Travel is synonymous with food and for me and no trip is complete without sampling the local cuisine. In all my years of travel experience, I found the best food in local markets. They are great places to soak up the local culture and guarantee vibrantly colourful photos. During our long pan-Europe road trip which covered France and Spain, Tarek and I visited many such local watering holes and our most memorable food affair was at Girona, in Spain. It was only fitting since Girona is hailed as the new food capital of the world and the city boasts of the second-best restaurant in the world. However, since we were on a budget trip, we gave the city‘s Michelin-starred restaurants a miss and instead opted for a very enjoyable Girona food market visit.

Welcome to Girona, the food city of Spain

What to eat at Girona food market

Girona‘s Catalan cuisine showed up on our plates at various small eateries across the city and Suzanne, our BnB hostess was an exceptional cook. From Iberian ham tapas platters, xuixo pastries, grilled boitifarra, a typical Catalan sweet sausage to local liqueur Ratafia, our Girona food market experience was one big gastronomic affair. We were there in spring when Ajo paisajes or garlic scapes were in season and the whole city basked in a delicious aroma. Flower buds of the garlic plant, which are removed to allow the bulbs to fatten up, ajo paisajes made me so curious, that eventually, Suzanne stepped in to accompany me for a visit to the Girona food market. A proud Catalan, she loved everything about her city and the Girona food market visit is a very memorable one.

The Girona food market is great for photos and cheap eats.

Artichokes on sale at Girona food market

Recommended read for food lovers: Food thoughts collection

Mingle with the locals at Girona food market

She took me to the local El Lleó market which is a sort of nerve center of Girona. The Spanish take their food seriously and they love to spend their time lavishly. Thus their marketplaces double up as a place for meeting up, exchanging boisterous holas and juicy gossip, along with some fresh produce shopping. The defiant Catalans are no different and Girona‘s local market was an interesting peep into the province‘s rich food culture. Housing around 60 stalls offering a mind-boggling variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, preserves, cheese, and groceries, it was an absolutely photogenic place. Colours popped out from spiky artichokes and strings of sausages, as garlic scapes gave off a pungent aroma. The market was frequented by the locals at the time of our visit and we received our share of samplings, holas, and a complimentary bottle of wine.

Fish on sale at the Girona food market

Fish and seafood selection

Sneak peek of Agora Market in Crete: Agora Market in Crete

Take those awesome photos

In the mornings, however, the vendors hardly have time even for a brief chat, since the Girona‘s chefs come to shop for their restaurants. Now, for a city that holds the title of having the second-best restaurant in the world, along with fantastic food culture, that is a huge responsibility on the local market, yet it never fails to deliver. Bustling, laughing, and friendly, it was a great place to wander, shop, take photos, and gorge on some delicious snacks. Baby pickled aubergines, grilled artichoke hearts, and savoury coca pastries..the list of local Catalan dishes found there was endless and they were much pocket-friendlier than the reputed second-best restaurant in the world.

Top everything up with generous cups of sangria.

Don’t leave Girona without trying these dishes

  • Xuixo – Pronounced as ‘CHOO-chos’, this very sweet pastry filled with cream is a must-try.  
  • Sweet ‘botifarra’ sausage – A local product hailing from medieval times, is cured meat that can be eaten roasted with apple, cinnamon, and lemon.
  • Pals Arros/Rice – Introduced by the Arabs from Valencia in the 12th century, this rice is used in numerous rice stews, especially a particular Empordà plate.
  • Fesol d’ull ros – Locally known as the ‘banyolí’ bean, this is a typical kind of legume from the Baix Empordà and Estany area. They are excellent when eaten with shredded cod (‘bacallà escaixat’) or grilled vegetables (‘escalivada’). 
  • Ratafia – A local liquor made by mixing different regional ingredients (such as fruit, medicinal herbs, roots, pine nuts, and spices) in brandy.
  • Pollastre amb Escamarlans – This is an unusual combination of chicken, and shellfish and is truly delicious.
  • Beef with Bolets/Wild Mushrooms – The combination of juicy meat stewed with the mountain, mossy-scented wild mushrooms (‘bolets’) is heavenly. It is slow cooked for best results.
  • Can Xapa Chocolate – This is one of Girona’s best gastronomic heritage. Can Xapa is a bakery inside a 13th-century castle and their star product is the ‘xocolata a granel’. Made in slabs of 1.5kg that are then broken down into pieces, this chocolate has 85 percent cocoa and candied dried fruits.

Sounds delicious? Take a look for yourselves!

Vegetables on sale at Girona Food Market

The Catalans take their food seriously.

Spanish tomatoes and sweet potatoes on sale at Girona Food Market

Their cuisine is a riot of colours.

Locals buying fish at Girona Food Market

The region is blessed

Vegetables displayed for sale at Girona Food Market

With abundance of local products like

Spanish tomatoes, garlic and lemons on sale at Girona Food Market

Colourful healthy vegetables

Truffles on sale at Girona Food Market

Mushrooms and other forest floor goodies.

Meat products on sale at Girona Food Market

Meat also has a lot of importance

Spanish tomatoes and sun dried pepper on display at Girona Food Market

Along with many local specialties.

Man buying fish at Girona Food Market

Go there to mingle with the locals

Wine store at Girona Food Market

Sample some Catalan wine

Girona Food Market shop

Soak up the culture

Meat on sale at Girona Food Market

Experience its quirks

Spanish peppers on sale at Girona Food Market

Take awesome photos

A friendly wine store owner at Girona Food Market

And make friends.

Locals at Girona Food Market

Thanks to my Girona hostess Suzanna

Stuffed baby aubergines sold as snacks at Girona Food Market

My Girona Food Market visit

Artichoke hearts sold as snacks at Girona Food Market

Was also a very delicious experience.

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