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De Compras – A Guide to Spain’s Best Markets

Cat from Sunshine and Siestas shares her top tips

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Adding a food market or two to your itinerary in Spain will allow you to see daily life in Iberia at its best – old ladies gossiping, fresh, glossy fruits and vegetables and delectable meats and cheeses – and its flea markets are a colorful way to spend a weekend morning. When I travel through my adopted country, I make touring the local market a priority. After all, food is the real reason I’m in Spain.

El Rastro – Madrid

At 3,500 stalls, Madrid’s El Rastro market is the largest in Spain and one of the most-visited. Each Sunday, the maze of streets between Plaza de Cascorro and Ronda de Toledo transform into a large, bustling flea market. Look for paintings, antiques, and even animals on the alleyways surrounding Ribera de Curtidores. One of the market’s outstanding features is the diversity of the vendors - Hand Magnus Enzensberge called it, “The last line between Europe and Asia.”

(Every Sunday and on holidays on Calle Ribera de Curtidores. From 9am until 3pm)

El Jueves – Seville

Locals will tell you that Seville’s most famous flea market, El Jueves, is the oldest in Spain. True or not, it is one of Europe’s oldest, still-operating mercadillos. Closing off the main thoroughfare of the Macarena neighborhood (Yep, the same Macarena you danced to as a kid), Calle Feria fills with antique dealers and sellers from the early morning each Thursday. Everything is on sale here – from antique books to busts of saints to flamenco dresses. Bartering is legal, so walk away and wait for the desperate vendor to come around. Once you’ve browsed, have a glass of sweet wine from Casa Vizcaino on the Montesion Plaza.

(Every Thursday on Calle Feria, near the city center. From 8 or 9am until about 2pm).

Els Encants – Barcelona

Barcelona is one of Spain’s powerhouse local economies, and this sentiment is echoed in its biggest flea market, Els Encants. It’s claimed that the market has been around since the 1400s, but you’d hardly know from the modern steel tent that’s being constructed to house the stalls, as well as a parking garage and auditorium. What sets Els Encants apart from other markets is perhaps its most prominent feature – a public auction, held from 8am to 9:30am.

(Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 9am until 8pm at Plaça des Gloriès. Until construction is complete in September 2014, the market will take place at Calle de Castillejos, 158).

Fira de Nautumismo - Barcelona

Collectors, rejoice! Barcelona’s enormous Fira de Nautumismo (Feria de Numismática in Castillian Spanish) features coins, stamps and other curiosities, as well as a nearby crafts market. The selection isn’t limited to Spanish products, either – many vendors have international offerings. Bonus: there’s a similar Sunday market in Seville of the same style in Plaza del Cabildo, where you can also snatch up old school bullfighting posters or snack on goodies prepared by nuns from the nearby cloister.

(Operates Sunday from 10am until 3pm in Plaça Reial)

La Boquería – Barcelona

Barcelona’s fabled market is also one of the Ciudad Condal’s most visited sites. This open-air market is located right off Las Ramblas and brimming with stands peddling poultry, produce and everything in between (yes, even fruit smoothies, gummies and international food products). It’s believed that the market began as a traveling one in the 13th Century, finally settling into its current location in March of 1840. Given that it’s touristy, be sure to watch your belongings and carry small bills.

(Open Monday to Saturday from 8am to 8:30pm. Located on Las Ramblas, just steps off of Plaza de Castilla)

Mercado de San Antón – Madrid

While most tourists will head to the wildly popular Mercado San Miguel, locals and expats tend to flock to the nearby Mercado de San Antón. Part market, part terrace restaurant and part cultural center, this upscale, Chueca-based space suffered a long history before a huge facelift in 2002. Traditional products – meats, cheeses, fish, produce – are on display here, but the real treat is choosing what you want to eat at the market and having the restaurant cook it, then having a drink on the terrace with views to Gran Vía and the rest of the city center.

(In Chueca, on Augusto Figueroa. Stands open Monday – Saturday from 10am until 10pm; Sundays from 10am until 3pm. Restaurant open weekdays from 10am until midnight; weekends until 1:20am)

Cámara Agraria’s Market Day – Madrid

Madrid’s local producers who don’t sell daily at markets take advantage of the Agricultural Bureau’s monthly farmer’s market days to see their stuff. Many small, artisan brands are on display, from cheeses to meats to even beer! Grab a 1€ wine glass from the entrance and imbibe all day long while you browse and support local growers and producers. The market is typically held on the first Saturday of the month near Casa del Campo.

(Paseo de la Puerta del Ángel, 4. Typically held the first Saturday of the month from 10am until 3pm. For a list of vendors and market specifics, visit the Cámara’s main page [http://www.camaraagraria.org ])

Mercado Central - Valencia

If you love seafood (and can stand the smell), you’ll love Valencia’s Mercado Central. Just a short walk from the city’s historical sites, the stunning tile work and soaring interior are just as mesmerizing as the 400+ stands that peddle fresh seafood, international food products and produce. While tourists are frequent visitors, so are locals, who buy food daily to ensure its freshness. Stop by the market before heading to the beach or out for a stroll – pre-made food is also available, or you can have it delivered right to you. There are also a few souvenir shops in case you’ve left shopping until the last minute!

(The market’s main entrance is on Avenida de María Cristina, just opposite La Lonja de la Seda. Open Monday – Saturday from 7am until 3pm)

Mercado de las Atarazanas – Málaga

Málaga’s busy seaport makes the gorgeous Mercado de las Ataranzas a must-see while in the city. Known for its architecture and stained glass, the glass and iron structure takes its name from the original use – as a ship repair center that later served as an arsenal and military hospital. A restored Nasrid door from the 14th Century and stained glass representations of the building’s history dominate the space, and traditional market products are available for purchase.

(Open Monday – Saturday from 8am until 2pm. Located in the heart of Málaga on Calle de las Atarazanas)

Mercado de la Bretxa - San Sebastián (Basque Country)

Often called Spain’s best foodie town, San Sebastián has helped put Spain on the map – there are more Michelin stars per square meter than any other city in Spain. Known internationally for its inventive food and pintxos, a spin on the tapa in which the food is served on a small baguette, local chefs swear by the historic-cum-modern Mercado de la Bretxa, located in the heart of the Casco Viejo (Old Town). After undergoing a serious restoration in 2009, the space now holds more than its traditional market replete with seafood and fresh produce – La Bretxa is also a cultural space and is home to a modern supermarket, a small shopping mall and several bars and restaurants.

(Located on La Boulevard, near the town hall. Stands open Monday – Saturday from 8am to 9pm)

For more from Cat at Sunshine and Siestas, check out http://sunshineandsiestas.com/

Comments (1)

  • mhigurl

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    4 months ago

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