“Now we finally have light!” a vendor excitedly tells a customer, one of many similar exclamations we overhear while wandering around the new temporary digs of the Mercat de L’Abaceria Central.
Formerly housed in a historic building on Travessera de Gràcia in the Gràcia neighborhood, the market and its 56 food vendors, 43 food stalls, 13 clothing and kitchenware merchants and two cafeterias recently shifted to a nearby location as renovation work begins on the original structure.
The current temporary building is small, around 1,900 square meters, but functional, with natural light, air conditioning and some other facilities that the old-fashioned and much larger (3,900 square meters) market structure from 1892, covered with graffiti and darkened by decades of pollution, never had.
When the original building was closed for restoration, the market’s vendors were moved to this smaller structure in the upper section of Passeig de Sant Joan. Even though it’s only a short distance away, the new temporary market brings an entirely different energy and liveliness to the surrounding commercial and residential area. As the Mercat de L’Abaceria Central shows, even if it’s in a makeshift state, a market is the beating heart of a neighborhood.
The new temporary market brings an entirely different energy and liveliness to the surrounding area.
One of 40 municipal markets in Barcelona (including the beautifully renovated Mercat de Sant Antoni that recently reopened), the L’Abaceria Central Market has long been a formidable presence. When it was established in the late 19th century, it was the second market in Gràcia village, which was formerly annexed by the city of Barcelona in 1897. In that era, Gràcia was home to a number of textile factories, which in large part led to an increase in the population from 13,000 in 1850 to 33,000 in 1877. The market catered to the growing number of factory workers and became a commercial motor and second heart of sorts for neighborhood development, pumping new blood into Grácia.
Yet recently the market has been losing customers, with the number of visitors dropping 35 percent over the last seven years. It seems as if the excellent products inside, which included organic vegetables, sustainable seafood, excellent charcuterie and artisanal cheeses made locally and abroad, cod sold by bacallaners, Catalonia’s traditional cod vendors, traditional sweets and more, were no match for the dilapidated surroundings.
The new building project will start in 2020 in the same spot as the original market building – part of the original iron structure will be reused, but all the rest will be demolished over the course of the year. The new building will have three underground floors for parking, storage and most likely a supermarket, a divisive addition that has many local residents up in arms (this group generally prefers to stick to the more traditional concept of the market, one focused on natural products from nearby farms). The market, food stalls and cafeterias will be located on the main ground floor, while there will be an additional upper section for offices and community activities, as promoting and providing space for such gatherings is a priority for both locals and the City Council.
We know when the construction will start, but not when it’ll end. In the meantime, L’Abaceria Central Market will live on in a (slightly) new area, to the benefit of their new neighbors, as well as the surrounding restaurants and shops.
If you decide to do your shopping at the temporary market, there are a number of worthwhile establishments in its vicinity. If you’re craving a drink and some snacks, visit the classic Bar Oller, an old-school bar from 1928 with a great terrace in front of the pedestrian boulevard Passeig Sant Joan, for a vermut or beer with some tapas or empanadillas. A bit further down the avenue, you can get an ice cream or orxata at Orxateria Verdú, another classic establishment. Where the avenue meets Carrer de Sant Antoni Maria Claret, you can buy excellent Iberian ham in the specialized shop Jamonarium and some bottles of good local vino, such as Priorat, MontSant or Penedès wines, in Vinalium Sant Joan, a Catalan wine shop chain.
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