Mercado de La Bretxa: for the freshest produce in San Sebastián
Following an intense transformation, Mercado de La Bretxa is now undoubtedly one of the most emblematic features of San Sebastián’s old town. The name of the market stems from local history. Back in the 18th and early 19th centuries, invading troops gained access to the city through a breach (‘bretxa’ in Basque) in the walls where the market now stands.
The market itself dates back to 1870 and has evolved greatly since then. What started out as a traditional marketplace is now a fully-fledged shopping centre combining the essence of its origins with modern shops and eateries. Whether you’re interested in the history or fancy a shopping spree, make a visit to La Bretxa part of your San Sebastián plans.
La Bretxa: from traditional market to shopping centre
San Sebastián’s Mercado de La Bretxa has two centuries of history behind it and is now an important centre for local commerce. 19th-century architect Antonio Cortázar was the mind behind the building that would later be extended by José de Goicoa in 1898. The original La Bretxa was U-shaped. It had a central patio which was later roofed at the same time that the current facade was added.
Over the years, the complex has evolved to become a hub of shops and other establishments that bring La Bretxa to life. The entire marketplace comprises two distinct buildings: Pescadería and Arkoak. In addition to major chains you’ll find traditional market stalls selling all manner of local products. What’s more, in the space outside the market local producers sell a selection of fruit, vegetables, cheeses and flowers.
What to buy in La Bretxa
Modern-day La Bretxa is much more than a market. The range of fresh produce on offer in the Pescadería building is complemented with shops and other establishments in neighbouring Arkoak, not to mention the captivating aroma of the flowers and local fare from the stalls outside.
Located on the tree-lined Boulevard, between the cubes of the Kursaal and the Town Hall, Mercado de La Bretxa is a worthwhile addition to your itinerary, whether to wander around the market stalls or have a splurge in the shops.
Here you’ll find a selection of large shops and restaurants along with a range of other services that you’d expect to find in a modern shopping centre.
Mercado de La Bretxa (Pescadería building)
The lower floor of the emblematic Pescadería building – part of the original construction – is filled with traditional market stalls. You’ll find sausages and fresh meats, fish, pickles, salt cod and a whole host of other items in a market that strives to offer the best quality products. All in all, a foodie heaven.
Behind La Bretxa, local producers offer an impressive selection of vegetables, fruit, cheeses and flowers, giving you a taste of some real Basque produce even before succumbing to the charms of the main market. Much of it is produced on the traditional Basque country estates which are such an essential part of the local culture. The smells and tastes of the items on offer are testament to the love and care with which they’re cultivated and brought to market.
Alternatives to Mercado de La Bretxa
One of the secrets to the success of San Sebastián’s cuisine is the quality of the raw ingredients. Mercado de La Bretxa is one of the best places to gauge this quality for yourself, though there are several others offering a selection of produce and culinary experiences that won’t disappoint:
Mercado de San Martín (Calle Loiola)
Along with Mercado de La Bretxa, this is one of the most representative local markets. The new Mercado de San Martín building was opened in 2005 and brings tradition and modernity together. Here, market stalls coexist with fashion retailers and food establishments, making for a unique shopping experience.
As if the charm of San Sebastián’s markets wasn’t enough, the city has a variety of gourmet shops that further showcase the essence of Basque cuisine. Many are family businesses and they sell all nature of quality local products. These are the flag-bearers for the local gastronomy culture.
You’ll find artisan cheese and local produce in Aitor Lasa Gaztategia (Aldamar, 12), traditional sweets in Garrarte (Portu Kalea, 3), craft beer in Kañabikaña Craft Beer Shop (Zurriola Hiribidea, 36) and organic produce in Izarbide (Aldamar, 16).
Other markets near San Sebastián
Those of you looking for an out-of-town gastronomy experience have plenty of options. Just a few kilometres outside of the Gipuzkoan capital are the markets in Ordizia and Tolosa.
The first has a long tradition dating back to the 11th century. Every Wednesday it brings together sellers from across the region offering a range of fresh fare. The market in Tolosa takes place on Saturdays in three different venues in the town: El Tinglado is reserved for local produce; Plaza Euskal Herria is for textiles and non-local items; and Plaza Verdura is where you’ll find plants and flowers.