Spain is famous for its markets – but they’re not all about fresh food. Many of the city’s best eating experiences are to be found tucked away in stalls in the food markets. Here are my top four:
Mercado San Miguel
Just beside Plaza Mayor, this used to be a whole sale market, but it reopened in 2009 as a place to grab a quick bite. There’s everything here – from fruit smoothies to baked sea urchins, making it a diverse eating experience. It’s perfect for just a few tapas and a couple of glasses of quality wines. Some of the city’s best restaurants (such as Casa Lhardy and Horno San Onofre) have stalls here so it’s a good way to explore Madrid’s fine cuisine without traipsing across the city to different restaurants. Prices are very inflated and it gets very busy with tourists. Evening time is crazy – the best time to visit is between spanish mealtimes when there is a little bit of a lull.
Plaza de San Miguel
Mercado San Ildefonso
This one is probably my favourite and the one I visited most often. It’s set over three floors of bars and food, so it’s a little more spaced out. The food here is a little more contemporary, with stalls selling crepes, Colombian food and the ever-popular Japanese cuisine. There are some more traditional Spanish stalls though. One of the best things about this market is the amount of seating available and because it’s split over three floors, it’s easy to move around – plus the terrazas are great in the summer. On the weekend, it can get very busy from about 9pm so it’s best to go early to nab a table. Some stalls offer table service, which makes it an even more relaxing experience. In my opinion, it’s the perfect place to start a night out in Malasana.
Calle de Fuencarral, 57
Mercado San Anton
Just metres away from Plaza de Chueca, this market is a sort of hybrid. There’s a supermarket in the basement and the first floor is filled with stalls selling fresh fruit meat products and other consumables – but the top two floors have more of a party atmosphere, with stalls on the second floor serving food that ranges from gourmet burgers to Greek to Japanese (of course). The real reason this is on my list however, is the magnificent roof terrace. Yes, the drinks are expensive and yes it is very very busy in the summer and at the weekends, but sipping a chilled Albarino on a terrace in the heart of Chueca at sunsets is an amazing experience.
Mercado San Fernando
Nestled in the heart of Lavapies, one of Madrid’s liveliest neighbourhoods, this is probably the most ‘authentic’ market on the list. It’s possible to get most of the grocery shopping done here (and pick up a second-hand book or two), but there are also a number of bars and food stalls to while away a few hours. It’s particularly good on Sundays when they have Swing music playing and people dance in the centre of the market, watched by Madrilenos enjoying a Sunday afternooon botellin. Perfect for a bite and a drink after the nearby Rastro flea market in nearby La Latina on a Sunday morning – but be prepared to stay awhile!
Calle de Embajadores, 41,