The Mercado de Sant Antoni is in many ways the beating heart of one of Barcelona's most vibrant neighborhoods. Now, locals are celebrating its new lease on life, as the market reopens after a nine-year renovation.
A Quintessential Barcelona Market
The market has been hosted in a temporary structure while €80 million was being invested in turning the area into a "super block." There is now a pedestrian-friendly area with more greenery and play sets for children surrounding the market.
The Guardian explains how this massive market is structured:
Sant Antoni actually consists of three markets. As well as a food area with 52 stalls, there are 95 stalls in the Encants (enchantments), the lightly ironic Catalan term for a flea market. In this case it mainly sells cheap clothes. On Sundays, Sant Antoni also hosts one of Europe’s largest open-air book markets, with 78 stalls selling new and secondhand books, comics, stamps and other collectables.
Opening for the first time in 1882, the market was designed by Ildefons Cerdà, famed for designing Barcelona's Eixample neighborhood. By 2009, though, the steel-framed building had some steep maintenance costs and was in desperate need of updates.
Hub of the Sant Antoni Community
Locals celebrated the reopening in May 2018 with poetry readings, dances, and music. The renovation had suffered delays, in part as a result of the discovery of part of a Roman road and an old city wall. As a hub of this working-class—but quickly gentrifying community—residents were more than eager to see its return:
“The market generates business, it’s a point of attraction but it’s also a social nexus,” explains Agustí Colom, head of commerce on the city council and the man charged with implementing Barcelona’s costly citywide market renovation plan. “People don’t just shop, they talk and they feel part of a community. We run programs in markets for elderly people who feel isolated. Because they’re regular customers, there are people there who know them and to whom they can talk about their problems.”
Still, locals aren't keen on having the market turn into another tourist hub like the Boquería market off La Rambla. In order to ensure that this doesn't happen, they've reduced the number of bars and are discouraging stalls that are designed for tourists.
Visitors should be respectful, and instead of snapping Instagram stories, should put away their phones, talk to the vendors, and make some purchases. It's a surefire way to glimpse what daily life in Barcelona is really like.