Spend a Sunday strolling from stall to stall picking out quirky souvenirs and soaking up the atmosphere of Madrid’s best-known open-air market.
El Rastro is one of the biggest flea markets in Europe. It’s made up of thousands of stalls packed into the streets around the Plaza de Cascorro. The name is thought to come from the trail (or “rastro”) of blood left along the streets when slaughtered cattle were dragged from a nearby abattoir to tanneries in the area. Today El Rastro is the place to find everything from secondhand clothes and antiques to computer parts and unusual trinkets.
Spend hours amid the crowds, hunting down the best deals and bargaining with vendors. Be sure to shop around, because prices vary from place to place. There’s a jumble of goods on sale along most streets, but some have earned a reputation for specific stalls and products. Walk down Calle de San Cayetano to find art supplies, prints and copies of famous paintings, and artists selling original works.
At the top of the hill closer to the Plaza Mayor or La Latina you’re more likely to find clothes and accessories. Head downhill to browse bookstalls or duck down a side street to find jewelry, secondhand goods and antiques.
Make sure you set a meeting point before you enter into the crowds, because you’re bound to get lost in the sea of people that descend on El Rastro each Sunday. The area is also known for pickpockets, so keep your personal belongings close.
Take a break from shopping and join the locals for some tapas and a beer at one of many bars along the Ribera de Curtidores and adjoining streets. They can get crowded, but the atmosphere is fun.
El Rastro is held every Sunday and public holiday. It begins at roughly 9 a.m. and goes until mid-afternoon. You’ll find it at the heart of the city, just south of La Latina metro station. It’s best to get there early if you’re after a good buy, as crowds tend to peak around 11 a.m.