This blog post was originally posted on December 13, 2016 and was updated on October 10, 2017.
Are you in need of souvenirs? How about a new pet? Art? Funky clothing? Rare books? Underwear?! El Rastro has something for everyone.
We don’t always wake up early on Sunday morning, but when we do, it’s to visit El Rastro. Curious but not sure where to start? You’ll find everything you need to know about Madrid’s favorite flea market below! From what to buy to where to eat, we’ve got you covered. With these tips for visiting El Rastro, you’ll be navigating this Madrid Sunday market like a local in no time!
What is El Rastro?
Famous throughout Spain, El Rastro is the largest and most popular open-air flea market in Madrid. Translated, the name means “the trail.” Ribera de Curtidores, El Rastro’s main thoroughfare, was once home to tanneries. Cattle hides were transported to the tanneries from the nearby slaughterhouses, which were formerly located on the banks of Madrid’s Manzanares River. The process left a trail of blood along the street which famously gave this area of town and the market that traces its old path their names. We promise you won’t slip in any cattle blood while you’re out treasure hunting at this giant market nowadays!
Where is El Rastro?
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, your best bet will be the metro stations La Latina, to work from the top of the market down, or Puerta de Toledo, to work from the bottom of the market up.
When can I visit El Rastro?
El Rastro takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday as well all public holidays throughout the year. We suggest arriving as close to opening time as possible in order to beat the crowds. El Rastro is at its busiest around 11 a.m.
What can I buy at El Rastro?
More like what can’t you buy at El Rastro! This beloved Madrid Sunday market boasts a huge variety of products both new and used. Additionally, the surrounding neighborhood is home to a number of fantastic antique shops, which open especially for the market crowds.
You can find anything from clothes, jewelry and handbags to gas masks, undies and live birds. We’ve found some pretty bizarre items over the years. Let’s put it this way: you’ll never be bored when visiting El Rastro.
Can I haggle at El Rastro?
If you’re eager to try out your bargaining skills when visiting El Rastro, plan on arriving either as close to opening time or as close to closing time as possible. If you’re successful, vendors might shave 15-20 percent off the price.
Can I visit El Rastro even if I’m not shopping?
Of course! The real treasure of El Rastro is its atmosphere. Allow yourself to get caught up in the wave of people eagerly searching out a bargain. Let your curiosity guide you through the stalls and along the winding side streets. Street performers strumming guitars, beating makeshift drums and blowing air across glass bottle tops provide an eccentric soundtrack for exploring. There’s no limit to what you can see when visiting El Rastro.
Where can I eat near El Rastro?
While the huge variety of wares and wearables is what attracts people to El Rastro, no trip to the market would be complete without stopping into one of the nearby tapas bars! Grabbing a beer after a long morning of shopping is local tradition. If you want to really do this flea market like a local, this El Rastro tip is one that can’t be skipped!
At Restaurante Casa Amadeo Los Caracoles (Plaza Cascorro, 18) they specialize in one of our favorite Spanish dishes: snails! For over 70 years, eating at Los Caracoles after a morning of shopping has been an integral part of the Rastro experience. If snails aren’t your thing, check out La Paloma (Calle Toledo, 85) for delicious, fresh seafood. Be sure to try the boquerones aka pickled anchovies!
To make a day of your tapas experience, head to nearby La Latina for an afternoon of cañas (traditional small glasses of beer) and tapas. The bars will be just as crowded as the market, but believe us, it’s worth it! Nothing says Madrid like a Sunday afternoon spent along Cava Baja, the most famous tapas street in La Latina.
More El Rastro Tips
- Bring cash. Very few, if any, vendors will be able to take credit cards.
- Tip a street performer. If you stop to listen or take a picture, throw a few coins in the performer’s hat. Everyone has to make a living!
- Check out the side streets. If you’re on the hunt for actual antiques or genuine vintage items, skip the temporary tents that line the streets and head instead to the actual storefronts throughout the Rastro area.
- 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.
Alex’s first taste of Spain was Basque Country, and it was love at first sip…of txakoli! Too obsessed with tapas to even consider returning to the States, Alex moved to Madrid and continued exploring Spain. Read more about her travels and expat adventures on her blog: Backpacking Brunette.