Studying Abroad in Spain: Tasting Barcelona Through La Boqueria
One of the cheapest and most authentic culinary experiences spain offers.
By Ciarra Lee, Syracuse University
As a college student, finding quick, affordable, and delicious meals can be a difficult task, especially in Spain. In a culture where tapas are the norm, it is often hard to completely stay full throughout the day. For those who don’t know, tapas are small plates of food typically served any time of the day . There are several different types of tapas and each province in Spain has their own signature touch. One usually will get free ones with any purchase of a meal or drink, however, it is customary for Spaniards to nosh on several tapas as if they were a meal. The concept of tapas are great because it allows you to try a little bit of everything, however when buying them individually it can get a little pricey. In Barcelona, there were several different trendy restaurants or cafeterias that served tapas, however they were quite expensive. The one place my friends and I found the best and most authentic tapas was at La Boqueria. This outdoor market had a plethora of tapas, cured meats, juices, nuts, olives, fresh fruits and vegetables for locals and tourists to try for a very inexpensive price.
The market itself is full of life and color, there are rows upon rows of food vendors. Some stalls sold some of the brightest and most fragrant fruits I have ever seen and smelled. When you bit into one of the strawberries it was as if you picked it right off the bush yourself. Markets in Europe in general are not like ones we’ve all experienced in the United States. They aren’t sorted by isles and types of foods, you don’t often see food in boxed packaging or stuffed in cartons, instead food it left to be in it’s natural state. It makes everything taste better and leaves you feeling more satisfied than some of the junk we are so used to eating.
There was a lot of meat, fish, and produce isles, but throughout the market there were pre-made food stands that had the best tapas Spain had to offer. The stand pictured below had food on the go. They offered carnivorous and vegetarian options in a cone form so people could eat them around the market or on the street. The cone I purchased was 4.50 euro and came with these spiced-veal meatballs, croquettes, fresh tomatoes, onions, and a sunny-side up egg. I loved it, the egg was cooked the perfect amount, but the yolk was gooey enough to create a sauce-like concoction for the meatballs and croquettes. There were a lot of different croquette stands because croquettes are a popular tapas dish.
The juices were some of the best drinks I have ever had in my life. These drinks had no artificial perservatives or dyes and it was probably for the better because they tasted more like the fruit than any other fruit juice I have ever had. It was nice too because behind the counter you could see people actually squeezing the fruit by hand to make the freshest product possible. One of the best parts about this market is the haggling process. Since there are so many vendors, and the prices are all a little different, the stall keepers must adhere to their capitalist ways and haggle with customers to ensure business. So if a sign says you must pay a certain price, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get it for cheaper. There were all these juice vendors in one section of the market, I saw prices from at high as 2.50 euro to as low at 1 euro. I told one of the vendors I wasn’t going to pay that much for juice because there was a vendor who was selling it for 1 euro across the way, so he let me buy it for only 50 cents. It helped that I knew a little spanish, but most vendors know enough english to know when a haggling process is going on so don’t be shy if you end up going there and you want to try brining down the prices for yourself.
Overall the ambiance of the market was a fun and lively, the market is usually really crowded so beware of pickpockets in that large setting. It was hands down my favorite place in Barcelona because it gave us all a chance to interact with the locals with the haggling process. We were also able to get recommendations for museums and local hot spots. It was an amazing market and one of the first destinations one should visit when in Barcelona.