Spain’s food scene, in recent years, has grown a reputation so strong that it has practically eclipsed former foodie meccas like France. From the world’s most celebrated restaurants, like the now-closed El Bulli, to its most humble, stand-at-the-counter tapas bars, Spain is the place to go for those with wanderlust and appetites in equal measure. One of the things that makes Spanish cuisine so amazing is the quality of its ingredients – and you’ll find those, and so much more, in the country’s array of food markets.
From Basque country in the north to Andalucia in the south, Spain’s food markets offer travelers a multisensory feast. The buildings, many having seen more than a century’s worth of food-based commerce inside their halls, are often as much a part of the attraction as the food on offer. The markets are as good for simply strolling and photographing as they are for eating – but let’s be honest, the food is the real draw. Whether you pick up your own goodies for a picnic or eat at a stall serving prepared items, it’s very likely that visiting Spain’s markets will be the gastronomical experience of a lifetime. There will be markets small and large scattered throughout the country, in villages and major cities alike, but these are some of the best:
Mercat de Sant Josep La Boqueria – Barcelona | Often simply called “La Boqueria,” this market is right along one of the city’s most famous thoroughfares, La Rambla, and is considered by many to be one of the best markets not just in Spain, but in the world. The origins of the market stretch back to the 13th century, but the famous structure it now inhabits was inaugurated in 1914. You’ll find produce, meats (especially Spain’s beloved jamon) and specialties like candied fruit, all interspersed with tapas stalls – plus, the market also hosts cooking classes.
Mercado San Miguel – Madrid | Right in the heart of the country, in the capital city, Mercado San Miguel is a looker of a market. But it’s more than just a pretty face – the 33 vendors inside the Beaux-Arts building offer food that’s ready to take with you, or ready to enjoy, even with a glass of wine. You can buy everything from fish and meats to books and more than 100 varieties of cheeses.
Mercado de la Ribera – Bilbao | The Basque region, along Spain’s northern coast, has a particularly lofty reputation among global foodies – some consider it the heartland of the world’s finest food. Bilbao’s Mercado de la Ribera offers up plenty of evidence for that high esteem. Be sure to seek out the charcuterie stalls for a portable treat, but also keep an eye out for jams, breads and cheeses of the very best quality. Seafood is also a specialty here.
Mercado Central de Valencia – Valencia | Under a beautifully domed ceiling, the enormous Mercado Central de Valencia brings together as many as 400 vendors offering just about every kind of palate-pleasing delight you can imagine. Whatever you’re craving, you’re likely to find it here. Shop for your breakfast, lunch or dinner, or find items like hand-crafted olive oil to bring home.
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