Els Encants Vells, Barcelona’s flea market

Published in The Travel Blog

Els Encants Vells is Barcelona’s biggest and most popular flea market selling everything from denim Levi jackets to power tools. The Catalan name of the market Mercat dels Encants Vells literally translates as Market of Old Charms, which is very appropriate as Encants is awash with hidden wonders. The market has a jumble sale vibe about it due to its chaotic nature and eclectic mixture of goods being sold right next to each other. Antiques, cosmetics, clothing, furniture, hardware, records, sculptures, toys and technical knickknacks are amongst the commodities. If you’re a magpie in terms of spotting shiny gems, then setting aside a morning on your city break to Barcelona to stroll around comes highly recommended.

Encants is one of Europe’s oldest markets and has existed since the 14th century. The original name of the market was La Fira Bellcaire. This bizarre market has now been in the same spot for over 80 years and currently has around 500 workers. The unconventionally structured 15,000 square metre open-air market receives around 100,000 visitors a week in search of treasure.

Encants is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. From 7am until 9am there are antique auctions and then again at midday and the stalls open up at 8:30am and close in the early afternoon. To the side of the market is a vast and extremely impressive furniture hall, which is a must see. Allow at least half a day for a visit to Encants as time is needed to navigate around the hundreds of stalls and to rummage through everything in order to find the gems.

Merchandise worth the investment are the vast collection of vintage sunglasses, jewellery, denim jackets and shirts, vintage clothing, leather bags, books, antiques and other decorations for the house, the selection of beautiful fabric designs, such as cushion cases, the wide variety of good value cosmetic products, household tools and hrdware goods, such as paint. They also have a great selection of second hand children’s toys at knock-off prices, which are definitely worth the purchase.

Tips for a successful trip to Encants include having patience, as among the bric-a-brac there are some real gems to be found but it takes a little bit of time to rummage through the goods to find the treasure. Let yourself get lost in the chaos of Encants but be sure to watch your pockets and bags at all times as this is a pickpocket’s heaven. Also be sure to haggle as bargaining is part and parcel of the Encants’ philosophy.

Additionally it’s advisable not to buy any second-hand electronic goods, such as mobile phones or cameras, however vintage and aesthetically luring they are as most of the time these items are broken, due to the fact they’re normally stolen, and refunds are not available. Also on Saturday’s the prices have been known to rocket and the market is extremely busy, so it’s recommended to try and get to Encants on one of the other trading days in the week.

If you’re feeling like you need a little break from all of the rummaging have a coffee and a sit down whilst basking in the sunshine. Encants is the best place for people watching so a little down time is even an interesting experience.

The market is handily located just a hop and a skip away from Encants and Glories metro stations. Also the modern architectural building the Torre Agbar, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, is just across the road and the Glòries mall is also very nearby.

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