On a Sunday or public holiday in Madrid, you can visit the city’s most popular and world-renowned street market. There you can get lost in its streets, buy everything from cheap clothes and books to antique objects, or enjoy the sun while having a drink at one of the surrounding bars. In this guide, we show you what you can do in Madrid’s El Rastro, an unmissable walk.
El Rastro is one of Madrid’s traditional open-air markets, and it takes place every Sunday and public holiday from 9 am to 3 pm on Ribera de Curtidores street, from Plaza del Cascorro to Embajadores street, in the Lavapiés neighborhood, just a few minutes from the Marli House apartments. There, you can find old cameras, clothes, books, furniture, records, and almost anything you can think of. Many of the things sold there are second-hand and cannot be found elsewhere.
El Rastro has been there since 1740, which is when records show it was installed as a semi-clandestine market. It is believed that its name comes from the blood marks left by cattle as they were transported from the old slaughterhouse in the area to the tanneries. At the beginning of the 20th century, it contained around 3,500 stalls, but today it has about 500, which is the number allowed by the Madrid City Council.
The main street of El Rastro is Ribera de Curtidores (formerly known as Calle de las Tenerías), where you can buy everything for a few euros or simply go for a walk to browse the stalls. But it is interesting to know that El Rastro is divided into zones:
- Plaza del General Vara del Rey, Calle de Rodas, and Plaza de Campillo del Mundo Nuevo are places where you can buy and sell comics, magazines, and stickers.
- Calle Fray Ceferino González, also known as the bird street, because it was where animals were sold. Today, you can find some shops of that kind.
- Calle del Carnero and Calle de Carlos Arniches sell old and used books.
- Calle de San Cayetano, also known as the painters’ street, has shops where you can buy paintings and painting materials.
In addition, art galleries occupy an important place in El Rastro. The two most popular ones are, on the one hand, Galerías Piquer (Ribera de Curtidores, 29), where there are shops selling antiques (Cele and Berenis), retro 20th-century items (Living Retro), and decorative objects (Tila Barrena).
The other is Nuevas Galerías (Ribera de Curtidores, 12), where you can find sculptures and paintings (Salas), objects from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries (El Jueves), exclusive designs (Singulartmob), porcelain dolls (Mercedes Cabeza de Vaca), furniture and decoration (The Point), and all kinds of low-priced items (Castillo Encantado).
Where to eat and drink
But after walking around El Rastro for a while, you’ll surely want to make a stop to eat or drink something. If you like taverns, you can visit Malacatín, one of the 12 centenary restaurants in Madrid, which claims to offer the best cocido in the city since 1895.
If you feel like having some beers with good tapas, you can go to Cervecería Arganzuela, famous for its boquerones en vinagre. Another brewery to visit is Bar Cruz, famous for its navajas and beer served as it used to be done.
If you want to try dishes such as snails, tripe, ears, widow beans, oxtail or mussels a la marinera, you can go to Casa Amadeo, a vintage restaurant founded in 1942. On the other hand, you can try grilled sardines at Bar Santurce and a great variety of tostas at El Capricho Extremeño.
You already know a lot about what you can do in El Rastro, a place you can’t miss if you come to Madrid. On a Sunday or holiday, go and look for what you thought you could never find. Enjoy!