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When we first visited Barcelona in 2007 (gulp) during our honeymoon, we hit all of the typical tourist attractions. We marveled at Gaudi’s masterpieces including the Sagrada Familia, Park Güell and Casa Battló. We strolled around the Gothic Quarter and ogled at the beautiful architecture. And, of course, we ate lots of beautiful food and visited the city’s most famous market, La Boqueria.
Like the rest of Spain, Barcelona has changed quite a bit in the past decade. Catalunya’s largest city is an even more popular destination with international visitors streaming through the city’s expansive, well-planned streets as the amazing Sagrada Familia inches closer to its eventual completion.
But interestingly, we have changed as well. After traveling around the world, most recently for three weeks in nearby Girona, we found that the Boqueria market no longer excites us with its hectic atmosphere and central Las Ramblas location.
Don’t get us wrong – the Boqueria is absolutely worth a visit for tourists new to the city. There’s a reason that visiting this market is one of the most popular things to do in Barcelona. But for us, as more seasoned travelers and repeat Barcelona visitors, we wanted to visit an intimate market that caters more to locals than to tourists.
We love markets where we can graze our way through the stalls and buy seasonal food to cook at home, and we gravitate to markets where shopkeepers take pride in their products over generations and know their customers’ names. Plus, we hate waiting in long lines, especially when there’s food involved.
Luckily for us, we had the opportunity to eat our way through the Eixample neighborhood’s Mercat del Ninot, one of the best Barcelona markets. This market is one of a network of 39 Barcelona markets selling products that rival those sold in the Boqueria while offering a neighborhood shopping experience that made us feel like locals.
We stayed at the comfortable, conveniently located Silver Aparthotel Barcelona during our time in Barcelona. Click here to find the best rates for this 2foodtrippers approved hotel.
Mercat del Ninot
Dating back to the late 19th century, Mercat Ninot feels refreshingly new after a massive five-year renovation. The market’s current iteration is perfect for modern shoppers who appreciate Ninot’s wide aisles, bright lighting, long hours and available Wi-Fi. Most important though, the market has some of the city’s best food vendors selling some of the world’s tastiest food.
We’re talking ruby-red tomatoes just begging to be part of the evening’s Pan Con Tomate and super fresh fish with eyes as clear as the bright morning sky. Oh, we can’t forget the fresh mushrooms that spilled out from their baskets in full autumnal glory, yet another reason that we loved visiting the market that Barcelona locals call the Mercado del Ninot.
Within moments of our arrival at Mercat del Ninot, the father/daughter team of Ricardo Monfort Barril and Isaura Monfort Porta warmly greeted us and ushered us to Peixeteria Osteria for our first bites at the freshly renovated market.
We were skeptical as to how this market’s offerings would compare to the wonderful seafood we ate at Costa Brava’s seafood market in Palamòs, but the dishes at Peixeteria Osteria impressed us with every bite. We feasted on seafood like jumbo octopus, crispy squid and massive Galician oysters, washing it all down with glasses of local white wine.
We could have happily nibbled and sipped at this market tapas bar all day, but our guides were anxious to show us more of the mercado Ninot.
Over the next two hours, we strolled around the market, stopping at various stalls where Barril introduced us to the extended family of vendors and their wares. We checked out delicacies like fresh fish at Peixateria Mary and creative chicken at El Pagès.
We learned that salt cod was for the poor back in the day when the market was new but is now more of a luxury item, and we heard stories about how the same families have been shopping for generations at Porta Novau, the lentil shop owned by our enthusiastic guides.
Sampling anchovies and prepared fish delicacies at BacaLalo was a particular highlight of our market tour. Not only did we love all of the generous samples, but we also savored the glasses of Cava that magically appeared and fell into our open hands. Seriously, folks, this is the way to shop!
With so many stops and snacks built into the tour, we unfortunately missed eating lunch at Ninot Cuina, the market’s most fashionable restaurant. When we return to Barcelona, we know where we’re eating lunch.
Mercat del Ninot is located at Carrer de Mallorca, 133, 08036 Barcelona, Spain.
Mercat del Ninot Video
Not wanting our Mercat del Ninot experience to end too quickly, we continued the fun at nearby La Parada Bar Restaurant where we drank coffees and chatted with Porta about the market and her Barcelona life.
Porta proved to be a charming coffee companion, open to sharing her thoughts with the two of us. Even better, she let us video the conversation. What a sport!
Watch our YouTube video for the inside scoop about our experience at Mercat del Ninot.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.