On prior visits to Barcelona, Spain, we found ourselves staying in hotels near the tourist center of town, Las Ramblas. It also meant that we frequently found ourselves in one of the most beautiful markets we have ever seen – La Boqueria, probably the most popular food market in Barcelona, but that does not mean it is the best Barcelona food market. There are others. The Mercat Santa Caterina is easily the best food market in Barcelona. Here’s why, and how to visit Santa Caterina.
In this Barcelona food blog post, we talk about which market we think is the best one in Barcelona, and make recommendations for how to visit other markets in this famous food city.Check out more tips in our Ultimate Spain Food Guide – How To Travel in Spain
Searching for the Best Barcelona Food Market
When we first traveled to Barcelona, we knew La Boqueria was touristy, but we did not care. With fruit, vegetables, meats, and cheeses displayed stunningly, and a few bars and eateries tucked in the back, we thought we had found heaven on earth. Since our first visit, we have told anyone we know who was heading to Barcelona, to stop at La Boqueria. At the time we thought it had to be one of the best markets in Barcelona.
Until we discovered a little gem not far down the road – Mercado Santa Caterina, or Mercat Santa Caterina in Catalan.
We met Carlos on our Devour Barcelona food tour. Spanish born, Australian raised, he is a tour guide who brings groups through Spain. He luckily told us about his favorite food market in Barcelona, which was only a five-minute walk from our apartment rental. Once we stepped inside we started to really feel like Catalan locals living in Barcelona. We also quickly learned where locals find the best food in Barcelona. The local markets are also a good place to go when looking for vegetarian or vegan food in Spain, not an easy task.
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Why Santa Caterina is the Best Food Market in Barcelona
We found the Santa Caterina Barcelona Market on a Saturday, and it was gorgeous. The displays were not only amazing, but the lighting was done in such a way that every little morsel under the huge ceiling looked delectable. I never found myself paying much attention to market architecture until Santa Caterina. There is just something about food markets in Europe, and in particular markets in Italy and Spain, that just makes me drool.
And, because it was a Saturday, the market was packed with people buying food to make their big weekend family meals. It’s something we’ve become accustomed to while living in Girona. One of our favorite things to do is to visit the best market near me in Girona, which is the Mercat de Lleo. Although the Girona market is not as architecturally stunning as Santa Caterina in Barcelona, the food is just as tasty!
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What You Will See at Mercato Santa Caterina Barcelona
Will touring one of the best markets in Barcelona, you will most likely see what we saw during our first visit to Santa Caterina. This is just market life in Catalonia. We saw a butcher delicately preparing meat for a customer, taking so much pride in his work. One of the things I love about Catalonia is that most people continue to visit their local butcher. A Barcelona meat market is something to see. Often the butchers have large cuts of meat of all varieties and they expertly cut them and prepare them based on the customers’ specific orders.
We saw people pushing in, standing three deep waiting to order from the fishmonger. We saw people ordering fish or vegetables. The owner of the stall would show off what he was about to wrap up to ensure it satisfies the customers’ standards – such a pride in their offerings.
It’s the same at the Barcelona fish market at Santa Catarina as it is in Girona. We saw older ladies pointing and directing workers to find their perfect piece of meat, or in this case, eggs. We also see them communicating their specific needs, exactly how many prawns or clams they need to make a rice dish or a seafood stew.
As we were attempting to live like the locals for our time in Barcelona, we ordered some cheese, and a bottle of wine to bring back to our apartment. We also stopped at the bar for an early morning glass of cava and some plates of fresh foods. There are a couple of Mercat Santa Caterina restaurant options inside the market where they prepare tapas and other bites, often with the produce and products from the market.
The Best Food at Barcelona’s Santa Caterina Market
It made me realize how much I want to live for a while near a market like this, to shop at the market like the locals do. One that is clean and so much more approachable than the markets in Asia, which more practically display Asia food. Eric said we would have to get a grill for our apartment to cook up all the amazing meats and fish. I would be happy to make salads from the fresh vegetables, use the amazing fruits for a lovely breakfast, and, of course, eat cheese for most meals of the day. Santa Caterina market quickly became one of my favorite markets in the world. I didn’t want to leave! It’s what made Santa Caterina market my new favorite food market in Barcelona.
FAQs - Santa Caterina Barcelona Market
For first-time travelers to Barcelona, it’s a great idea to visit more than one Barcelona market. Mercat de la Boqueria is pretty and historic. That said, try to visit La Boqueria Barcelona on off-hours, perhaps when they open. La Boqueria Barcelona hours are from 8:30 am- 8:30 pm six days a week. And as with any food market just remember that this is where the locals shop every day. It’s also where people do business. Just please be mindful when visiting La Boqueria market to not get into shoppers’ way. Even better, buy something!
There are loads of fresh food markets in Barcelona, tucked into almost every neighborhood. There really is no “Central Market Barcelona” although La Boqueria could be considered such. Other nearby options include Mercat de la Barceloneta, close to the port, and Sant Antoni Market near Poble Sec. Each market sells Barcelona traditional food products in its own way. Regardless, visiting a Barcelona food market should be on your Barcelona itinerary.
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How To Visit The Best Market In Barcelona
I really do hope more travelers try to explore some of the lesser known markets in Barcelona and steer clear of La Boqueria. Santa Caterina is most like our local market where we live in Spain. So, I want to share it! Feel free to share this post to Pinterest to help you plan your Spain travels.
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Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new Food and Drink Destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.