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El Rastro, Madrid

Europe’s biggest outdoor market…

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Every traveller loves a market and Madrid’s gigantic El Rastro is pretty much as good as it gets! Market stalls are varied and there are some real steals to be found across clothing, jewellery, art and crafts, antiques, books, electrical goods and souvineers.

El Rastro, meaning ‘the trail’, is the city’s most famous market and dates back nearly five centuries. Comprising of winding streets passing through the oldest residential part of Madrid, the stalls open at 9am each Sunday (perhaps a little early if you’ve experienced Spanish nightlife the evening prior but definitely worth it) and are packed by mid-morning.

You can start at either Metro La Latina or Plaza Mayor and need simply follow the crowd’s downhill towards Peurta de Toledo where you’ll find a treasure trove of stalls. The market is ever-changing however the general rule is that clothing is at the top of the hill, arts and crafts are in the streets to the left, antiques are found in the narrow alleys on the right (these are definitely worth a trawl!), and books/electrical goods are at the base of the hill. With around 3500 different stalls it can get pretty hectic and you’re likely to get lost but you trust us, you won’t leave empty handed and it will be an experience to remember.

Some stalls have fixed prices but others are open to negotiations so this is a great chance to try your skills at haggling. Though the language barrier can at times be difficult try and stay patient and just remember that ‘Cuánto cuesta’ means ‘how much is it?’ Once you’ve trawled the streets and have picked out some great trinkets and bargains, join the other tourists and locals for a cheeky beer and tapas. The bars and restaurants in the area surrounding the market come alive each Sunday and many are in fact renowned for their Spanish delicacies, so embrace the culture of this beautiful country and try some of the delicious cuisine on offer.

A day spent at El Rastra is a must when in Madrid and our only word of warning, is to watch those bags of yours. Pick-pocketers love the market as much as travellers, and as the market gets packed out with people it is a hot spot for thievery.

Planning a trip to El Rastra any time soon? What are you hoping to get your hands on?

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