Three Cities, Three Food Markets, and Oh Were They Good

Actually each of these cities has multiple food markets, but these three markets were in a class of their own.  What also made the visit interesting is that while the focus was on food, each setup was different as was the vibe of the place, satisfying different needs for different cities.

Barcelona – La Boqueria

I cannot wait to see what is inside


fruit on the go

If you mention Barcelona to any self respecting food lover, this market is high on their list of places to visit.  I was no exception, and it was the first place in Barcelona I insisted on dragging my husband (let’s get this trip off on the right foot).   I stepped in to the interior, and I did not know what to do, logical thoughts flew from my brain.  I’d seen this behavior in my five year old niece when she first caught sight of the Children’s Play Ground in Golden Gate Park, stutter stepping, conflicted, pulled in so many directions with a serious case of sensory overload – I just never expected to catch myself doing it.  Finally I came to my senses enough to insist to my husband that we approach our visit in a logical fashion going down each aisle before making any purchases.  He promptly rolled his eyes. I deserved that.

need more veggies

I can only describe it as Aladian’s Cave for food lovers – this site lists the types of stalls so you can see for yourself.  The selection of foods was simply mind boggling, as was the attention to detail, nothing was haphazardly placed, rather all was artfully displayed to be all the more tempting.  I found myself staring at a cluster of green onions as an object of beauty.  The colorful displays more like mounds of the finest jewels – ok you get my drift.

works of art

In addition to being able to procure just about anything you wanted in the way of food, many of the stalls offered on the spot tapas, and there were even a few restaurants intersperced if you were so inclined, and believe me it would take someone with incredible restraint not to be so inclined.

never has funghi looked so good

fresh fish for the taking

Rarely do I regret staying in a hotel, but this place made me wish we had rented an apartment so that  we could sample more goodies.  There’s always next time.

if you have a sweet tooth

We like collecting portable food for impromtu snacks and lunches so we were privledged to sample:

nuts are always an option

meat your options

breads and some interesting pastries

olive oil bread with cocoa, almonds and pig skin


need a sweet fix?

one more for the road


Madrid – Mercado San Miguel

Mercado San Miguel

About three years ago the market added a new layer of offerings serving all tapas and pinchos a person could ask for in one location.  If you are familiar with the Ferry Building in San Francisco, you get the idea, but this market is far more conducive to grazing as the food shops primarily line the exterior walls with the middle section set up with tables for noshing.

now we must concentrate on what to sample next

While you can still purchase items to take home, the focus when we arrived in the evening was for food and drinks to be consumed on the premises.  I suspect the vendors were chosen with deliberation, there is no direct duplication of products, for example while I saw three wine related vendors, the first one vendor sold wines by the glass or bottle, the second vendor focuses exclusively on sherries, and the third offers delicious wine based drinks cocktails such as sangria.  No direct competition.

hanging out with friends

My husband was so taken with this mercado that we ate here three nights in a row.  His argument was that we had not tried everything, and we could probably sample the widest selection of tapas in the least amount of time with the minimal amount of effort.  There was no faulting that logic.

Who can argue when you have this

I am in croquette heaven


cuttle fish croquettes and simply amazing

and this

a bit of sherry with your pincho

and this

sardines and roasted peppers

and spot this


you get the idea.

I'll have one of these, please

So much to sample, so little time.


Valencia – Mercado Central

outside the market

Where Barcelonas market struck me as dark and cavernous, with its rich, jewel colors of an old school still life painting.  Valencia’s market seemed all light and open spaces.  It is housed in a gorgeous Art Nouveau building that opened in 1928, and is one of the largest in Europe with about a thousand stalls calling this place home.

say queso

To me this was much more of a utilitarian market, with the focus not to linger (although there was options to eat on the premises) but to make your selection and move home.  Having read up on Valencia ahead of time, I knew that this was an agricultural center for Spain and the produce options added credence to that idea.

lemon fresh

Just walking down the street to the market we saw citrus and date trees with their offerings ripe for the picking.  I am not sure if it was the correct thing to do, but my husband picked a Valencian orange from the tree, we were just too tempted by the bounty.  I can see why the it is used more for juice rather than consumption.  It had pucker power.  Seeing all the incredibly produce options was a preview of what we had in store.  This market is also where we sampled the delicious horchata.

fresh produce, no shortage here


There is no way I could pick a favorite.  Every market we visited had its own charm, and certainly served a purpose for the community.  The next time I am back in Spain, I’ll need to retrace my steps to confirm they were as fantastic as I remember.


Update me when site is updated

14 comments for “Three Cities, Three Food Markets, and Oh Were They Good

  1. March 11, 2012 at 12:08 PM

    Great markets! I’d spend loads of money if I visited them… ,-P



  2. March 12, 2012 at 5:45 AM

    HUGE markets! Love these sherry barrels 😉
    Angie@Angie’s Recipes recently posted..Spelt Blood Orange Crostata

  3. March 12, 2012 at 9:20 AM

    My husband has been to Spain for business and always waxes poetical about the food – yes, Spain is on my list. Yes, the markets are on my list. Everytime I travel – wish I had a kitchen. So your husband’s directive to have dinner at a market for 3 nights was very wise. I’d want to move in.
    Claudia recently posted..The Utah, Birthday, Hockey, Sundance, Moon Cake

  4. March 12, 2012 at 7:43 PM

    Amazing markets! Visiting food markets is one of my favorite things when visiting other countries. Thanks for taking us along!
    Andrea@WellnessNotes recently posted..Weekend Fun and Spinach Namul (Banchan: Korean Side Dish)

  5. March 14, 2012 at 2:44 AM

    Oh how I wish I could be in Spain right now to sample those fresh sardines, jamon, and Spanish wine across these markets. What an incredible experience and a great way to spend a vacation.

  6. March 16, 2012 at 7:42 PM

    My favorite thing about travel! Love that you featured all of these markets. I love the dragon fruit. That’s my kind of convenience food. And bread with pig skin? Surprising, yet awesome. I can’t imagine what it would taste like.
    Lori recently posted..Vegetable Orzo Salad

  7. March 18, 2012 at 3:03 PM

    It looks like a lot of fun! We’ve been to the market in Barcelona and totally agree with your assessment. Missed the one in Madrid unfortunately. It looks stunning. Have you been to Sao Paulo? They’ve an incredible market there sort of like the Valencian and Barcelonan mixed together with a focus on tropical fruit. Amazing.
    Stevie recently posted..Anna’s almost secret family recipe: chocolate cake with cooked frosting

  8. OysterCulture
    March 18, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    Rosa – I had a hard time showing restraint myself.

    Angie – The markets are huge and the sherry barrels nicely sized and conveniently located. =)

    Claudia – He is wise, I don’t tell him enough.

    Andrea – my pleasure, I had to share all the incredible photos, I swear I felt like I was walking in a painting at some points.

    Christine – I wish I was back there especially now that the weather is warmer.

    Lori- The bread was actually delicious, the market had some different combinations. The chicarone (pig skin) actually worked nicely with the other ingredients,I’d just never seen it in a baked good.

    Stevie – Ok, Sao Palulo is now high on the list. Thanks for the inside info,

  9. March 18, 2012 at 7:29 PM

    Oh my word, it’s been way too long since I’ve been to Spain. You have me hungering to go back — in more ways than one. 😉
    Carolyn Jung recently posted..A Taste of French Comfort Food in San Carlos

  10. March 21, 2012 at 7:53 AM

    I also have been to Barcelona’s Boqueria & loved it! This is a great post! the one in Madrid, i still have to visit! 🙂
    Sophie recently posted..Spinach & rocket pesto served with farfalle & smoked bacon

  11. March 24, 2012 at 8:21 AM

    Oh my heavens, Lou Ann! What incredible markets. Oh how I wish to go to Spain:) I must say, I got the biggest kick out of the Dragon Fruit on the go, talk about a healthy refreshment.

    You’ve done an outstanding job!

    Thank you so much for sharing…
    Louise recently posted..Marion’s Gift

  12. April 3, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    Wow, they all look incredible! I would love to travel just for the purpose of seeing all the varied markets 🙂
    Love the article 🙂
    Hope you are having a great week…
    Magic of Spice recently posted..What’s for lunch? Pear, Plum, Citrus and Red Onion Salad

  13. April 3, 2012 at 7:44 PM

    wow awesome markets always try and visit food markets when we travel
    rebecca recently posted..Roasted Patty Pan and Eggplant Farfalle

  14. October 8, 2012 at 4:03 AM

    The markets are so gorgeous – you take photographs exceptionally well. My husband and I visited Spain and Portugal in Jan and Feb and will go again this year, but I will be adding visits to these markets aswell now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is using OpenAvatar based on

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.