I am a market-obsessed food traveler.
Before I see monuments and museums, I want to see what people grow, sell, and eat, and there’s no better place to do that than a local market. So when I visit a new city, it’s always one of the first things I look for and visit, a crash course to understanding a culture quickly and colorfully. Markets are where you find out secrets that the museums don’t tell you– what people eat in the intimacy of their own homes. Is it fresh fish and salad? A suckling lamb? Or casquería (organ meats)?
Luckily, in Spain there are more than enough markets to visit, and I still have some iconic ones on my own to-see list. But here are five Spanish markets well worth visiting (and eating your way through!).
1. Mercado La Boqueria, Barcelona
I still remembering entering this colorful market for the first time. I was studying abroad in Granada and decided to visit Barcelona for the weekend. This was before I used the internet often, before I knew what a blog was, and before Tripadvisor had become one of my best friends. I stumbled into the iron faced beauty from the touristy Ramblas street, and picked out a juice for 1€. I quickly drank it and grabbed another– and just as easily, I fell in love. Barcelona’s gorgeous iron sided market is truly a gem, despite claims by some that it has become too touristy. Take a walk around it’s colorful stalls, grab a bite at one of the crowded ones, and enjoy the ambiance! To arrive in Barcelona, check out Monarch flights to Barcelona.
2. Plaza de Abastos, Cadiz
To see this incredible market in its full glory, you have to visit on a Saturday morning. Focus on the central aisles– the fish market. The stalls are heaped high with the catch of the day from the nearby Atlantic ocean, and people are shouting and elbowing their way through the crowds. You’ll see sea creatures you didn’t even know existed, all for prices less than a fast food meal! After making your purchase, you can head to the newly opened corner with bars and restaurants, and enjoy a tapa or two before leaving. If there is a local selling freshly shucked oysters or camarones (tiny boiled shrimp) at the door, don’t even hesitate to eat some. Heavenly and cheap, this is what life is all about!
3. Mercado de la Paz, Madrid
Madrid has multiple market gems, but there is something about Mercado de la Paz that I adore. Located in the ritzy Salamanca neighborhood, with designer stores and gourmet shops as neighbors, you’d never guess your surroundings by looking at the market’s exterior. As one of Madrid’s original four iron sided markets, it could definitely use a little bit of restoration. But I love it because of its imperfections. Inside you have some of the best fish, fruit, meat, cheese, and charcuterie in town, and, (shh!) my favorite tortilla de patatas in Madrid is located inside at Casa Dani. Just go early so it’s nice and fresh!
4. Mercado Central de Atarazanas, Malaga
There is something about this former shipyard-cum-market that is simply magical. You walk inside and are greeted with the aroma of freshly fried fish. People are shopping, drinking cañas, and simply enjoying the day. It’s the type of place you could stay in for hours, and then wonder where the day has gone.
5. El Mercat Central, Valencia
One of the oldest markets in Europe, the gorgeous Mercat Central is one of my favorite places in Valencia to spend the morning. Starting with a cold cup of horchata, you can watch the locals visiting their favorite stalls. If you’re staying nearby and have access to a kitchen, you could always buy the ingredients for a traditional rabbit paella, one of the region’s most delicious dishes!
What’s your favorite market in Spain?
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