Madrid’s best markets offer everything from antiques and vintage goodies to tapas and the finest Spanish produce. These are Culture Trip’s pick of the top places to shop, eat and drink in this stylish capital.
Markets have always been a focal point of life in any Spanish town or city, with residents exchanging gossip over the colourful fruit and vegetable stalls. This is especially noticeable in Madrid, a city that has taken the mercado to whole new levels over recent years. Below, take a tour of the best markets in the Spanish capital, from top-notch tapas in historical settings to antique booksellers in its most famous park.
Situated off the stately Plaza Mayor, Mercado San Miguel was founded over a hundred years ago and reopened in 2009 after extensive restoration. The wrought-iron and glass structure is packed with takeaway stalls and tapas bars, where you’ll rub shoulders with stylish Madrileños as well as foodie travellers. Visit Basque specialist Amaiketako and tuck into their tuna, anchovy and piparra chilli pepper salad, sample one of the Spanish capital’s best burgers at Raza Nostra, which justifiably refers to itself as the “temple of meat”, or choose from more than two hundred vinos and sherries on offer at Pinkleton & Wine. Shopping and snacking doesn’t get much classier than this.
A bastion of urban chic, Mercado San Ildefonso is one of the best places to eat and drink in the fashionable Malasaña neighbourhood. Situated just a few minutes’ walk from Tribunal Metro, its three airy floors are home to twenty food stands, three bars and two intimate terraces. A good selection of international beers and ciders await you at Barra Beer Experience – conveniently the first place you’ll hit after entering – while up on the first-floor Brochets serves delicious beef, pork and chicken skewers (brochetas), and Paco’s Tacos offers Mexican classics such as nachos and burritos. It’s ideally located for refreshment while exploring the trendy Calle Fuencarral or shopping on Gran Via.
Mercado San Anton was opened in 2011, on the site of an 18th-century market that specialised in wooden drawers. The offering has diversified since then, with shiny tapas bars and colourful stalls split over the first two levels and a rooftop bar with city views above them. The focus here is on high-quality Spanish fare – think cured hams, patatas bravas and croquetas, to name just a few – but if you’re after something different, try the “Korean-style fried chicken” or the dim sum at AKMA Mix. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, join locals from the hip Chueca neighbourhood (the market is reached via the Metro station of the same name) for a G&T on the rooftop terrace.
Found in the no-frills Tetuán neighbourhood in north Madrid, the Mercado de Maravillas has over 200 stalls, making it the city’s largest municipal market. Completed in the early 1940s on the site of a college that burnt down in 1931, the “Market of Marvels” is aptly named, with hundreds of noisy vendors selling everything from flowers and olive oils to Galician fish and seafood. The people-watching here is among some of the best in Madrid: simply set yourself up with a caña and a tapa, sit back and enjoy.
Worlds away from the humble Mercado de Maravillas is Platea, a glitzy gastronomic centre in Salamanca where well-heeled locals go to see and be seen. More of a deluxe food hall than a market (you couldn’t do your grocery shopping here), Platea’s exciting culinary offerings justify its inclusion in this list. Housed in what used to be a theatre, the stage of which is still used for live music, its five glamorous levels present everything from traditional tapas to the bold creations of Michelin-star chef Ricard Camarena, installed in Canalla Bistro on the first floor. It’s not cheap, but if you love food and drink, it’s worth every euro.
The thirty-odd bookstands ranged along the Cuesta de Moyano in the Botanical Gardens, just before you reach the Retiro park, comprise the best open-air bookstore in Madrid. For almost a hundred years, this leafy avenue has offered everything from collectible, leather-bound volumes to classic titles in several languages. The stores’ proprietors are hugely knowledgeable, so don’t be afraid to ask if you have a question, especially as some speak English well. Browsing here is the ideal beginning or end to a couple of hours relaxing in Retiro, Madrid’s most popular green space.
A hipster vibe defines this characterful market, which is held on the second Sunday of the month inside Madrid’s Railway Museum (Museo de Ferrocarril), just opposite Atocha train station. Most of its 170 stands are placed amongst the old carriages and include specialists in vintage clothing and accessories, jewellery vendors, colourful food vans and veggie/vegan food stalls for a snack and caña (fans of Mexican cuisine will love MexiFoods). In addition to this vibrant setup, the mercado also offers a mini-train for kids to ride on, a range of children’s workshops and a varied calendar of live music.
This innovative fashion market is held every Saturday and Sunday (from 11am to 10pm and 11am to 9pm, respectively) in El Matadero, a former abattoir now used for workshops, concerts and exhibitions. It’s a must-visit if you want to see what Spain’s most dynamic young designers are up to, with dozens of stands showcasing the latest trends in homeware, fashion and art. There are also several bars where you can recharge with a drink and tapa, and most weekends there are a couple of free concerts, too. The lively and popular neighbourhood of Legazpi is on your doorstep when you’re done browsing.