One of the best food markets: La Boqueria & its history

The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, aka La Boqueria, is a central tourist attraction in Barcelona, Spain, just a few feet away from the one and only La Rambla boulevard. It is one of the most renown Catalan produce markets, famous for its colorful display, mouthwatering aroma and delicious gastronomical specialties.

Food at La Boqueria

Photo credit- Ania Mendrek via : CC BY-ND

Currently, the marketplace stretches over an area of 2,583 sqm or 27,803 sqf, harboring more than 270 stands. There you can find a large variety of products, from wild animals, all kinds of meat, fruits, seafood, vegetables, pastry to crafts as well.

La Boqueria is one of the oldest markets in Europe with early mentions dating back to 1217. With such an extensive history, the food market went through numerous expansions, relocations and renovations. Let’s take a look into its story!

La Boqueria started as a traveling open air market stationed near the old city gate of Barcelona, Pla de la Boqueria. Merchants set tables selling meat to save on taxes before their departure to the city.

It is said that “La Boqueria” came from the word boc, meaning goat which was the most sold product during those times.

Meat at La Boqueria

Photo credit- akarakoc via : CC BY-ND

As the market became more popular, merchants from nearby towns came to sell their products. Additionally, as it was still unofficial, most people considered it an extension of the neighbouring market of Plaça Nova. However, that didn’t sit well with the old grocers, which lead to clashes. As a solution, both markets were merged into one giving birth to La Rambla de Sant Josep.

As it gained notoriety, additional vendors started setting fish and bird shops, as well as butcheries around it. As a result, in 1826, the marquee of Campo Sagrado, general captain of Catalonia, took it upon himself to regulate La Boqueria. The new market was officially recognised and introduced to the public on October 18th,1827.

Although La Boqueria was a huge economic success, Spain was going through very difficult political times with a series of civil wars, conflict between liberals and conservatives, and rebellions. In 1835, revolutionaries burned down churches and monasteries, including the Sant Josep covenant, and killed nuns and monks. Later, the historic Spanish civil war ensued and Barcelona fell into the hands of anarchists.

People looking at food in La Boqueria

Photo credit- Ludovico Sinz [Cane Rosso (busy!)] via : CC BY

The destroyed site was replaced by a square bordered by gardens, fountains and terraces. With the robust architecture of the square, it was decided that La Boqueria would move there temporarily. However, it was the final move of Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria.

People at la Boqueria

Photo credit- heroix via : CC BY-SA

In 1936, a fire destroyed the covenant of Carmelitas along with its church, Saint Josep; and the city decided to build a new market. Mas Vilá was the architect. The first stone of La Boqueria was put on St. Joseph’s day.

The construction of the metal roof, finalised in 1914, ushered a new dawn of modernisation for the market bringing with it aesthetic and sanitary improvements.Till today, the roof intrigues visitors from the world due to its history.

People at La Boqueria

Photo credit- Adriano Agulló via : CC BY

Across the decades, La Boqueria cemented itself as a Catalan landmark and a must see sight for all visitors of Barcelona. Now, during the early hours of sunlight, top chefs pass by La Boqueria and shop the freshest meat, vegetables and fruits. In 2013, La Boqueria launched its gastronomic school, Rambla at Carrer de la Petxina, with cooking classes and culinary events.

For some mouthwatering Mediterranean food, make sure to check out our international private chefs!