It’s not quite up there with waiting for the Sagrada Famillia to be completed but it’s up there. 9 years and 80 million euros later – the Sant Antoni market finally opened its doors and the locals came, in their good clothes with their fancy trolleys.
After having to contend with the narrow passageways of the adjacent temporary market it’s a joy to navigate 4 large avenues radiating forth from beneath the central apex. 53 food stalls: fishmongers, butchers, greengrocer, cod specialists, 2 egg stalls, olives and conserves and so on. On the outside of the food stalls is the flea market, affordable clothing, shoes. There is one stall that sells house dresses, the kind my grandmother used to wear when she knew she would be spending the day indoors cooking or cleaning. On Sundays, the Sant Antoni market is surrounded by second-hand booksellers.
Notably absent, tapas stands, bars anything that may prove too enticing to tourists. To the Catalans, markets are about more than shopping. They are the heart of every neighborhood, some neighbourhoods have 2 or 3 hearts. A market is never far away. And with it an opportunity to interact with merchants who know their products and know your name. You develop a relationship with them and they will remember what you like, putting aside the freshest eggs for a sympathetic toddler say.
In a city and a neighborhood, in particular, that has a visible elderly population, this daily foray into the sunshine (always sunshine in Barcelona) and into the market is an essential part of the day.
I visit the information stall. Next to a pamphlet listing all the stands, there is another that says “READ ME!”. I pick it up expecting to get a history lesson but instead realize it’s a lesson in market etiquette. No stopping in the middle of corridors blocking people’s way, no photographing people without their permission.
It feels like they are anticipating throngs of selfie stick-wielding tourists, who let’s face it are probably booking their Barcelona tour as you read this. The choice of stalls firmly communicates that this is a market for the residents of Sant Antoni.
Then there is this, despite the market being striking when viewed from the outside and leading to the expectation that it will be even more incredible when viewed from within. It’s not. The stalls are very high and so positioned that the eye is drawn along horizontally rather than up, which is where there is something to see.
So it’s not for tourists then but for the lucky (and patient) residents of Sant Antoni.
Mercat de Sant Antoni
Carrer del Comte d’Urgell, 1
08011 Sant Antoni