With Madrid’s two-week Gastrofestival opening on Saturday, now is a great time to sample the best jamón, tortilla and tapas with our guide to the city’s markets.
Madrid is a city that takes its food markets seriously. Skip the tourist traps and navigate the city’s mercados like a local with these essential tips from a local expert.
Madrid is teeming with colorful food markets offering traditional goodies like jamón, trendy items and prepared foodstuffs. But with so many options in the city, knowing where to go—especially if you want to experience the city like a local—can be tough.
Skip a tourist-filled bazaar
The Mercado de San Miguel, built in 1916, was nearly abandoned before reopening in 2009 after an extensive renovation. Since then, the market has become wildly popular with tourists, thanks in part to its proximity to Plaza Mayor and its breathtaking iron and glass. But you won’t find many locals wandering its stalls, and prices can be quite steep.
Take a trip to the vecinos
The best way to immerse yourself in Madrid’s market culture is to explore the mercados para los vecinos(markets for the neighbors; vecinos for short). Nchama recommends the Mercado de Antón Martin, amercado de toda la vida (market for all life), and one of the few true vecinos remaining. The sprawling bazaar occupies a full city block in the up-and-coming residential neighborhood of Lavapiés. Don’t miss the oysters from Ostrerías del Mercado (first floor).
For another take on the vecino, try Mercado de San Fernando, built during the Spanish Civil War. This market’s popularity had been on a swift decline until a group of neighbors and merchants banded together to salvage it. Now, the vendors share the cost of the space as well as maintenance expenses. You’ll find food and drink vendors selling their wares alongside quirkier stalls, such as a bookstore and a streetwear shop. Check out La Buena Pinta (counter No. 33) for outstanding locally-brewed beer.
Hit the markets before noon
Unsurprisingly, these markets are best visited in the morning, when the selection is at its freshest and fullest. (Madrid’s grannies know this all too well—you’ll see plenty of older folks out and about in the earlier hours.) Plus, Saturday morning is prime time for people watching. If you do make the trip later in the day, be advised: Many stalls will close at mid-afternoon for lunch and the afternoon siesta, so late afternoon openings are not always reliable.
Shop with the hip, young locals
Like the Mercado de San Miguel, Mercado de San Antón recently underwent a major renovation and reopened in 2011. But unlike the more tourist-friendly bazaar, San Antón is located in the stylish, LGBT-friendly neighborhood of Chueca, which is popular with Madrid’s young professionals. Less a market than a gourmet food court, this high-design space is open late into the evening, and is packed with stalls where you can buy fruits, meats and cheese. There are also vendors peddling tapas and other snacks, as well as a rooftop bar with views of the city. You won’t find the grannies here, but you will find unusual culinary treats, such as products made with high-quality seaweed at La Mar de Algas.