One of the things (and there are so many) that I envy the Spanish people is being able to rediscover and savor local products every day through the many markets throughout the country.
In Italy, indoor markets are not as prevalent; they are usually daily markets. Each country has a day of the week on which there is a market in the main streets. Nothing stable, all open-air markets in which the stalls stay at most until 1 p.m., at least that is what happens in the area where I live.
In Spain, on the other hand, you can find in almost every city covered markets. They’re real markets with fixed stalls occupied always by the same shopkeeper. The markets are divided by type of merchandise: there is the fish-related section, the meat and cold cuts section, and the fruit and vegetable section. Some markets remain open only in the morning, others all day long, and are often a draw not only for the daily shopping of residents but also for tourists.
The bustling life of the markets thus becomes a way to fully immerse oneself in local customs and traditions, a true experience. Another very interesting aspect of the markets in Spain is that in most of them you can eat, fresh produce being cooked right before your eyes.
The best markets in Spain
During my many travels in Spain I have been lucky enough to visit several of these markets and I wanted to recommend some of them to you, making a sort of ranking among the most particular ones always according to my personal taste.
Barcelona: the Boqueria market
How not to start with the Boqueria market, the market of the European city that has most “exploded” touristically in recent years: Barcelona. A city with the ideal mix of culture and entertainment, the perfect destination for a spring or fall weekend; you can still enjoy the favorable climate that will allow you to take a ride on the beach.
In addition to the cultural aspects and thus all the works of Gaudi, first and foremost the unfinished Sagrada Familìa, among the many things you must do in this Spanish city is absolutely to visit its covered market.
Halfway down the main Rambla, proceeding towards the sea, you can discover this absolutely special place. Colors, smells and tastes, the Boqueria is like a magnet. You walk past it and can’t help but be drawn in, a bit like bees with honey. Whether it’s breakfast time, lunch time or dinner time it doesn’t matter, at the Boqueria market you can find and eat everything.
On my trip to Barcelona several years ago, the Boqueria was a regular stop every morning. After those two/three shakes of every flavor, it was a must to have a few“curls” of Jamón Serrano cut for me to keep in my backpack and eat mid-morning. I think I can say that the Boqueria is my favorite Spanish indoor market. I give you two more tips related to this market:
- Drink as many fruit smoothies as you can.
- Stock up on Jamon and go eat it at the Castell de Montjuïc with a view of the sea.
La Boqueria is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m
Santiago de Compostela: Market “de Abastos”
Santiago de Compostela in Galicia is famous for the religious/spiritual paths that bring hundreds of pilgrims to the city every day. Another excellence of Santiago is its market.
The Mercado de Abastos is the last Spanish market I had the pleasure of visiting but it has already entered with flying colors into second place in this personal ranking.
It is said to be the market with the best quality raw material, especially seafood, and these are also “exported” to markets in neighboring cities.
Santiago’s proximity to the ocean means that this market has become the benchmark for extremely high quality shellfish and seafood. As many as 3 aisles for seafood, the Abastos market is definitely a must if you visit Santiago de Compostela and is also stunning simply because of its architecture.
Again, a little tip: stop by for freshly cooked fish, in fact,“no-fridge cooking” is practiced in the Abastos 2.0 mini-restaurant and other market places. What does this mean? It means that special menus are created every day using only the freshest market produce.
The Mercado de Abastos is open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. The best days to visit and make top-notch purchases are Thursdays and Saturdays.
Santander: Market “de la Esperanza”
In the lesser known but no less beautiful Santander, capital of Cantabria, there is a small but decidedly quaint indoor market, the Mercado de la Esperanza. In this market there is less of a sense of subdivision by products but the thing that struck me is how crisp and lived-in it is.
Knives waving in the air, scales constantly weighing fish and vegetables, local people, purses in hand, chatting with the various merchants.
It may be that this covered market is the smallest of the ones on this list, it may be that Santander is not as touristy as Barcelona, it may be that I visited it on a day when it was very active, in any case, it particularly stuck with me.
The market is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. For more information about Santader, read -> Things To Do in Santander
Cordoba: the Victoria Market
I have to be honest, the market in Cordoba does not reflect the extreme beauty of the city. Of all the markets I have had the pleasure of seeing, this is the one I was least excited about. It is still a market where you can buy fresh produce, but it is the one that seemed the least authentic to me.
There are actual cafes inside it and it lacks the something that is perceived in the other markets. It lacks authenticity but that is not to be dismissed.
Also, there is a substantial difference in opening hours. The Cordoba market is open every day from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m., except on Fridays and Saturdays as it extends its closing time by an hour.
Other Spanish markets
As I mentioned, the markets are widespread in Spain. Among the most beautiful are the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid and the Mercado Central in Valencia. Both very large and lived-in. I wanted to tell you about the most characteristic ones but of course, if you are near Madrid or Valencia, put a visit to the city’s market as a fixed stop.