The Mercat Sant Josep de La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain.

Posted on
Feb 27, 2012

The gateway to temptation.

I am occasionally faced with a temptation that I, fortunately, have yet to act upon. My husband delicately describes it as “socially unfeasible.” I simply think it’s madness. Delicious, delicious madness.

The temptation is this: I want to eat food that doesn’t belong to me.

Now, before you start telling me that everyone feels this way, let me make myself clear. I don’t mean picking off the plate of some dear friend who is having lunch with me. Not at all. That’s completely fair game, and if we ever go out for a meal, you should expect that this will probably happen, and that your entree is mine for the taking (and vice versa … unless we’re talking about dessert, at which point you might lose a finger. Consider yourself warned).

No, I mean that every time I’m at a restaurant, and I pass a stranger’s table at which a plate of fresh, hot french fries has just been delivered, it requires all my willpower to not steal one. Or when someone I do not know is seated next to me at the movie theater, eating popcorn, I very much want to jam my hand into the tub and start shoveling the contents into my mouth. And when they stare at me, aghast, I will simply look at them, my mouth full, and mumble, “What?”

I’m not really sure what the penalty for this sort of behavior is. I don’t think I’d get arrested. I might be asked to chip in for the price of whatever I had stolen. But really, it’s only one fry. One handful of popcorn. One bite. What’s the worse that could happen? I haven’t tried. But it is so damn tempting, I suspect it’s only a matter of time.

If you are like me, and touched with a similar sort of gastronomical kleptomania, it might be best that you do not visit Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria – a large public market in Barcelona.

The market, known often as simply “La Boqueria”, is located along La Rambla – the large walking street that cuts through the heart of the city. It’s been in operation in some form or another for nearly eight hundred years.

Eight hundred years.

In that time, I can’t have been the only one who walked through its aisles, nearly overcome by the temptation to plunge my hands into the bins. I wonder what happened to the others. Were they flogged? Exorcised? Sent to Portugal? (Note: I know nothing about Spain’s penal system.)

Because, surely, there must have been others. This place is so damn tempting. I mean, look at the candy stands:

Half of these don’t even look edible and STILL I WANT TO EAT THEM.

I mean, are you FLIPPING KIDDING ME? It’s an ENTIRE TABLE FULL OF CANDY AND IT’S NOT EVEN IN PACKAGES.  How, exactly, am I suppose to resist that? I struggled to not fall face forward onto it.

Everything was meticulously organized. Chocolates. Truffles. Candied nuts.

We were sufficiently mesmerized.

We left the candy aisle, only to encounter an entire row of shops dedicated to jamon. I could totally go for one of these in my house. In the interest of authenticity, I am completely okay with it being staffed by a handsome Spaniard. Something along the lines of Javier Bardem or Miguel Angel Silvestre will suffice (I’m not picky).

Ham. Really expensive, incredibly delicious ham.

There is a strict dress code in my home, by the way. If you look at all like Javier Bardem or Miguel Angel Silvestre, you have to go shirtless at all times.

I just completely lost my train of thought. What were we talking about? Oh, yeah. Temptation. Riiiight.

The rest of the food stands were, mercifully, less seductive. I felt no overwhelming impulse to start gnawing on whatever these fruits are.

I only kind of wanted to dig my hands into this pile of snails.

And desired to pet this ginormous dead fish only a little bit.

(WARNING: GRAPHIC, BLOODY PHOTOS OF DEAD MAMMALS COMING UP NEXT. Vegetarians, may I suggest that instead of finishing this post, you take some time to enjoy this picture of noted-Vegetarian Peter Dinklage, looking spiffy at the Golden Globes?


You’ve been warned.)

And to be absolutely honest, I didn’t really want to touch these sheep’s heads at all. Except maybe I wanted to poke one of them in the eye a little bit. I say this not to be disrespectful. I just kind of wanted to, in the name of science.

Maybe jiggle these brains around in their convenient plastic carrying cases (again, in the name of science).

I managed to resist the urge, though. I touched absolutely nothing. I think I deserve some kind of reward for this. Something along the lines of a serrano ham stand run by Javier Bardem. I’ve proven that I have willpower. I’m pretty sure I could handle it.

I can look, but not touch. Really.


The Essentials on La Boqueria Market, Barcelona:

  • Recommended: Yes. The market has been in operation for centuries, and it gives you some great insight into Spanish culture. The foods, the haggling, the people talking animatedly with their hands … it’s a site to see.
  • How to Get There: Take a walk on La Rambla, and make a visit to the market part of your day. If public transportation is your thing, the closest  stops are La Rambla-Palau de la Virreina‎ or La Rambla-Liceu‎.
  • Ideal for: Browsers, foodies, and anyone who loves a good farmer’s market.
  • Insider tips: This place can get crowded, so be wary of pickpockets.  The market is open Monday through Saturday from 8:00am to 8:30pm (closed Sundays). We went near closing time and found it wasn’t too crowded. And be sure to check the “What’s On” section of the market’s website for any upcoming events or festivals.
  • Nearby food: there are plenty of places to eat in the market, but be prepared to stand at a counter while you enjoy your meal, as is traditional in many Spanish cafes.
  • Good for Kids: The market is all on street level, so it’s pretty stroller-friendly. If your little one is prone to running off, you’ll want to keep a close eye on them. There’s a lot going on here (workers unloading crates of food, butchers chopping up meat, lots of noise and bright lights) that could startle sensitive kiddos. If they can handle a bit of chaos, they should be fine.


Leave a Comment

  • Ahh, I am so excited for food in Spain! Those fruits are dragonfruit, by the way, also called pitaya, and they are delicious. Nice pictures!

    • Marshall

      Agreed, they are delicious & taste something like a kiwi fruit.

  • In my house he’s Javier BarDAYYYYUM. So hot. Except in No Country For Old Men. SO SCARY.

  • HOLY CRAP. That is awesome. Can you imagine what kind of a crazy-ass place that would seem like to a kid used to grocery shopping at Safeway? LOL, awesome picks Geraldine!

  • Petra

    I perfectly understand the temptation. I had the same feelings as I walked trought the same market and yes, you really can be proud to touch nothing (I am not sure if I was able to resist, too 😉

    • Pallavi

      Yes, kudos to you… how could you NOT touch all that candy? I know I did… dunno how I missed the dragonfruit, probably a different time of year… but your pic reminded me of the markets in Hongkong where I absolutely had to stop and feel/touch/taste 🙂

      Just discovered your blog and am loving every post 🙂 addictive – that’s the ONLY word.
      Traveling vicariously ain’t the best, but hey! its better than nothing…

  • Melanie

    I’m with you on the Javier Bardem. Good lord is that man sexy.

    Saturday night at dinner it took everything in my power, not to grab a carne asada fry from the lady sitting at the table next to me. In my mind I even went, “She’s teeny. No way can she eat all those.” I didn’t do it, but lawd I wanted to.

    I have trouble at our local Farmer’s Market. I buy far too much produce ’cause it’s all so pretty, and end up giving away half of it ’cause I can’t possibly eat all of it before it goes bad. And I eat A LOT of veggies.

  • The candy looks so tempting, but did you pass any dried beans or lentils? THOSE would have been hard for me – big vats of beans just call to me to run my fingers through them. And there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

  • I don’t think I would have been able to resist the candy. Looks AMAZING and now I’m going to be totally distracted for the rest of the morning thinking about a shirtless Javier Bardem (which I’m okay with).

  • completely agree with the shirtless rule.

  • Nicky

    I still dream of this market! Thank you for confirming it’s on La Rambla, I wasn’t sure. I had my best ever fish dish at a stall somewhere in the middle of the back row (great directions, I know) which has haunted me with its garlickyness ever since. Think I spent a small fortune on delicious fresh fruit. Lovely pics BTW.

  • A couple of weeks ago after snowboarding, I was at the bar at Snoqualmie eating chili and drinking whiskey and a (admittedly really drunk) kid came up next to me to order a drink, saw my chili and said “that looks delicious – please can I have a bite?” I said sure and handed him my spoon. I got another spoon before resuming eating the chili though.

  • Oh, oh! And I just remembered the other day I was on a flight and was served warm nuts and when the guy next to me finished his, he asked if he could have the rest of mine! Which was totally fine with me, but my grubby hands had been all over those nuts by that point.

  • the fruit is Dragonfruit!

    Delicious insides — sort of like an amped-up kiwi crossed with a pear. not candy of course (or fried….. but hmmmmmmm) but still really delicious!

  • The alien fruit are dragonfruit! Once you slice them open, they have a soft white flesh speckled with black seeds. It’s like science and nature had a torrid one-night stand and the result of that copulation is this beautiful, beautiful fruit. Eat if you ever get the chance!

  • Verena

    LOVE LOVE LOVE that market! I swear every single of your Barcelona posts recently made me sigh LOUDLY and check flight prices because i started missing Barcelona 🙂
    So thanks for making me wanna jump on a plane – aham – i mean: thanks for your great point of views from one of my very favorite cities on this planet 🙂

  • Nicola

    The weird looking fruit are called Dragon fruit. Devastatingly, despite looking like something from outer space and being named after a fire breathing monster, they taste like crap.

  • Dragonfruit doesn’t taste that bad! Strangely, isn’t it an Asian fruit? We didn’t know you could get it in Barcelona too! Your pictures are stunning though we’re not too jealous of the dead mammals…How long are you going to be there for?

  • Pierre (in Taiwan)

    The fruits in the picture are known as dragon fruit (I’m sure someone out there will know the scientific name). They are actually the fruit of a cactus. I find dragon fruit to be one of those showy fruits who promise flavour and exoticism but turn out to be disappointingly bland, and rather much like the kiwi fruit, full of tiny annoying black seeds that get stuck between the teeth. They are supposedly chuck full of vitamins or some such healthy things. I don’t care for them much although dipped in chocolate they become more palatable to me. Your instincts were right in avoiding them.

  • Saadia

    The funny looking fruit is Dragon fruit, as another commentor has already noted. However, I think they don’t taste like crap! They don’t taste like much really; just a kind of cool, cucumbery watery sort of flavour…summery, I would say. They are beautiful to look at once you cut them up, with the bright pink waxy skin on the outside, and the white flesh with black seeds dotting the surface on the inside…really, they do look pretty. You should try once.

  • Don’t pet the dead fish – grab the upper and lower lips in each hand (do fish have lips?), yank the mouth open and yell “blahhhh” while wiggling your tongue. Not sure what to do about those sheep heads though – the look in those eyes pretty much captures the terror of its death.

  • First of all, I absolutely-without-a-doubt-to-an-embarrassing-degree am OBSESSED with your blog! And now my friends are too. I lived and worked in Barcelona last summer and La Boqueria was my regular stop on the way home for a fresh fruit smoothie, preferably strawberry-coconut. I hope you tried one of those! Thank you for giving me a legitimate excuse to go back and stalk my own pictures again.

  • OMG! I thought I was the only person with the overwhelming urge to take strangers’ food!

    Sometimes it looks so much better on another person’s table.

  • I was once at the Dickens on the Strand Festival in Galveston, Texas happily holding my plate of freshly fried funnel cake. Then, a woman dressed up as an elf walked up to me and said (in a sprightly kind of way), “Spare some funnel cake for one of Santa’s elves?” I was so shocked that someone would want a piece of my funnel cake (it’s MINE I tell you) that I just mutely held my plate while she tore off a piece and pranced away.

    The dragonfruit that I buy here is a shockingly radioactive shade of magenta inside, not white.

  • Your photographs are fantastic! -so colorful and full of life… and sweets 😀 I love your blog!

  • The fruit, as many others have commented is dragon fruit. The texture is a bit like nashi pears, and the way to eat them is to peel then sprinkle with salt. The salt brings out the sweetness of the fruit (provided you haven’t emptied the salt shaker onto it). Otherwise it’s a bit bland, as others have also pointed out.

  • Christine

    I hope you got to eat some paella while you were there too! It was amazing when I had it and I haven’t been able to find anything even close to comparable back here in the states.

    • Everywhereist

      Sadly, Paella is more common in Madrid, and not Barcelona. It’s hard to get that sort of cuisine where we were.

  • It is worth it to visit also Santa Caterina market, that is much more in line with unhurried locals buying the week’s fresh products. It is located near the Jaume 1 metro line, in the centre of Ciutat Vella between Las Ramblas and El Born.

    (edited by Geraldine to remove links)

  • Josefa Wann

    Wonderful to read about the Boqueria. As a native of Barcelona, now living in Los Angeles, it made me want to get on the next plane to Barcelona 🙂 Thank you.

  • Kitty

    I came to Spain in 2007 and I put on 77 pounds just because I couldn’t handle my kleptomaniac cravings but I had to and the only way was buying stuff to eat myself. Thankfully, I managed to put all the extra weight so problem solved but yep… Food can be a huge issue for your health here in Spain. Too many delicious things, I became a total food junkie.
    My spanish mother in law cooking all sorts of fried and stewed things for me (and making me eat it even if I was to explode) didn’t help much
    And then they’re proud of following a healthy mediterranean diet… I bet they’re genetically engineered to discard the extra fat in food because my weight just balooned the moment set a foot on this country xD

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