One of the great and unintended tourist attractions of Barcelona is the Boqueria food market on la Rambla. More than 35 years since Les Halles and Covent Garden markets were shunted out to the Paris and London suburbs, the Boqueria remains in the city centre, serving its populace and restaurants for miles around. But the Boqueria is only one of many traditional markets in the city and, in celebration of this fact, the council has devised a series of DIY tours, collectively known as the Ruta dels Mercats. Tourist offices have leaflets detailing the routes, or they can be printed out from www.mercatsbcn.com.
The most appealing and accessible is the Ruta dels Mercats Emblemàtics, which takes in six of the most famous starting with the Boqueria. From there it takes you across to Santa Caterina ( HOTEL DUQUESA DE CARDONA’S FAVOURITE!! ), the city’s oldest, rebuilt by the architect Enric Miralles 8 who was born next door ) and reopened in 2005. The city is running a rolling programme of refurbishing the historic markets
Barceloneta , next on the tour, was rebuilt from scratch, althoug with less architectural finesse than Santa Caterina. The building is entirely powered by solar panels, but somewhere in the process the place lost its neighbourhood ambience.
This is not the case, however, with the Mercat de Sant Antoni, which lies just outside the line of the old city walls, on the edge of the Raval. Sant Antoni has a truly proletarian feel, selling not just food but cheap clothes, towels and bedlinen. The market is undergoing restoration and the traders have been moved temporarily to a vast marquee in the street outside.
The smallest market on the route is Concepció in the Eixample, a charming steel-framed structure, with a 24-hour flower market on the upper side.
The last stop on the tour is Els Encants, the furniture and flea market in Plaça de les Glòries, a lovely sprawl of gems and junk.