Vintage shop signs of Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona

Els Tres Tombs 2, Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona

Ronda de San Antoni may not be high on many people’s places to visit, but here at Four Blocks from….we love life’s vignettes.

Look up.

Ronda de San Antoni is one of Barcelona’s important arteries; it runs north to south for 700m, starting at the busy Plaça de la Universitat. The Ronda becomes pedestrianised about halfway along, a stretch of concrete that temporarily housed Mercado San Antoni in tents during the original market building’s refurbishment.

The space left behind is now a thoroughly pleasant place to stroll, with hopscotch and play areas for kids, jumpers for goalposts football pitches and the chance for residents to…

Look up.

Like much of ‘new’ Barcelona, construction started in the 1880s albeit most buildings here are from the 1920s and 1930s. Barcelona’s tight streets don’t always allow for its building fronts to be properly seen. With the temporary market gone, the Ronda opened up.

What piqued my attention immediately were what are now probably vintage shop signs.

Look up! Here are some of my favourites from the Ronda – there are many more in the barrio – and here they are in north to south spotting order.


Vintage shop signs

La Torre undergarments shop, Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona
La Torre: It was being painted the day I walked by. Has some original signing of almost 100 years of age. ‘Timeless’ underwear, too.


Coffee Shop, Cafes Caracas, Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona
Cafes Caracas: Two fonts, two colours. Cafes is clear – Caracas is a wonderfully illegible squiggle a doctor would be proud of.


Mistral Bakery, Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona
Forn Mistral: I love the bulbous curves and the matchsticks lines, reflected in the canopy, too. Best ensaïmadas (sweet pastries) in Barcelona – just look at them!


Hostal Delfos, Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona
Hostal Delfos: Hidden away and easy to miss, this sign is classically drab. Reviews suggest the rooms, shared toilets and hygiene standards can all be inferred from this yellowed wonder sign.


Motor School, Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona
Autoescola 2000: If you can’t be bothered to make an effort, show that you can’t.


Sports Ramells outdoor shop, Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona
Sports Remmells: These were put up in 1969 and age better than fine wine. Half a century selling sports and outdoor kit, easy to see how they pull them in.


Sir, shoe shop, Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona
Sir: My personal favourite. No need for words.


Luxpiel, Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona
Luxpiel: The L, X and E are works of font mastery, and that yellow…I would go every week, if it were a nightclub.


Els Tres Tombs and apartments, Ronda de San Antoni, Barcelona
Els Tres Tombs: This sign needs the building behind it to frame it properly. A Barcelona classic and landmark which never seems to close. Best visited at 3am to see randoms, or 6-8am when the all-night party people’s special type of cheeriness mixes with folk on the way to work.


Seen a sign?

Barcelona is full of amazing shop signs – feel free to share your favourites.

Best butcher in Barcelona

Manel i Elisabet, San Antoni market

Welcome, dear reader,

This week, meat. 

When The Plek (my partner) and I first moved to the San Antoni barrio, Mercado San Antoni was housed in two enormous tents on Ronda de San Antoni. The food tent was above the Metro station, shoppers and stalls packed in like sardines. Outside the smallest store there was always a large queue of locals ordering a vast array of unusual cuts of meat from three souls slicing while confined to a 3 x 2m space.

We queued. We ordered. We paid. We went home. We cooked. We fell in love with each other (again). Aaah. And with Manel i Elisabet, the finest butchers in town.

From thereon in, we were delighted to join the throng – old folk, young folk, restaurant owners and anyone with a good eye for meat shops.

San Antoni Market from outside, Barcelona

Shopping is changing to a ticket system now, but many places in Spain still adhere to the rule of bowling up, asking ‘Who’s last?’ (El ultimo?) and finding your place in the queue. Albeit there are always a few ready to jump the line if you don’t make yourself known sharp.

The stall is housed in the magnificent, reformed Mercado de San Antoni; this iron structure built in 1882 is once again the centre of our neighbourhood.


Manel i Elisabet shop sign, San Antoni market, Barcelona

Manel i Elisabet is a third-generation butcher who first started serving the good citizens of San Antoni in the 1930s. Manel is of true butcher stock, learning at the knee of his grandfather and father after completing military service aged 19. Elisabet is from a line of poultry sellers whose shop was next to Manel’s – they met, and the rest is history. 


Locally-sourced produce

Selection of meats at Manel i Elisabet, San Antonio market, BarcelonaOnce married, they joined the two shops together and now sell a delicious range of beef, lamb, chicken, poultry and pork products. The majority comes from nearby Girona or Vila Franca de Penedes, and the rest from Catalonia. 

Elisabet said: “We know where everything comes from, which farmers, and we get fresh produce every day.

“We eat the produce we sell and the smell of proper, well-kept meat opens up the appetite and the stomach.”


Back in the day

Locals are fondest of the homemade burgers – prepared right in front of your eyes – along with chicken breasts. “I prefer to cut pork ribs,” said Elisabet. Manel prefers what the Argentinians call ‘la arañita’ cut, or pedaset in Catalan. It’s a small cut of meat, usually beef, near the thigh socket.

He explained: “Not many people ask for it, and it’s really tender when you fry it. Many years ago, it was only men that were butchers and they would do all the cutting early in the morning and then leave the women to work and serve for the rest of the day.

“The men would then go and fry up some pedaset and drink red wine. It’s changed now.”

Arguments (rightly) rage about the quantity of meat in the modern diet, the industrialisation of production and its effect on animal welfare, but Manel i Elisabet know their farmers. What hasn’t changed is people’s desire for good food. 


Locally-sourced shoppers

Elisabet said: “We have a lot of loyal, local customers. We see a few new faces. We see a lot of parents stocking up the freezers for their kids, those that have come to Barcelona to study and want to make sure they are eating well.

“People know we know where our stock comes from, that we have good quality at good prices, and hopefully that’s why we’re busy.”

Now you know – Fridays and Saturdays are always buzzing, as are mornings. You can always order ahead and then just pick up and pay.

The Plek and I will no doubt be wandering around there next weekend, then off to the bodega to find a nice red to go with the pedaset.


Opening hours and contact

Manel i Elisabet, parades 1-2, Mercado San Antoni

Tel: +34 934 263 378

Mon, Tue, Sat: 8am-3pm

Weds-Fri: 8am-3pm / 5pm-8pm

Nimmy’s world

Background lighting

There lived an old man who couldn´t remember,
His name, his age or ´twas May or December.
By day he walked mountains, at night swung in the trees,
He´d sleep in an instant, or cuddle up with bees.

So happy was Nimmy he could always be found,
With a smile like a rainbow painted upside down.
His weeks were spent throwing rocks into streams,
Or singing sweet lullabies to chocolate ice-cream.

With nothing to trouble him Nimmy´s eyes knew,
Things no-one else did, like fairies drink dew.
And Imps eat custard straight from your spoon,
Or eyes are made white by the light from the moon.

Nimmy saw clouds were the foam of the sea,
Which made soft, soft beds for a dragon or three.
In the mountains lived trolls whose wind made the wind,
Sweetened by flowers whose perfume felt kind.

Witches are lovely and made Nimmy food,
With lashings of his favourite; tea, well brewed.
Some folk knew not, that they looked like big moths,
While others lay about all day, like big lazy sloths.

And because of this Nimmy decided that never,
A thing on the earth would he choose to remember.
Keep a good lookout for Nimmy’s other world.
Chance is you’re a panther, a flower or a pearl.

Rolling cats

Jumping Cats

The sea’s always nibbling at our crumby city walls.

Yet the wind, oh that wind, sings merry dance for the gulls,

And drifts endless blossoms of minty tea and salts,

With a dash of tasty fishes which sailor men have caught.


We watch as people babble about their paper and their gold,

They swap it for trinkets and the smile at the road.

While we beg for our breakfasts, our dinners and our teas,

But like the alms seekers, no people need we.


True, some kick us, some chase us, but like smart city rats

We’re so good at hiding, folk think we’re just one cat.

All over the city comes that familiar call:

“Oh scabby old moggy, why live here at all?”



When the church bells stop chiming it brings on dark o’clock,

The people rush home to bed, slamming doors, bang click lock.

All day we’ve eaten rubbish, but we’ve been talking to our fleas.

We’re going rock ‘n’ rolling. “Who’s rolling out with me?”


It starts in the plaza – there’s Billy, there’s Tom!

Who’s that stretching their paws out? It’s Kate, come along!

Link front legs and back legs and tails now…….woooooaaaaahhhh!

Steady the giant cat ball. Now grow grow grow!


Move round. Form a wheel, for these narrow old town streets,

Rolling faster than the birds fly, oh what a treat.

With no one to see us we roll around the boats,

We pause at the tower top and we number six dozen coats.


In the market we make hair clips from fishy little spines.

Lap oils from old fish heads before warm dawn’s chime.

We knock the barrow of the man who’s cheating with his prices,

Bounce on the canons. BOOM BOOM BOOM! Once, twice, thrice!


Final lap on the city wall, the sun’s upon the brow….

We’re too big for the city gates! Crash bang, meeeoooowww.

Run home, run fast all cats, each moggy to its mat.

And that’s why we love here; the world of rolling cats.