Travelers from around the world love visiting Madrid, having in mind that this is a large cosmopolitan city, full of diversities and rich cultural heritage. There are numerous things to do and see in Madrid, so each traveler will have something to enjoy while visiting.
The first part is certainly finding the accommodation, as this is the imperative for having a wonderful vacation. Although Madrid offers such an immense selection of accommodations and rentals around the city, apartments in Madrid are definitely one of the most recommended options. Not only does staying in an apartment provides spacious environment which is particularly useful for families or groups of people traveling together, but you will also find that staying in an apartment while on vacation is much more comfortable and flexible, than staying in a hotel room.
Of all the places in Madrid worth visiting, in this article we will recommend El Rastro de Madrid, as one of the must-see places, regardless if you are fond of shopping or not.
What is El Rasto de Madrid?
El Rasto de Madrid is the most famous flee market in the capital city of Spain. It is also one of the largest places to shop, as it presents a great selection of products ranging from clothing to antiques. Basically, almost anything can be found on this market, except for food and animals, and one of the great benefits is that you can frequently bargain and negotiate the prices. For travelers who are good at bargain, this might be a great opportunity to exhibit their skill of negotiating.
The market is an event regulated by the Madrid town council and the number of stalls allowed to be placed in the area of the market is up to 3500. Due to the international reputation of the market El Rastro de Madrid, the number of visitors, including the sellers and the buyers can reach over 100,000 people on Sundays and on public holidays. Since most locals do not work on Sundays and public holidays, visiting the market is a great way to spend a day off work.
The history of the market
Even though the origin of the market goes centuries back, the records show that the name “Rastro” was being used in the end of the 15th century as a place where a lot of commercial activity was taking place. It gradually became a place of trade, where traders from the city, as well as from the rest of the country would gather and exchange goods.
The word “Rastro” means the “trail” and it is considered that it refers to the trail of blood left along the streets by tanneries that were located in this part of the city in the past. Another interpretation suggests that the name comes from the fact that the market was located in an area that was once outside the court’s jurisdiction, as the word “rastro” can also mean “outside”.
The official documents report that the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century were marked by the existence of the tanneries and slaughterhouses in this part of the city. From the mid 17th century, other manufacturers are reported to be present in this area, such as clothing and shoe stores, candles shops, etc. This is how the area started to develop into a commercial area of the city.
By the end of the 18th century, there are other vendors in the vicinity, such as bakeries, stores selling different kinds of tools, etc. During the 19th and even in the 20th century, there were several attempts to relocate the market, but all of them were unsuccessful, and the market remained one of the symbols of the center of the city, and the symbol of shopping in Madrid.
What is certain is that the market maintained its importance throughout the centuries, especially in the past, when markets were the only opportunity to exchange goods or eventually earn money by selling your own products.
Where is El Rasto de Madrid?
The most popular Madrid’s flea market is located in the Barrio de Embajadores, a neighborhood located in the central district of Madrid. The stalls are placed along the Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores, between Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toledo. There is a statue on the Plaza de Cascorro, dedicated to Eloy Gonzalo, a Spanish soldier and a hero who fought in the Cuban War of Independence.
Being located in the central district, El Rastro de Madrid is quite easy to reach using the public transport. There are several metro stops in the close vicinity, depending on which part of the city you are coming from. You can use metro lines 1, 2, 3 and 5, to reach the market.
During the market days, including Sundays and public holidays, there is EMT (short for Empresa Municipal de Transportes de Madrid), so there are buses that can take you to the market. In addition, there is also the commuter train network that stops at C-5 Embajadores, which is very close to the market.
When can you visit the market?
In the past, the market was opened every day, but Sunday has always been a special day when all of the traders would come, and soon, going to the market became a weekly event, visited by a large number of people. Besides Sundays, public holidays were also the time when most of the people in the city would head to the market, as most of them would not work on those days. Nowadays, the tradition of this great Sunday event remained, so the market can be visited on Sundays, as well as during public holidays. The traders come around 8 am to set up the stalls and prepare the products to be displayed, and the market is opened from 9 am until 3 pm, which leaves 6 hours for visitors to explore the market and what it has to offer.
During the working hours of the market, this area of the city becomes a pedestrian area, so the cars are not allowed to drive through the streets around the Plaza. Instead, the streets are prepared to host thousands of stalls that will be places along the streets and around the square. Apart from the stalls, the whole area becomes vibrant, as the nearby cafes and restaurants fill with guests on their way exploring the market. And if the weather is nice, this becomes truly enjoyable experience, and market is the place to forget all your worries and enjoy the friendly atmosphere and local tradition. El Rastro de Madrid has become a must-visit place in Madrid due to this atmosphere and the environment that nurtures the century’s long tradition.
However, when visiting the market you have to be prepared to the fact that a lot of people want to visit El Rastro de Madrid, so the area around the market tends to get a bit crowded due to a large number of visitors.
What can you find on the market?
Some would say – anything! El Rastro de Madrid tends to attract a lot of different people around the city, both buyers and sellers. Most of the products involve clothing, as Madrid is one of the large centers of textile industry, but there is a whole range of other products you can buy, such as house ware, decorations, etc. People sell watches, jewelry, paintings, new and used clothing, blankets, candles, handbags, hats, electrical equipment, musical instruments, and photographic equipment. You can also find a lot of antiques, such as old books, vintage furniture or antique objects to add to your collection.
When it comes to prices, the skill of negotiations is quite necessary if you want to get the best deals. You should bargain with the vendors, and try to reduce the price as much as possible. Being a tourist, you might find it more difficult to bargain than the locals, especially if you are not fluent in Spanish, but at least trying it, is fun on its own. However, not all the sellers are from Madrid.
Besides locals, El Rastro de Madrid has been an important trading event for quite some time now, and it tends to attract a lot of travelers who visit Madrid, as well as traders from the rest of the country. It has become such a significant event in the hearth of the city, a habit of the people who are interested in buying and selling, as it provides an opportunity to shop in an old-fashioned way, in a way it has been done for centuries in the past.
It is precisely this tradition that keeps the market going, it keeps it from being forgotten and abandoned to urban stores and high-end, new collections displayed in the shiny windows of the shopping malls. Instead, shopping at El Rastro de Madrid turns into a fun day out, where you walk from stall to stall looking for the items you want to buy, chatting with the locals, taking photos with your friends and enjoying the friendly atmosphere. Since this is a popular area of the city, not only for the locals, but among the tourists as well, there are a lot of cafes and restaurants close by, where the visitors can take a break from the walk around the market. At the same time, this is a great opportunity to try out traditional Spanish cuisine, tapas, Spanish wine, etc.
Tourists are usually quite satisfied with visiting the market, and some say that this is the best place to buy souvenirs. It is also an opportunity to find some items cheaper that you would find them in the shopping malls. Besides shopping, the general impression after visiting the market is, that it is such a pleasant and enjoyable environment, a vibrant place that is worth visiting. However, you have to be prepared that the area will be packed with stalls and full of visitors, so it tends to get a bit crowded, but it generally is the case with all the major attractions in European cities. Therefore, it is no surprise, that thousands of people gather here on Sundays and on holidays, each of them looking for something else, each of them experiencing the market on a unique way.
After you have finished visiting the market El Rastro de Madrid, you can explore the area around the market, as you can find other interesting places to visit. Since the market closed at 3 pm, you will have the rest of the afternoon to visit other landmarks in the center of Madrid. Cornisa Park and San Francisco el Grande Basilica are quite near, as well as one of the most famous squares in Madrid, Plaza Mayor. Built in the 17th century as the central square in Madrid, the Plaza Mayor remains one of the most visited places in Madrid, an example of magnificent design and architecture that are typical of Madrid and Spain in general. There is another square near the Plaza Mayor, which might be even more famous, the Puerta del Sol. This is known to be the busiest place in Madrid, a place especially popular during holidays, such as New Year celebration.
This area is also packed with restaurants and accommodation opportunities, as a lot of tourists enjoy staying in the centre of the city while visiting. If that is the case, you should know that you can find a lot of apartments in the center of the city, near the Plaza Mayor and near the market itself. Not only is this a convenience when arriving to the city, as it is easily reachable from the airport, but staying in the center of the city is also good starting point when planning a day out in the city, since most of the landmarks in Madrid are near this part of the city.
More information about the market, as well as an impressive gallery of photos, is available on the website El Rastro de Madrid: http://www.elrastro.org/.