What is El Rastro?
El Rastro means “the trail”, the type a of trail a bloodhound would follow. This ancient market got its name because it used to be a secondary market to the more prestigious Mercado de la Villa. El Rastro is where meat was sold wholesale to the population. The market became known as “the trail” because of the trails of blood the meat would leave entering and exiting the market.
Over the years El Rastro started evolving into an open-air market that sold, practically anything you can imagine, from pets to antiques, to used clothes. El Rastro is set up every Sunday and remains open from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Many of El Rastro’s stalls around Plaza de Cascorro sell, junk, for a lack of a better word: t-shirts, incense burners, Madrid souvenirs, and other generic products. you might have to dig a little deeper to find the really cool finds, and it will be worth you while. Find side streets and hidden plazas to get to the little antique stores and stalls where your chances of finding something excellent are pretty good.
How should I pay?
Almost none of the stalls accept credit cards, so make sure you take cash.
What to eat and drink
It is a tradition for locals to swarm to the bars lining the streets of the market to have a coffee, some tapas, or the customary 12 o’clock vermuth (El Vermú as it’s known). These bars get busy early as you might expect, filling with locals and creating the friendly and sociable atmosphere Madrid is known for.
If you are in the mood for something breakfast-y you know you can’t go wrong with some churros or Porras (Spanish-style funnel cake) that the city is well known for.
If you are looking for a bit more of a traditional tapas experience you can head on over to Restaurante Casa Amadeo Los Caracoles and indulge in some Madrid style snails or Cascorro Bistrot for some French natural wine or perhaps Bar Santurce for some Madrileño tapas. Everything must be washed down with an ice-cold beer (caña) or a tap Vermouth.
Just like any major city, you should be mindful of your belongings. A crowded open-air market can attract pickpocketers so make sure you keep your money in a safe place and use a securely fastened bag. Backpacks are not a great idea, because they are easy to get into, so stick to bags you can keep in front of you.
In which city will you find an open-air market called El Rastro?
The market is located in the center of Madrid around the Plaza de Cascorro and the streets Ribera de Curtidores and Calle de Embajadores, and spans out through the small side streets leading off these larger avenues. The nearest metro station is La Latina Metro station, on Line 5.
When should I go?
The market opens at 9:00 am so we suggest getting there early for a more tranquil experience. Once you have had your fill of perusing the stalls, the area is crawling with great places to have a cup of coffee and a bite to eat.