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Eating at a food market in Madrid

Eating at a food market in Madrid

Last updated on 21/12/2016 at 12:00:39

Madrid is the Spanish capital, a city almost built on purpose to say “Hey, I’m your capital, kneel before me.” Practically in the middle of Spain, it’s in the perfect place to be… well, the capital of the country, since if you want to go to the sea, no matter the direction you take, it takes hours to reach it.

It’s a very vital city, full of material for art and history lovers, for example, and the #1 spot for the LGBT community in Spain and not only. That said, don’t forget we are in Spain so, like for Italy, food has a great influence on the culture and the society.

Food in Spain has a significant impact on everyday life and even if the country is relatively small if we compare it to bigger nations like China or USA, the difference of culinary traditions from region to region is incredible. From North to South, from East to West, it is possible to find many many different and excellent specialties in the various parts of the country. From fish based dishes on the coast to the meat and game based ones mainly in the center, with some new extravaganzas like molecular gastronomy brought by some world renown chefs, and finally a more decisive opening to vegetarian and vegan cuisine, something that looked like a taboo in the land of bullfights.

Another thing the country is famous for are the tapas, which basically are appetizers. Served cold or hot, they rapidly became not only something to whet your appetite while having a drink, but a sort or cultural phenomenon too. Don’t expect just a portion of olives (excellent all around the country) or some fries: you can find almost everything as a tapa: finger food, pasta, meat skewers, soups, sandwiches, savory pies and many other delightful things.

The situation in Madrid is no less so, you can find tapas everywhere, but there are some places I like more than others to go and eat something: food markets.

You know those places where you go when you want to buy some food from a stand, walk around to find better prices and hear sellers shouting about the freshness of their fish and how big are their olives? In Madrid, there are still places like that, but some of them have evolved into a sort of market 2.0, where you can still find stands but also places to eat-in or small ethnic restaurants selling tapas that defy tradition.

Having tried several of these mercados here’s a list of places you should visit if you want to eat something nice in a different environment.

Mercado San Antón

Mercado de San Antón, vita del patio interior, Madrid, España, 2015
The San Antón food market is in Chueca, the gay district of Madrid. It’s a newly restored four-story building, with the market part on the ground and first floor. Here you can find a small supermarket and all kind of food stands, where is possible to buy the usual stuff you’d buy at a food market. Remember, though, the prices are not so accessible, it’s more like a gourmet market, so you need a nice wallet to shop here every day.

On the second floor, there are several ethnic restaurants, serving mainly tapas. It’s cool to buy various stuff here and there and then sitting to enjoy the place, chatting with friends.

On the last floor, there’s a restaurant with a lounge terrace to enjoy the view over the city. One thing worth mentioning is that the restaurant CAN COOK the stuff you buy in the market if you wish. You just buy what you want to eat, take the escalator and ask the waiter to cook your meal. So if you eat crap, you probably bought crap, blame yourself!

San Antón is for sure quite trendy and depending on the time you go the risk is to find no places where to sit, so try to keep your hunger for smarter hours!

Mercado de San Miguel

Eating in the city markets of MadridSan Miguel instead is an iron-built traditional style food market located right in the center of Madrid. It has been built in 1916, and its location makes it perfect for a stop between a visit to Plaza Mayor and the Palacio Real. Architecturally speaking it’s my favorite, I adore the iron structure and the glass walls, a bond between old and new styles, also reflecting the spirit of the market itself.

Inside there are 33 shops, with products ranging from mere paellas and candies to more refined oysters and champagnes, still offered in the tapa way. Being one floor only, everything is on the same level and consequently the people too. That means it’s usually quite crowded no matter the hours you want to go there since it’s in a very touristic area of Madrid and it’s a common stop for almost everyone willing to visit the city.

It’s not really the place you should eat into if you’re on a budget, but going inside to take some picture is free, at least! Remember, you can’t bring and drink alcohol outside the building!

Mercado de la Paz

Mercado de la Paz, interior
It’s one of the oldest food markets in Madrid, with its construction dating back to 1879, and it’s something you wouldn’t expect to find in the posh district of Salamanca, an area where I wouldn’t be surprised if they ask for your pay slip on the shops’ entrance.

Despite that fact, the de la Paz market is still popular and friendly, with the same families owning the stalls for generations. You can find every kind of fish or meat, fruit, and vegetable, with the addition of some uncommon products typical of some region of Spain, like the mojama (filleted salt-cured tuna).

This market is more focused on the daily, fresh products, but you can still find places to have a sit and taste some tapas. Legend says there a place inside where they prepare a particularly good paella with lobsters, too bad it was closed when I went there and I ate some sushi in the little restaurant aside.

Mercado de Antón Martín

Mercado de Antón Martín, fachada calle Santa Isabel
That’s another traditional market, more similar to the de la Paz one than the first two. It’s in the district of Huertas, a path not usually beaten by tourists since it’s a more working-class area than a touristic one.

Starting from 1941 it hosts 63 stalls, but not only food related. It’s common to find almost every kind of shops inside, from the ones selling shoes to clothing or ceramics, as you would expect from a traditional market.

Anyway, eat-in spots are obviously there so if you’re feeling particularly hungry and you want to try some special delicacy from center Italy (“Why Italian food in Spain?” I hear you saying. Because I’m Italian, deal with it.), you can eat porchetta (if you’re vegetarian or worse, don’t read) at La Saletta!


That’s my list of markets in Madrid where to eat something different, or just a different place where to eat something, which depends on what you’re looking for! These are not all the markets in the city, but the ones I liked the most.

Have you been to Madrid and tried a food market? Do you like those places? Tell me in the comment section!

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Eating at a food market in Madrid

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35 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Well, I went to the one in Barcelona, so it would be interesting to compare it with some of these. Some of the food on offer sounds great! And yes, it’s true that Spanish cuisine is a big part of the Spanish culture – I personally love Tapas! 🙂

    • Now that I think about it, I’ve been to one in Barcelona too, but it was more than 15 years ago, too much to remember it and compare with the ones in Madrid.
      Who doesn’t love tapas? 😀

  • Thanks for this list for I love discovering the local palates. Sometimes it is hard to find these as a tourist as not everyone guides you to the best place. They normally give you the closest place that does not always have the best or authentic taste. Always nice to get a list from someone who has been there.

    • If you’re into local foods, Madrid is full of places worth a visit, and all the various markets are a must! Yes, some of them are too touristic, but you can still have an idea of what’s the mood/trend about the food in the city.

  • I found myself in Madrid for one day, in between flights, a few years ago. I do remember exploring the San Miguel market from the centre and be amazed on how many fresh and delicious portions of food were sold everywhere.

  • Would be great to see pictures of various food items for sale. So we get a better feel for what’s there to look forward to.

    • Yes, I see your point. My problem when I’m in a place like those, is that I often tend to think about the food and I forget to take pictures 😀

  • Whoa! That is indeed a huge market and with so much to offer. I think I would starve myself for a day or two before I go visit this place so that I can try everything here 😉

    Food markets are great place to know how a culinary history of a place developed over a period of centuries. And also a wonderful opportunity to observe the locals and their eating habits.

  • I love Spanish markets! They’re so big and colorful and when my partner and I spent six months in Spain (near Alicante), we would always do our fresh produce shopping at the local markets. (: They are definitely a great place to visit if you want to experience the true side of Spain – and not being able to speak Spanish isn’t a deal breaker there either.

  • Just love this food markets. I could have tapas everyday! 😉 It looks like is a trend in Europe. In Portugal, a lot of old neighborhood markets are being transformed into trendy places were you can go to grab a bite or a drink. Super cool!

  • I guess the word Mercado means market. Am I correct? Being a vegetarian, I immediately connected with the last picture-the one that shows bananas and other fruits. Do you have bananas or does Spain import them?

    • You’re right, mercado means market in Spanish!
      And yes, we do have bananas everywhere, mainly we import them in Europe, because our climate it’s not the best for them to grow, but you can find them easily all year around.

  • I haven’t been to Madrid yet. But I loved the way you have discovered food markets. Its quite useful for people like me who loves to sample local flavors. When it comes to Spanish food , there things are always there ..garlic , olive oil , Spanish Paprika and food mostly cooked on fire.

  • I did visit one of the markets here, I have to check up whether the name matches. The market had an amazing variety of things to sell Glad I had included it in my itinerary.

  • I love food markets so this is the perfect post to bookmark for future use! I hope that i will visit Spain soon enough and take advantage of all the tapas. Can’t believe that you can get the the food you just bought cooked for you at the restaurant. That is probably the first place like that I hear about.

  • Food markets are so nice to visit. We bought a lot of our vegetables at the markets when living in Bratislava. Sadly we do not have that opportunity here in Stockholm. Spain is a class by itself in comparison. I really love that there are so much fruits etc at their markets. 🙂

    • I wanted to visit Östermalm Food Hall in Stockholm when I was there, but in the end, I had no time to see it! Isn’t it worth it?

  • Spanish food markets are really cool 🙂 And the food is excellent! I’m a big fan of tapas. I haven’t been in Madrid, but I hope to go there next year.

  • I’d heard that the Spansh eat well. This seems to be true considering all the options in this post. Mercado de Antón Martín wins it for me though wth its cool graffitti. Always need a biit extra wiith my food.

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