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The five best Spanish food markets

Andy Stevens / 30 August 2016

Traditional food markets are a destination in themselves in Spain. Here are five of the very best cathedrals to the culinary that Spain has to offer.

Inside Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, Barcelona
Inside Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, Barcelona © Tupungato /

These sensational foodie heavens are a daily staple of Spanish life in so many towns and cities, conjuring up a cacophony of sights, sounds and smells guaranteed to take your tastebuds into overdrive.

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Mercado de la Calle Feria, Seville

In a city widely - and wisely - feted as the home of tapas, Feria holds the proud accolade of being Seville's oldest food market, selling its produce to the city's people in two market buildings, separated by a small alleyway beside a beautiful 13th century church: the Omnium Sanctorum.
At Feria you'll find the freshest fish, meat, fruit and vegetables as expected, plus a few surprises to boot; there's a fabulous flower stall and a baking boutique that's a haven for cake makers.

And no amble around Feria is complete without stopping off for a bite to eat at the market's charmingly unpretentious La Cantina bar, where stunning fresh fish and tapas straight from stalls to plate are the order of the day.

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Mercado Central de Atarazanas, Malaga

Malaga's central market, Atarazanas, is an absorbing place of great colour that will have you wandering in wonderment and sampling seriously fresh snacks for several hours should you choose.

Atarazanas boasts no fewer than 260 fresh food stalls, whose beautiful displays of the freshest finery are matched by an inspirational renovation of a grand building, which once served as Malaga's shipyard in a previous life.

It has been a market since 1879, and you'll see echoes of Paris' famous Les Halles in its design origins, plus a beautiful stained glass window has been added in recent years. There's a distinct nod to the culinary magic of Morocco among some of the stalls, where olives, dates, dried fruits and nuts vie for your attention alongside tempting pastilla pies of meats, almonds and cinnamon.

And Malaga's main market's bars simply buzz; make sure you pull up a stool and watch the world go by over fresh fried shrimps, octopus or Iberian pork loin to name but three specialities, washed down with a full-bodied local beer.

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Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, Barcelona

The Catalan capital prides itself on doing things its own way, tradition and history dictating its desire to show Spain it's the biggest and the best, whether in architecture and innovation, football and, of course, food.

Nowhere can you tap into that singular Barca spirit better than by venturing in to the vaulted and exalted hangar of the Boqueria market, with its distinctive ornate wrought-iron entrance. This dazzling temple to fresh comestibles is halfway up the left side of the ho-hum melee that is the city's Ramblas artery - and simply one of the world's finest food markets.

Wend your way past the hanging jamons and fresh fish stalls to a prime spot for grazing your way through small plates of fresh tapas and local specialities at one of the bars near the back of the Boqueria, with the market's vibrant hubbub as your backdrop.

Barcelona's Boqueria is the art of fresh food selling as theatre, where among the tourists and locals, Catalonia's best restaurateurs come as much to buy the best produce as to pay gastronomic homage.

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid

San Miguel is one of the Spanish capital's oldest markets, just off the Plaza Mayor, slap-bang in the heart of the city. This gorgeous steel and glass edifice is thriving once more after a sympathetic renovation in recent years, which has turned it more into a destination to stop, eat and drink, whether that's tapas, pinchos or something more substantial.

San Miguel has become a vibrant social hub for Madrilenos, with tables now lining the centre of the market, filled in the evenings with chatting locals in this famously late night city.

Buy your freshly cooked tapas and sundry delights such as magnificent olives from the 33 stalls around the perimeter of the market, then take a seat and soak up the atmosphere. And don't forget to make a beeline for stall 20, known as 'Sherry Corner', to fortify yourself with some tipples from the town of Jerez's most famous gift to the world.

Plaza de Abastos, Cadiz

Cadiz's central Abastos market holds the accolade of being Spain's oldest covered market, built in 1838. Impressive it is, too, with its neo-classical quadrangle, Doric arches and colonnades.

No prizes for guessing that the foodie focal point of this proud Andalusian port city's main market is fish, fish, more fish and all other things seafood, renowned to be the freshest in Spain.

Take in that special fish market vibe with a stroll among the stalls, before sampling fruits of the sea yourself in the market's gastronomic corner, including moreish cones of fried shrimps, oysters, fresh sushi and Cadiz's very own craft beers.

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Where do you love to shop in Spain?

Have we missed a hidden gem? Let us know where tickles your taste buds in Spain.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.