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Barcelona: Bargain shopping at Encants flea market

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"One man's trash is another man's treasure"... especially at a flea market. Photos by Regina W Bryan
"One man's trash is another man's treasure"... especially at a flea market. Photos by Regina W Bryan

Most of my friends were shocked to hear that in my eight years in Barcelona I’d never “done” the Encants flea market. I assured them that I had wanted to, but had just never found the time, or the urge, to dig through piles of used junk one early Saturday morning. My Encants flea market moment finally came a few months ago, after moving into a new apartment.

Recently, my partner and I have come into a lot of stemware. We’ve got glasses for wine, for tequila, for shmancy cocktails. We’ve got decanters, and platters, and tiny espresso sets. Who knows why we have all these liquid-holding things when we’re short on forks and knives, but such as it is, we needed a place to store them. Our apartment is small, and so we wanted a cabinet that is corner-shaped, in order to maximize space. We also wanted it to be old, vintage or antique, and not from Ikea.

So off  to Encants flea market we went, one sunny spring morning. We were there for hours. We did find what we were looking for, and bought a “carved wooden china nook thing” for about $40, with transportation. The transportation was a man from Morocco named Steve (not his real name), who wheeled our nook all the way from the market to our house and then helped us move it up the stairs (new apartment is without lift = buns-of-steel). Upon arrival, we noted marks on the nook, which seemed to be from termites, and spent several days patching these marks with anti-insect gum, and considering the merits of sanding and varnishing the cabinet. It’s a work in progress.

Flea market finds.

We bought several other items at Encants, and one can find great deals if one is: aggressive (there are lots of people and they are PUSHY), sharp-eyed, and determined. I saw hipsters digging through piles of crap, and pulling out tomorrow’s fashion statements. I saw antique dealers picking up treasures for nothing. I saw tourists looking lost and at risk of being robbed (keep an eye on your bag). I saw a toaster, and I bought it, and then negotiated for a blender. All in all, it was a stressful but successful experience.

The official name for Encants is Els Encants Vells and though it appears as little more than a sort of junk yard with stands, it’s actually one of the oldest markets in Europe still in use, dating back to the 14th century…. at least that’s what it says on their website, which you can find here.

Encants flea market

Open: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, from around 9 am-5 pm (though some stalls close at 3 pm).

Where: Get off at Glories metro stop and walk under the overpass to the other side of the roundabout (away from the Agbar tower). If you don’t see it, ask someone. (See a map here)

What: Clothes, antiques, vintage, electrical, home furnishings, and pretty much anything else you can think off, apart from food and animals.

Read more on the Encants website.

About the author

Regina W Bryan

About the author: Regina W.Bryan is a Barcelona-based freelance writer and photographer. When not eating tapas and exploring Europe, she is tending her balcony veggie garden and practicing Catalan. For more of her thoughts on Spain, check: www.regwb.com and www.thespainscoop.com.

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