I don’t always wake up early on Sunday morning, but when I do, it’s to visit El Rastro in Madrid, the largest and most popular open air flea market of Spain. Are you traveling to Madrid and planning to visit El Rastro? Curious but not sure where to start? You won’t have time to go through it all, but you’ll discover the flavour of the authentic by strolling through its streets. Most people browse by and miss the best part of the market. Don’t blame them, El Rastro is so crowded that you need to know the tips and tricks to discover the best streets besides Ribera de Curtidores main street. With this guide and useful tips for visiting El Rastro, you’ll be navigating this Madrid Sunday market like a local in no time!
What is El Rastro in Madrid, Spain?
El Rastro de Madrid (El Rastro) is the most popular open air flea market in Madrid, Spain. They say that it is possible to find almost anything on a visit to El Rastro: from an old camera to a lost edition of Pokemon cards. El Rastro showcases a broad variety of products, used and new, by more than 3,000 stands. The market isn’t only a favorite spot to visit with tourists, but many of those who live in Madrid.
When can I visit El Rastro?
El Rastro takes place every Sunday throughout the year from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. and during public holidays. In order to beat the crowds when visiting El Rastro, I suggest arriving as close to opening time as possible. Get there early. Arrive at around 9.30 or 10 as you will be able to explore El Rastro much more freely. El Rastro is at its busiest around 11 a.m.
Tip: Visit El Rastro early! Arrive around 9.30 as you will be able to explore El Rastro much more freely.
How do I get to El Rastro market?
El Rastro is located between Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toledo. It runs along Ribera de Curtidores and through Plaza de Cascorro. If you’re taking the metro, get off the metro station ‘La Latina’, to walk from the top (Plaza de Cascorro) of the market down, or ‘Puerta de Toledo’, to walk from the bottom of the market up.
What can I buy at El Rastro?
More like what can’t you buy at El Rastro! El Rastro showcases a broad variety of products, used and new, by more than 3,000 stands. You can find anything from clothes, jewelry, books, toys, bags, accessories to vintage furniture and animals. You’ll never be bored when visiting El Rastro. Additionally, the surrounding neighborhood is home to a number of fantastic antique shops, which open especially for the market crowds.
Most of the market stalls in and around Plaza de Cascorro area sell the typical market finds, t-shirts, incense burners, Madrid souvenirs, and other generic products. If you’re on the hunt for antiques or genuine vintage items, make sure to check out the side streets and hidden plazas. These are home to little antique stores and stalls where you might find some excellent vintage homewares:
- Calle de San Cayetano: known as ‘the painters’ street’ because this is where many artists concentrated on selling their paintings.
- Plaza del Campillo Nuevo: at this authentic place you can find stickers (antique and modern), magazines, antique letters and books.
- Plaza del General Vara del Rey and Calle de Rodas: here you can mainly find antiques, coins, comics, snippets, etc.
- Calle de Carlos Arniches and Calle Carnero: these streets are specialised in the sale of antique books. So, if you want to buy a previous edition, just head for these streets.
- Calle de Mira el Río Baja and Calle Mira el Río Alta: here are plenty of shops and stands focusing on small antiques: books, old portraits, postcards, typewriters, analogue cameras, etc.
Also make sure to visit some galleries in the area, for example Galerías Piquer (Ribera de Curtidores, 29) and Antigüedades El Jueves (Ribera de Curtidores, 12). Here you can find original canvases, furniture or modernist decorative objects.
Tip: Check out the side streets and hidden plazas. If you’re on the hunt for antiques or genuine vintage items, make sure to check out the side streets and hidden plazas.
Bargaining, can I haggle at El Rastro?
Bargaining is possible at El Rastro. Plan on arriving as close to closing time as possible. Quite a few of the sellers are often happy to reduce their prices by between 10 and 15%.
Tip: Bring cash. Very few, if any, vendors will be able to take credit cards.
Street artists at El Rastro
Street artists make the most of the large crowds to show off their art around El Rastro. It is definitely fun to watch. If you stop to listen or take a picture, throw a few coins in the performer’s hat. Everyone has to make a living!
Tip: Watch your wallet. Like every big city, Madrid has its share of pickpockets. Be alert, and avoid carrying valuable objects in easy-to-reach places.
Safety at El Rastro
As with any busy place in any big city, you should be aware of pickpockets at El Rastro. Make sure you keep your money in a safe place and use a securely fastened bag, ideally with a zip, and make sure you face it towards your body.
Where can I eat near El Rastro?
Part of the joy and tradition of El Rastro is getting stuck into the food and drink scene of the tapas bars lining the market. The bars get busy early. Grabbing some cañas(traditional small glasses of beer) and tapas after a long morning of shopping is a local tradition.
There are many options, but I suggest some emblematic establishments, such as El Capricho Extremeño (Carlos Arniches, 30), an establishment famous for its variety of toasted bread, served with octopus, eels, breaded chicken, smoked salmon, or Iberian ham. Another traditional option is to visit Restaurante Casa Amadeo Los Caracoles (Plaza de Cascorro, 18), well known for traditional snails or Malacatín (Ruda, 5) famous for its stews. La Paloma (Calle Toledo, 85) is also worth a try. It is famous for delicious fresh seafood. The bars will be just as crowded as the market, but believe me, it’s worth it! Just want to wander around and grab some tapas without having to look for the above mentioned places? Visit Cava Baja, Madrid’s most well-known street lined with tapas bars. Here you will find something delicious for sure!
Do you have any other tips for visiting El Rastro in Madrid? Feel free to let us know in a comment below.
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