Madrid: A visit to the Rastro flea market

Posted in: Madrid


Crowds at the Rastro Market. Photo by Sylvain Bourdos.
Crowds at the Rastro Market. Photo by Sylvain Bourdos.

By Cynthia Kane in Madrid–

If you’re looking to buy clothes, household goods, furniture, or trinkets on the cheap in Madrid, Sunday is your day. This is when the city’s sprawling outdoor flea market, the Rastro, is open between La Plaza Mayor and Puerta de Toledo.

History of the Rastro

The Rastro is the largest outdoor flea market in Madrid and its origins date back nearly five centuries. It’s been said that the area used to be the epicenter of the tanning trade. The word “Rastro” actually translates as “track” or “trace”, which evokes the image of slaughterers dragging animals to the tannery. Alongside the tanners were clothing makers and workers in other associated trades, which encouraged the development of the area into a commercial district.

Today, the Rastro has much more to offer than just tanned leather and hides. Walking the market’s principal road, Ribera de Curtidores, you will find every product imaginable: from t-shirts to jewelry to musical instruments to hand bags. The side streets are more specialized.

Where to look for what

As a general rule, the streets to the east of Ribera de Curtidores offer more commercial goods, and are hot spots for great deals. Calle de San Cayetano is also to the east: Here you’ll find frames and a variety of original artwork.

The streets to the west host more antiques dealers. The Calle de Carnero, leading off the main drag, is just one of many streets that offer an eclectic selection old world goodies. Dealers here casually display their items on blankets or in makeshift stalls. You can find everything from coins to crucifixes to old furniture.

On the north side, Calle Arniches runs into the Plaza del General Vara Del Rey, which is where you’ll find tons of second hand clothes.

Getting there

To get to the Rastro, take metro line 5 or 10 to La Latina or line 1,2, or 3 to Puerta del Sol. From these stops, follow the signs toward Puerta de Toledo—you’ll soon see the crowds browsing the market’s many stalls. The Rastro is open Sundays from 7 AM to 2:30 PM.

One note of caution: The market is filled with pickpockets, so keep a tight grip on your valuables.

Bonus tip: Relax at the Plaza de la Paja after shopping

So you’ve shopped, you’re tired, now what?

Well, head over to Plaza de la Paja. Filled with restaurants and bars, there’s nothing better than after a long day of bargain hunting to relax with a caña (little beer)! The entire area around Plaza de la Paja is chock-a-block full of revelers, enjoying the summer sun or the cozy winter taverns.

About the author

Cynthia Kane

About the author: Cynthia Blair Kane is a freelance writer and editor who splits her time between New York and Madrid. She is the Madrid city guide writer for Blackbook Magazine, and recently co authored Take a Hike: The Best 50 Routes in the Community of Madrid.

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