El Rastro: The Most Popular Sunday Flea Market in Madrid

Born in the fifteenth century, El Rastro has been evolving and growing, while its existence has been regulated by the local government.

Today there is no travel guide about Madrid which doesn’t 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’s most definitely the most popular Sunday flea market in Madrid.

So, if you spend a few days in the city, a visit to the El Rastro flea market in Madrid really is a must.

El Rastro: The Most Popular Sunday Flea Market in Madrid
El Rastro: The Most Popular Sunday Flea Market in Madrid

When & where is El Rastra held?

El Rastro takes place every Sunday and public holiday of the year, from 9 am to 3 pm, in the Embajadores neighbourhood.

A maximum of 3500 stalls cover the area from the Plaza de Cascorro, in the north, along the main thoroughfare of Ribera de Curtidores and adjoining streets to Calle Embajadores in the east and the Ronda de Toledo and Plaza del Campillo del Mundo Nuevo in the south.

Due to its size it can be reached from different metro 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 heterogenic group of people meet here to have a look and find that bargain they can’t find anywhere else, it doesn’t matter if they’re hippie, punk, posh, old or young. In its stalls people can find a great variety of products, from second-hand clothing, antiques, crafts, books, records, furniture or even plugs. I think there’s nothing you can’t find at El Rastro.

In fact you will probably see things at this flea market in Madrid that you could have never imagined.

Navigating the different areas in El Rastra

Certain streets or areas within El Rastro are associated, either by tradition or by the gathering of specialist stalls, with particular wares.

– Calle Fray Ceferino Gonzales is known as “calle de los Pájaros” (‘street of the birds’) as it was where pedlars and travelling sellers used to sell domestic animals and birds. Since the municipal regulation of 2000 animals can only be sold in stores.

– Calle San Cayetano is also known as “calle de los Pintores” (‘street of the Painters’), as its permanent stalls sell paintings, drawings and art supplies.

– Calle Rodas, Plaza de General Vara del Rey and Plaza de Campillo del Mundo Nuevo specialise in buying and selling magazines, trading cards and stamps. Young children usually meet here to swap and trade cards with each other.

– Plaza del General Vara del Rey also offers a number of stalls selling clothes.

– Calle Carnero and calle Carlos Arniches are where you will find stalls selling old, rare and collectible books.

– Plaza de Cascorro specialises in selling funky clothing and accessories.

– Calle Mira el Sol sells films and related items from Andrei Tarkovsky to Almodobar.

– La Ronda de Toledo usually sells music and related items.

Food at the El Rastro flea market in Madrid

But one day in El Rastro is not complete without a stop to have some tapas.

In many of the bars and taverns in the neighbouring streets to El Rastro is possible to 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 have cheap bocadillos (sandwiches) such as the squid one (a Madrid’s specialty), but also others such chorizo, Spanish omelette, cheese, etc.

After this exhausting and popular day in the city you better be staying in one of the apartments in Madrid near El Rastro, because you’ll probably be loaded down with shopping!

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Unique Things to do in Madrid on a Sunday

Looking for a typical Sunday in Madrid? A Madrid Sunday is all about getting out onto the city streets, enjoying some delicious food, a good coffee, and taking in the sights and sounds of the city.

There is so much more to Madrid than El Prado and the bullfights – here are my top favourite things to do in Madrid on a Sunday.

Unique things to do in Madrid, Spain
El Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain

Unique Things to do in Madrid on a Sunday

1. Stroll through El Retiro park with thousands of Madrilenos, watching bands perform, boats on the pond, and clowns making balloon animals.

2. Visit the terrace lookout of the Circulo de Bellas Artes building for a view of the city skyline and the Gran Via, Madrid’s main street (admission to the rooftop is 1 Euro).

3. Enjoy tapas and beer at one of the sunny outdoor tapas cafés in the La Latina quarter.

4. Sip a beer under an incredibly blue Madrid sky at one of several restaurants with tables set up inside the Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s main square.

5. Dunk “churros” into a thick, sweet chocolate drink at La Chocolateria de San Gines, one of Madrid’s most popular chocolate bars just off the Calle Arenal pedestrian mall.

6. Take in the buskers and musicians along with thousands of Madrilenos on the Puerta del Sol plaza then join them as they amble along the Calle Arenal pedestrian mall towards the Opera House.

7. Savour a coffee and watch the elegantly dressed Madrilenos stroll by at the outdoor patio of Café Gijon a few blocks north of El Prado museum on the Passeo de Recoletos.

8. Take in the sunset view of Madrid while enjoying a light snack or a glass of wine at the glass enclosed rooftop restaurant on top of the department store El Corte Ingles on Gran Via near the Callao metro stop.

9. Stand shoulder to shoulder with the locals drinking draft beer and enjoying inexpensive tapas at the Almeria tapas bar in the La Latina quarter. (P.S. if you LOVE tapas and are heading to Barcelona any time soon, check out these cheap tapas bars in Barcelona).

10. Wander around the newly refurbished, glass enclosed Mercado de San Miguel, the oldest in Madrid, and visit the food stalls while sipping wine and sampling thin slivers of Spain’s famous Pata Negra ham.

Things to do in Madrid on a Sunday
Things to do in Madrid on a Sunday

Madrid Sunday Markets

Love exploring markets? Then why not spend your Sunday checking out these Madrid Sunday Markets.

El Rastro

El Rastro is one of the biggest outdoor markets in Spain and has been a weekly tradition for over 400 years. There are over 1,000 vendors offering everything from antiques to furniture, artwork and clothing.

Location: Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores, 28005 Madrid, Spain

Opening hours: it is open every Sunday in Madrid from 9am to 3pm.

Mercado de Motores

This beautiful vintage thrifting market is held every second weekend of the every month. It includes handmade clothing, live music and delicious food. What makes it even more special is that it’s located inside an old train station!

Location: Museo del Ferrocarril, Paseo de las Delicias, 61, 28045 Madrid, Spain

Opening hours: it is open every second Sunday in Madrid from 11am to 10pm (visit their website to confirm dates).

Madrid Sunday shopping hours

Sunday is generally the day of rest in Spain, with many shops remaining closed on a Sunday. However, as more foreigners move into the city you’ll find that there are a few shops open on a Sunday (though, with limited opening hours).

Supermarkets and department stores are usually open all day on Sundays, from 10am to 9pm. In the city centre, you’ll often find small food or souvenir shops open a Sunday.

Check out these other places to visit in Madrid.