Barcelona is a veritable mecca for shoppers. The city is big on leather, big on recycling, and big on style. It more than makes up for the usual high-street cohort of Zara, H&M, Mango, and the like, with a host of small boutique designers that smack of individuality.
But the markets are where it’s at. La Boqueria (Rambla 91) is probably the best known of what’s on offer but if you’ve been spoiled by produce markets in Budapest as I’ve been, it’s just another day at the stalls. Nope. It was the fleas I was after. Other people’s junk. Other people’s treasures. And the place to go is what’s billed as one of Europe’s biggest flea markets – Mercat dels Entants (Carrer de los Castillejos 158).
While there’s the usual dose of tat – both Chinese and Turkish – there is plenty to look at. Morning auctions bring collectors from all over searching for a bargain. Had I had checked luggage, I could have done serious damage. It’s a brilliant place to spend a few hours.
Over on Placa Real, we stumbled across a craft market where everything was made from recycled stuff – bags, jewellery, clothes – everything there had once been something else. The last time I was in the city, many many years ago, we stayed in a boarding house on the Real. Each night, we’d nightcap in what was then the tiny Glacier bar before heading to the Pipa Club. The Glacier has now expanded and the Pipa Club, with its collection of Sherlock Holmes’s pipes, has a sign outside letting the world know it’s there. Back in the day, it was only for those who didn’t need to be told. Street entertainment in the city is good – particularly the acrobats. A glass of cava to sip on, some sunshine to bake in, and an acrobatic display to keep you entertained. Not a bad way to pass an hour.
And if it’s art you’re looking for, there’s no shortage of art markets either. The one we found was the Mercadillo de la Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol i del Pi. What was meant to be a quick buzz around to see if anything leapt off the easel screaming my name, turned into a buy. An original watercolour – boats on a beach in black and white by Jordi Serrat Jurado. Having walls has unleashed a madness in me. I have bookshelves of unread books and now I am accumulating tubes of unframed paintings.
That said, it was a lovely way to spend the day.