Any Flea market enthusiast who has been to Barcelona will have been to Encants. A beautifully crumbling encampment of old style junk-on-the-ground type traders, alongside the cheap cotton underwear and flimsy kitchenalia sellers. The traders would generally be found hiding underneath a makeshift umbrella, wiping their brows to try and ward off the heat.
There are writings to believe that Encants dates back to the 14th century making it one of Europes oldest markets. The Space itself oozed character and decaying charm, perfectly befitting with the contents strewn onto the bedsheets on the tarmac. Makeshift shelters with tin roofs and awnings, graffiti on weather worn yellow brick and the walk to get there through El Clot was the precursor to entering this run down shanty town of commerce. The traders spotted you (as a tourist) a mile off and shouted ridiculous prices with little room for haggling, perhaps because they didn't really want to sell to you anyway.
Late last year the market was relocated to a shiny purpose built shelter at the busy traffic filled interchange at Glories (just down the road from El Clot). Designed by architect Fermin Vazquez, the reflective canopy aligns the traders within a multi layered terrace, with the junk-on-the-ground traders taking prime position in the centre of the structure.
Why did they move to such a modern construction? Would this kill the beauty of the old market? Would it turn it completely into a tourist trap? Will it change the entire atmosphere of the place?
We went already thinking that we wouldn't like the new arrangement but came away pleasantly confounded. The traders are still the same, the junk is still strewn on the ground and is still rubbish (amazing rubbish!), you still have to hunt and rummage and elbow your way to the best finds, you're still checking over your shoulder to see if your bag is on your back. Yes it does feel different and doesn't have that notion of walking back into another time, and indeed you do kind of look at the contents differently. Shiny things are suddenly slightly more attractive and crappy things a little bit more crap.
But it was still Encants and still one of the best Flea Markets in Europe.