Spain's Top Food Markets
Immerse yourself in authentic Spanish culinary experiences
It is a well-known fact that Mediterranean countries have the best food markets that this world has to offer. Greece, Italy, Turkey and the south of France are honorable mentions when on the subject of visit-worthy Mediterranean food markets – yet one country, with all its multicultural provinces, stands upfront with its authentic food market experiences, that country is of course Spain.
In this blogpost we’ll go across some of Spain’s best food markets and dive into what makes each of them special, both in flavor and design. If you ever get the chance to visit any of these cities, do not think twice about including a trip to these markets.
We start off in the central capital city of Madrid, the charmingly vibrant international hub that offers its locals and visiting tourists some of Spain’s best food markets:
- Mercado de San Miguel
We figured “why not start with the best?”. Known as the main and most popular food market of Spain, this commercial venue has been around for more than a hundred years and offers the greatest culinary experiences of Spain. The freshest seafood comes in daily from Galicia, fine cheeses from Castile and the Basque Country, as well as rice dishes of the Mediterranean enriched with fresh produce and unique Spanish flavors. More than 20 main food stands committed to serving the finest quality of tapas, fruits, vegetables and wines await your taste buds in the classically designed iron architecture of Mercado de San Miguel (the only iron framework market in Madrid). The structure, once a church (San Miguel de los Ocotes) that was destroyed in a fire in the year 1790, was later transformed into the market of today in the year 1913. Located in Plaza de San Miguel and opens from 10 am till midnight every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday – and from 10 am till 2 am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
- Mercado San Fernando
More than just a food market with its wide array of stores – from bookstores to fashion shops; this market has the greatest fresh produce in the center of Madrid. The classical design of the building is characterized by its unique and bright façade. Food stalls, butchers, cobblers, artsy designers and craft beer bars fill the indoor space and are offered at very affordable prices. Located near the Casino de la Reina park in the heart of the diverse Lavapiés neighborhood. The venue, which has been around since 1944, is in Calle de Embajadores and opens at 9 am till 10 pm on weekdays and till 11 pm on the weekend.
- Mercado Antón Martín
Located in the Antón Martín square which falls right in the center of Madrid. This area is known for its multicultural and artistic atmosphere, which reflects well in the artwork on both the outer and inner parts of the market. Though the venue is not known to be the biggest tourist attraction of all markets in Madrid, it is no doubt a great place to partake in a sophisticated and somewhat “local” experience. From the high-end hand-sliced Iberian ham (Romero) and aged manchego (Quesería Antón Martín) to international food stalls serving street food, tacos and sushi – this market, a creation of high-income professionals, will have you amazed with its wide array of old-timey bars, traditional stalls and international influences. The venue also includes a dance school called “Amor de Dios” which is famous for its Spanish dance classes. Located in Calle de Santa Isabel (a 10-minute walk from Mercado San Fernando), this market will welcome you every day except for Sundays from 9 am till 11:30 pm.
From the capital of Madrid, we travel west towards the Galicia region (where a lot of seafood varieties are fished then exported to the major cities of Spain) – and more specifically, Santiago de Compostela.
- Mercado de Abastos
Seafood lovers, rejoice! This market is the second most visited attraction in the city after the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral (check out our Camino de Santiago blog for more on that place!)– offering the greatest seafood assortments: from lobsters, prawns, octopus and scallops to a wide array of fresh fish. This indoor space is known for its bustling atmosphere, filled with Galician folk musicians and top-class food and drink varieties – all sold at very reasonable prices. Designed and built in 1941 by architect Joaquin Vaquero Palacios, Abastos long hall design has visitors walk across the parallel stalls and shops in the symmetrical venue. Located in Rúa das Ameas, you can visit this classic Galician food market from 8 am till 3 pm every day (except for the closing day on Sundays).
We head up north to the Basque Country’s city of Bilbao, an industrial city known for its surrounding greenery, stunning modern architecture and high quality local products. From fresh produce to a wide range of seafood dishes – Bilbao offers you its authentic food market experience:
- Mercado de la Ribera
We’re talking about the biggest indoor market in Europe here! Stretching over a 100,000 square feet (10,000 m²), the Ribera market offers the freshest fish, cheese and meat the Basque Country has to offer. A wide range of homemade bread, fruits, pickles, mushrooms and preserves await visiting shoppers. In addition to the authentic Basque gastronomy, visitors can enjoy the fresh produce of the market implemented into the traditional cooking of La Ribera Bilbao restaurant – famous not only for its pleasant food, but a live jazz experience as well. The market has a deep rooted history over the past centuries, but was officially inaugurated in 1929 after architect Pedro Ispizua modernized its design. Now known for its 1930s Art Deco design, Mercado de la Ribera is an essential destination for those wishing to experience the best of Bilbao. Located in Erribera Kalea, the venue welcomes visitors from 8 am till 11 pm on weekdays and till 1 am on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
We travel south along the east coast of Spain and take a stop in the city of Arts and Sciences, Valencia. With futuristic structures, an oceanarium and an interactive museum like no other – one can only imagine the kind of modern market the city of Valencia has to offer!
- Mercat Central
The central market of Valencia is the main market of the city, famous for its beautiful and most recognizable emblematic modernist building. More than 1,200 stalls spread in this 86,000 square foot (8,000 m²) market, making it one of the largest in Europe – with a specialty in fresh foods of meats, fish, cheeses, fruits and vegetables that make up the true flavors and aromas of Mediterranean food. The venue opened up in 1928 with an early 20th century Valencian architecture design – iron columns, stained glass and ceramic domes form a decorative aesthetic worthy of marveling. Visitors could book gastronomical private tours across the old town and central market, enjoying Valencian wines and tasty tapas. A 2-min walk from the Llotja de la Seda, Mercat Central is located in Plaça de la Ciutat de Bruges and opens Mondays through Saturdays from 7:30 am till 3 pm.
Our final destination, home to your beloved Barcelonian, is the vibrant city of Barcelona – where boredom never seems to exist. Make sure to book yourself and your family a Barcelona private tour of the many attractions the city has in store for you! When it comes to food markets of Barcelona, two major places come to mind:
- Marcado de La Boqueria
The self-proclaimed “best market in the world” is known to be the most famous market in the metropolis. Also known as the Mercat de Sant Josep, this place is a top tourist attraction that keeps bustling with vendors and visitors. Boqueria was first mentioned in a document from the year 1217, however, it was officially opened as a market with 68 stalls in 1848. Today, the market offers a wide range of local and international gastronomic products from over 200 trader stalls. Its special interior design, stretching over 65,000 square feet (6,000 m²), is laid out like the Eixample district (make sure to read our blogpost on the Eixample district here!), whereby the stalls and shacks are distributed into symmetrical squares or blocks that provide an easier stroll within the market. With an iron roof and main entrance arch decorated with blue glass panels and yellow circles, and pillars covered with Gaudí-style trencadís mosaic – Boqueria is definitely a place worthy of a picture or two. Located in Rambla, towards the center of the city, the market is open Monday through Saturday from 8 am till 8:30 pm.
- Mercat de Santa Caterina
Barcelona is known to be a brightly colorful city, and this market is a great contributor to that fact – famous for its curvy roof bursting with different colors, Santa Caterina is more than just your regular food market and to some lengths considered a cultural museum! Right at the entrance stands a bunch of Tapas Bars as well as a restaurant called Cuines Santa-Caterina. This restaurant is so popular and is always filled with large crowds, so make sure you’re early on arrival if you wish to experience its great takes on the four main cuisines (Asian, Italian, Mediterranean and Vegetarian) – all priced reasonably. The interior market offers a variety of fresh meats, lush produce and aromatic breads and pastries sold in over the 100 stalls situated under that one iconic roof! About that roof… well it’s an epic representation of the spirit of the city, as well as an homage to Gaudí’s trencadís works. That artwork of a roof consists of 325,000 hexagonal ceramic pieces of 67 colors that represent the natural colors of fruits and vegetables sold under it – the design was established on a scale big enough that it could be spotted from an aerial top view of the city. Initially created to feed the neighborhood’s blue-collar community, the history of the market stretches back to the year 1845; the current design, however, was built from 1997 till 2005 and is the work of architects Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue. Located in La Ribera district on Avinguda de Francesc Cambó, the market’s opening hours are from 7:30 am till 3:30 pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday – and from 7:30 am till 8:30 pm on Fridays. Make sure to fix yourself a special Paella & Tapas Cooking Experience with the Barcelonian – a one of a kind authentic cooking experience that begins with a visit to the Santa Caterina market!
So what are you waiting for? Book yourself a guided Spain family tour now and experience its authentic culinary excellence!