This blog post was originally posted on November 5, 2012, and was updated on December 19, 2017.
At first glance, the Mercado de San Miguel may seem like a tourist trap. Throngs of visitors flood this famous market every day to get a taste of Spain’s world-famous cuisine. So the question is–is it worth a visit?
The Mercado de San Miguel is located in the heart of the city center, next to the historic Plaza Mayor, and in between the popular Puerta del Sol (the city’s main square) and the Royal Palace. With so many important attractions surrounding it, it’s easy to see why the area is packed with tourists from around the globe.
While many might think Mercado de San Miguel is overpriced and inauthentic, we beg to differ. This historic market is not only beautiful but also full of food from around the country. We think this place is a must-see when visiting the Spanish capital.
We wouldn’t blame you for thinking that the food at the Mercado de San Miguel is expensive and mediocre– but you’d be wrong! This market has some fantastic food at very moderate prices.
From gourmet hams and cheeses to fresh fruit and vegetables, the San Miguel Market really does have something for everyone. You can spend hours walking around and exploring different stalls that offer delicacies from around Spain. While you might not have the time to tour through all of Spain’s unique regions, you can sample the Galician specialty pimientos de padrón, pintxos from the Basque country or Asturian sidra all in one trip to the Mercado de San Miguel.
The market itself is truly a work of art. Opened in 1916, it was one of the first covered markets in the city and is a classic example of early 20th-century architecture. It remains the only market of its kind in Madrid due to many others like it being demolished in the late 90s. In the 1980s, shopping habits had changed drastically. Business shifted from markets to larger grocery chains, and the traditional Mercado de San Miguel fell into decline. A group of investors saved San Miguel from a similar fate and renovated the market into the gastronomic center it is today.
Unlike other neighborhood markets, people don’t go to San Miguel to do their weekly grocery shopping, but instead, use the market as a meeting point to celebrate and eat with friends and loved ones. This gourmet food center lets people from all over the world enjoy Spanish cuisine in a unique environment. But, don’t think that only tourists are the ones who love the market. Around dinner time, you’ll see a happy mix of Spaniards and tourists enjoying tapas and wine. While some may call it a tourist trap, we call the Mercado de San Miguel our happy place.
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Lauren grew up in an Italian-American family where 3-hour meals were the norm. After 10 years in the restaurant industry, she moved to Spain where she launched her popular Spanish food blog, Spanish Sabores, and soon after led groups on the first Devour Madrid food tours.