Lonely Planet Writer

Barcelona’s Sant Antoni Market finally opens after years of renovations

Barcelona’s Mercat de Sant Antoni has finally reopened after nine years of extensive renovations, costing a whopping 80 million Euros.

The revamped market in Barcelona. Image by Esme Fox

The market officially reopened on 23 May and celebrated in true Catalan style with a big festival. The new market is now even bigger than the more famous Boqueria, and arguably better looking too. Designed by Antoni Rovira i Trias, it first opened in 1882. Built over a wrought-iron skeleton, the market features four long-armed entrances with a central star-shaped apse. Today, after years of refurbishment, it retains much of its original style, but now gleams in freshly-painted terracotta and intricate designs in mustard yellow.

The market closed in 2009.

The market now comprises five levels, with 130 stalls selling everything from fresh food to haberdashery items, as well as 78 extra book stands on Sundays. Underground levels feature a supermarket, food establishments, and even a Roman Museum (set to open at a later date). Unlike the Boqueria, which attracts many visitors to the city, Sant Antoni caters to the needs of the neighbourhood. Many of the new stalls have in fact been passed down through the generations. Maria Masclans, who owns the cod stall and is president of the Fresh Market, is the fifth generation of her family to work at the market, while butcher Joan Anglada’s family has had a stall there for over 130 years.

The market is popular with locals. Image by Dan Convey

Many have been anticipating the opening for years, and Sant Antoni has gradually been changing into a trendy, much sought-after area. Even world celebrated chef Albert Adrià (of El Bulli fame) opened two bars nearby since renovations began. Anthony Armenta, who has lived nearby for the past four years said: “there have been many changes to the neighbourhood, from the welcoming of foreigners into the community, to niche cafes popping up. The market has already made the neighbourhood community stronger, and has become the hub of the barrio, where people stop for a chat and a coffee. Unlike other markets, its design is simple with a few tapas bars, which makes you believe that it was especially designed for los vecinos (the neighbours) as opposed to the tourists.” 

It’s clear that the new market has changed the atmosphere of the whole area, and those changes are set to continue.

Words: Esme Fox