El Rastro was born in the 15th century and has continued to develop and grow while its existence has been regulated by the local government.
Today there is no travel guide to Madrid that does not mention El Rastro and its international reputation is comparable to other popular markets in several European cities like Waterlooplein in Amsterdam, the Portobello Market in London or the Porta Portese in Rome. It is definitely the most popular Sunday flea market in Madrid.
So if you are spending a few days in the city, a visit to the El Rastro flea market in Madrid is really a must.
When and where does El Rastra take place?
El Rastro takes place every Sunday and public holiday of the year from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Embajadores district.
A maximum of 3500 stalls extend over the area from Plaza de Cascorro in the north along the main street Ribera de Curtidores and the adjacent streets to Calle Embajadores in the east and Ronda de Toledo and Plaza del Campillo del Mundo Nuevo in the south.
Due to its size, it can be accessed from various subway stations: Line 3 (Embajadores, Laviés or Sol), Line 5 (La Latina, Puerta de Toledo or Acacias), Line 1 (Tirso de Molina or Sol) and Line 2 (Sol or Opera).
Why is El Rastra the most popular Sunday flea market in Madrid?
A different and diverse group of people meet here to get a glimpse of the bargain they can’t find anywhere else. It doesn’t matter if you are hippie, punk, posh, old or young. In the stalls, people will find a wide variety of products, including used clothing, antiques, handicrafts, books, records, furniture, or even plugs. I think there is nothing in El Rastro that you cannot find.
In fact, you are likely to see things in this Madrid flea market that you could never have imagined.
Navigating through the different areas in El Rastra
Certain streets or areas in El Rastro are linked either by tradition or by the collection of specialist stands with certain goods.
– Fray Ceferino Gonzales Street is known as “Calle de los Pájaros” (“Street of the Birds”) because peddlers and traveling vendors sold pets and birds there. Since the municipal ordinance of 2000 animals, animals can only be sold in shops.
– San Cayetano Street is also known as “Calle de los Pintores” (“Street of the Painters”) as the permanent stalls sell paintings, drawings and art supplies.
– Rodas Street, General Vara del Rey Square and Campillo del Mundo Nuevo Square Specialized in buying and selling magazines, trading cards and postage stamps. Small children usually meet here to trade and swap cards.
– General Vara del Rey square also has a number of stalls selling clothes.
– Carnero Street and Carlos Arniches Street Here you will find stalls selling old, rare and collectable books.
– Cascorro Square Specializes in selling funky clothes and accessories.
– Mira el Sol street sells films and related items by Andrei Tarkovsky to Almodobar.
– The Ronda de Toledo usually sells music and related items.
Food at the El Rastro flea market in Madrid
But a day in El Rastro is not complete without a stop to have a few tas.
In many bars and taverns on the neighboring streets of El Rastro you can taste some of the specialties of Madrid’s gastronomy, accompanied by a glass of wine or a beer.
There are also very popular bars where you can enjoy Che bocadillos (sandwiches) like the squid (a specialty of Madrid) but also others like chorizo, Spanish omelette, cheese etc.
After this busy and popular day in the city, you’d better stay at one of the works of art in Madrid near El Rastro as you are likely to be full of shopping!