Having come up to Gràcia several times to visit Mercat de l’Abaceria, I discovered that it closed on 21st July and will be renovated – which means demolished and rebuilt. This is a great shame since pretty much all the stalls were made of marble and it was a fantastic example of how Barcelona markets used to look. No doubt though, all the market stall holders relocated to a prefabricated structure, will appreciate the mod cons that come with a new building (when it’s finished).
Not to be outdone, I went and visited another Gràcia market instead – Mercat de la Llibertat, which opened in 1888 and was refurbished in 2009. The original cast iron framework is Modernista in style and was designed by architect Miquel Pasqual i Tintorer. The decorative ironwork was designed by architect, Francesc Berenguer i Mestres. There are shops or cabins around the exterior – these normally sell cloth, garments, home wares, etc. (there are similar shops and stalls outside other local markets).
The first thing I noticed in this modernised space was air conditioning and with that, electric doors (quite Star Trek) wich open when you approach. When it’s 30º C outside the AC is very welcome, though I’d still prefer old style market stalls and food wrapped in paper.
I arrived after lunch, when stall holders are reopening and tidying up their stalls. Whilst Mercat de la Llibertat isn’t a touristy market, it’s still handy to arrive at a quiet time for photographs.
Above is the Pedro Fruits del Mar stall. The Fish Lady was busy chopping a merluza (hake) for her customers.
She’d previously been arranging her display for the late afternoon shoppers.
They had some stunning tomatoes too!
Vicky Victoria (opposite) is another fish stall,
selling live crabs
and spiny lobster. I was impressed by how clean the tanks were and in spite of the lobster sitting on a crab, the crustaceans do have a lot of space to move around.
Bayo Soler have one of the largest stalls in the market,
selling meat and poultry on the right
with cheese and charcuterie on the left.
Antolín sells fruit and vegetables,
all of which looked stunning, especially these red peppers.
Bordas is a meat stall at the top of the next isle,
specialising in beef, goat, lamb and veal. Note the whole goat above.
Just next door, I was surprised to find Jixiang Sushi – though perhaps not that surprising, since sushi has become very popular everywhere. There are quite strong ties between Spain and Japan, since both countries are great fish lovers. Most people don’t realise that Iberian Jesuits took tempura (the name comes from Latin and relates to fasting) to Japan in the 16th century and that the Japanese come to buy the finest bluefin tuna from the South of Spain – the fish are caught (using a 3,000 year old method) when they enter the Mediterranean to spawn.
At the bottom of the market (it’s on a hill) I discovered a fabulous fish stall – Joan Noi.
It sells some fantastic fish (as you’d expect), like the monkfish above
and it also has a restaurant (El Tast de Joan Noi), on the other end, which looks very good and reasonable to boot.
See for yourself on the menu above. I will be returning, at some point, for lunch!
In the center of the market I found Lagrana,
selling local dried fruit and nuts, some of which could give Fortnum and Mason a very good run for their money.
As with most renovated Catalan markets, there’s a small supermarket, Bonpreu, attached to Mercat de la Llibertat.
I find this somewhat strange, but I’ve been told that all market stalls are relatively cheap to rent, so perhaps the local government charges supermarkets a premium to subsidise the market stallholders. I was even more surprised this week to discover a huge Lidl in the basement of the newly renovated Sant Antoni Market …right next to a Roman wall!
In spite of my reservations about modernising old markets, I was pleasantly surprised by Mercat de la Llibertat – it hasn’t been spoiled. The stalls sell the very best produce, which isn’t cheap, but it’s not excessive either. I would come here to shop and I’m definitely returning to eat the fish in Joan Noi.