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 such as the 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 in the city for a few days, 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, Lavapiés 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 look for the bargain that they cannot 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 at 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.
– Calle Fray Ceferino Gonzales is known as “Calle de los Pájaros” (“Street of the Birds”) as it was where peddlers and traveling vendors sold pets and birds. Since the municipal ordinance of 2000 animals, animals can only be sold in shops.
– Calle San Cayetano is also known as “Calle de los Pintores” (“Street of the Painters”) as the permanent stalls sell paintings, drawings and art supplies.
– Calle Rodas, Plaza de General Vara del Rey and Plaza de Campillo del Mundo Nuevo Specialized in buying and selling magazines, trading cards and postage stamps. Young children usually gather here to swap cards and swap with each other.
– Plaza del General Vara del Rey also has a number of stalls selling clothes.
– Calle Carnero and Calle Carlos Arniches Here you will find stalls selling old, rare and collectable books.
– Plaza de Cascorro Specializes in selling funky clothes and accessories.
– Calle Mira el Sol sells films and related items by Andrei Tarkovsky to Almodobar.
– La 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 break for tapas.
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 cheap bocadillos (sandwiches) like the octopus (a specialty of Madrid) but also others like chorizo, Spanish omelette, cheese, etc.
After this busy and popular day in the city, you better stay in one of the apartments in Madrid near El Rastro as you are likely to be full of shopping!