowded so you may have to wait, but it’s worth doing so.
Visiting La Boquería
You don’t need to do a lot of planning to visit la Boqueria. Entrance is free, it’s open all day long, and the market is located in the heart of Barcelona so it’s easy to access. It’s covered too, so you can visit when it rains.
When should you visit La Boquería?
We recommend you visit La Boquería in the morning, as you’ll find more stalls are open. The earlier you go, the calmer it will be in general.
Between 8am and 9am you will mostly meet locals doing their groceries. Around lunch time it will be busy most of the time, but then you can just order some food and have lunch.
A visit to the market can be easily combined with a walk on the Rambla and visit to the Raval or the Gothic quarter.
How much time you spend at La Boquería is up to you. You can see all the stalls in about 30 minutes, but the fun part is stopping for tapas and a caña (a beer) and tasting jamon.
Tours at the Boquería market
If you want to learn more about La Boquería and about Catalan cuisine, a food tour is your best bet.
Go shopping at the market and join a cooking class
A local chef will show you around the market, teach you about local products and culinary traditions, and you’ll buy the ingredients you need to prepare various typical Spanish dishes such as Gazpacho, tortilla, paella, and crema catalana. Most providers offer different tour options, such as Spanish classics and tapas tours.
Visit the Boquería during a walking or bike tour
Your guide will show you the best of the old center of Barcelona.
El Ciclo offers private tours with a visit to La Boquería. Ask your guide to take you to the market!
If you choose a bike tour you will have to lock your bike outside the market.
La Boquería is open from Monday to Saturday from 8 am to 8.30 pm.
The market is closed on Sundays and bank holidays, and there is no fresh fish on Mondays.
To mitigate crowding, there is a new rule for groups: on Friday and Saturday groups exceeding 15 people are not allowed in at the same time.
The entrance to Mercat La Boquería is free.
How to get to la Boquería
La Boquería is located in the center of Barcelona, right on La Rambla. It’s easy to reach the market from anywhere in the city center, just head to La Rambla and you’ll find it.
- Metro: the closest metro stop is Liceu (metro green line, L3). There are two exits from the station, one of which is right in front of the market. You can also get off at Plaça Catalunya (red and green metro lines, L1 and L3) and walk for a few minutes.
- Hop on hop off bus: The closest stop on the hop-on hop-off-bus is Plaça Catalunya.
- Bus: City buses 14, 59, N9, and N12 stop at La Boquería.
- Bike: Cycling to La Boquería is easy, but you’ll have to tie your bike up outside, you won’t be able to take it into the market.
History of La Boquería
Where does the name Boquería come from?
The Mercat de Sant Josep, the official name of La Boquería, goes back to the 13th century when a convent stood at its current location.
Butchers would gather in the area to sell, just outside the city walls. It’s possible the name Boquería comes from the catalan word ‘boc’, which means goat.
There is another, unconfirmed story about the market’s name, that dates back to the times when the Spaniards fought against the Moors to reconquer Al-Andalus.
A Catalan count brought to Barcelona a beautifully decorated door from the reconquered southern city Almería.
He placed it at the entrance gate of city’s walls, very close to where the current market is.
People that passed by were so impressed by it that their mouth (‘boca’ is the Spanish word for mouth) spontaneously fell open when they saw it.
The enormous iron roof dates from the 19th century. Before it was added the market was a large, open-air space surrounded by columns.
The current market hall was built in 1836 (designed by Antoni Rovira, Josep Fontserè and Josep Cornet) and the metal structure is from 1914.
This structure was based on Les Halles in Paris. As is typical in Barcelona, you will find modernist elements at La Boquería, such as stained glass windows.
Tips for doing your groceries at La Boquería
Planning on cooking in Barcelona? Compare prices!
Prices tend to be higher near the entrance to the market. You’ll find the best rates in the stalls near the back and on the sides.
Fresh fish is best bought early morning, whereas for vegetables and fruit it’s best to come in the afternoon, according to the locals.
The vendors display their finest goods up front, but they try to place the lower quality pieces first, so by the end of the day the better products remain.
The market has always been a gathering spot where locals meet to shop and to eat.
Each vendor has their own stall, many of which have belonged to the same families for generations.
There used to be more stalls between the pillars that surround the market, but nowadays these spots are taken by restaurants, bars and shops, some of which are quite good and worth visiting.
Paradise for ham lovers
One product La Boquería is famous for is top quality ham.
Out of all the European hams, Italian Prosciutto is the most famous, but Spanish Iberico is better.
There are several different styles and levels of quality.
Make sure to try the “jamon de bellota”, made from black pigs from the south of Spain (mostly Extremadura) that are fed only on acorns (‘bellotas’) and cured for no less than 5 years.
The taste is rich, full, and salty, and the fat dissolves in your mouth as soon as it touches your tongue.
For something a little lighter, try a ‘jamón serrano’, cured between two and three years.
The salesmen will be happy to tell you all about how the hams are made.
You can taste at most of the stalls, however try to avoid the little paper cones with cut pieces of ham, as they can be dry.
Once you’ve had your fill, head to one of the bars and wash it all down with a glass of sparkling cava.
Interesting fact: People take their ham very seriously in Spain — so much so that ham cutter is an actual profession!
Vietnam in La Boquería
The southern side of La Boquería is called ‘Vietnam’, and it’s the section that concentrates much of the market’s more exotic produce.
In this area you’ll be able to find fresh herbs and spices, chilies, and exotic fruits and vegetables.
Fish and seafood is also sold, usually at lower rates than in the central plaza.
Where to Eat
There are many great restaurants in La Boquería, and no matter where you go you’ll know that you’re getting top notch products from the market itself.
A couple of our favorites are El Quim de La Boquería, famous for its baby squid and fried eggs and its delicious ham croquettes, and Bar Pinotxo, whose owner Juanito has worked at the market for 50 years! Try the garbanzos con morcilla (chickpeas with blood sausage).
However, if you’re asking yourself where to eat in La Boquería, the true answer is… everywhere! Part of the charm of visiting is being adventurous and trying many different things. Let your curiosity guide you.
Attractions near La Boquería
There are many attractions near La Boquería: