El Rastro street market
A morning's shopping in the traditional El Rastro market in Madrid
This is the most popular open air market in Madrid and one of the oldest, as its origins date from the 15th century. Located in the area around the Ribera de Curtidores street, it is an event not to be missed on Sunday mornings and public holidays, when over 1,000 stallholders and street sellers tempt visitors with a multitude of wares: trinkets, second-hand and reduced-price clothing, antiques, arts and crafts, books and discs… The market has a unique atmosphere and is a magnet for both tourists and locals who make the most of their visit by combining a little shopping followed by the customary drink and tapas.
The market spreads over a broad area delimited by the streets of Toledo, Embajadores and Ronda de Toledo, in what is known as the Rastro quarter. One of the most habitual routes for visitors is to walk from the square at the top (the popular Plaza de Cascorro) down to the square at the bottom (Puerta de Toledo market).
Shoppers can pick up antiques and a wide assortment of curiosities (puppets, comics from all eras, old radios and watches, handmade fans) and discover 'themed streets' such as San Cayetano –known as the 'painters' street', as its shops and stalls display numerous oil paintings, watercolours and reproductions of great artworks.
As Madrid's most quintessential market, it naturally features a wide mixture of cultures and typical figures, including the wafer-sellers known as barquilleros, and street organists supplying a musical backdrop of the typical Madrid dance, the chotis. The Rastro area is also known for its bars and traditional taverns, where the usual custom is to enjoy a few beers accompanied by tapas.
From 09:00 to 15:00