Forget stuffy restaurants—some of the best places to sample Spain’s incredible fresh produce are the country’s markets. Whether you want to buy fresh ingredients for a picnic or try ready-made dishes in bustling surroundings, Spain’s markets are a great place to explore. From local favorites to tourist hot spots, we take a look at 10 of the country’s best.
Probably Madrid’s most famous market, Mercado San Miguel is located right in the city center, just off the Plaza Mayor. Built in 1916, the wrought iron and glass structure was renovated and reopened as a gourmet food market in 2009. This is the place to come for freshly prepared food; try Spanish classics like jamón Ibérico (cured Iberian ham), plump, juicy olives, and vermouth—Madrileños favorite aperitif.
This neighborhood market, in the Lavapíes district of Madrid, successfully combines traditional old food stalls, such as family-run butchers and greengrocers, with newer offerings, such as Japanese and vegetarian stalls and a cereal café. Cheaper and with a more “local” feel than San Miguel, it’s a great place to pick up some typical Spanish produce, from olives and cheeses to chorizo and jamón.
The San Fernando market, which opened in 1944 in the heart of Madrid’s diverse neighborhood of Lavapiés, is one of the city’s most local markets and offers everything from butchers, cobblers, and local designers, to craft beer bars, and street food stalls. Prices are cheap and the atmosphere is buzzing with locals sampling the wide range of food and drink on offer.
The second most visited attraction in Santiago de Compostela after the cathedral, Abastos market is a great place to explore the city’s incredible seafood. From scallops and prawns, to lobsters and the local specialty of goose barnacles, there is a wide array of fish and seafood on offer. The market bar will cook up your purchases so you can enjoy the freshest food in the bustling atmosphere.
At 100,000 square feet (10,000m2), Bilbao’s Mercado de la Ribera is the largest indoor market in Europe. Its 1930s Art Deco flourishes make it a beautiful place to explore. Pick up some of the freshest Basque meats, fish, and cheeses, or try some of the market’s produce in La Ribera Bilbao restaurant, which also plays host to live jazz on an evening.
Valencia’s main market is one of the most beautiful and recognizable buildings in the city, and is worth visiting just to marvel at the architecture, which sits in the middle of the city’s Ciutat Vella, or old town. Its iron, glass, and ceramic domes are a good example of early 20th century Valencian architecture. It was opened in 1928, and today has around 1,200 stalls, making it one of Europe’s largest markets. It specializes in fresh food, from meat, fish, fruit, and vegetables, to more local offerings, like olives and cheeses.
Vegetarians are spolit for choice in Córdoba's Mercado Victoria | mariakraynova, shutterstock
This covered gourmet food market is located in the wrought iron former pavilion of the Córdoba Fair (1877). Recently renovated, it includes 30 stalls selling both fresh produce and prepared food from Spain and around the world. Sample octopus, oysters, and salmon, alongside local cheeses, and tapas dishes. Or go further afield gastronomically and enjoy some Mexican, Argentinian, or Japanese specialties. A popular hangout for locals, especially at weekends.
Barcelona’s most famous market has become a top tourist attraction over the years because of its central location on La Rambla, so prepare to jostle with selfie-takers and tour groups as you browse the stalls. It is worth a visit, however, for its bustling atmosphere and tempting food stalls, offering a wide array of freshly prepared dishes.
Less busy than La Boqueria, Santa Caterina is still a popular market with both locals and tourists. Check out its distinctive wavy roof, designed by architect Enric Miralles, its bright colors meant to represent the vibrant fruit and veg for sale within. Stalls sell a wide range of fresh produce, including meat, fish, fruit and veg, and other local specialties.
Sample some of the best produce from the Canary Islands in Gran Canaria’s best market, located in the island’s capital, Las Palmas. The wrought iron-covered market, designed by none other than Gustave Eiffel, was opened in 1891 and remodelled in 1994. The market’s stalls sell both fresh produce and prepared food, including local tapas and dishes, such as mojo potatoes—potatoes accompanied by a spicy sauce.