Every Sunday (and public holiday) in Madrid there is a massive flea market called El Rastro. Spanning from the La Latina metro stop all the way down Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores, tapering off near the Acacias metro station. It is a tradition that dates from Medieval ages, and it attracts thousands of tourists each year to buy leather goods brought in from Morocco or handmade in Madrid, antiques, tapestries, clothing, artwork, books and everything in between. My personal favorite stop is a pottery stand that sells brightly colored hand-painted pitchers, bowls, and plates. I’ve bought several items to bring home with me to give my future kitchen the feeling of Spain.
While it is a great way to find unique trinkets & treasures, and also kickstart a Sunday of eating tapas and drinking beers at different spots in La Latina, the Rastro can also quickly become a total nightmare if you aren’t prepared.
Here are a few insider tips I want to share on how to survive EL RASTRO!
- Have an idea of what you might want to buy beforehand. If you walk into the chaos of the Rastro without any idea of what sorts of things you would like to purchase, you’ll most likely leave empty-handed. It can be too overwhelming to decide when you’re in the thick of the crowds, bumping into people and shuffling through. Having an idea helps you to identify the stands selling related items so you can pull over when necessary to take a closer look.
2. WATCH YOUR BELONGINGS. Madrid already has a terrible reputation for tourists being robbed on the metro, and this busy, bustling area is no different. Have a purse that zips up, carry it in front of you at all times, and be wary of people bumping into you. Put nothing in your back pocket. If someone pulls a fast one and pickpockets you, there will be almost no hope of identifying who did or getting at them, as they can easily disappear into the crowd.
3. Bring a reusable tote if you plan on shopping a lot. They are more sturdy, better for the environment than plastic ones, and can hold more if you end up buying a lot!
4. Don’t skip the side streets
Especially if you want to check out more antiques, don’t be afraid to wander off the main drag. Here is where there is a host of antique vendors and shops, selling everything from furniture, decor, lamps, books and anything else that can be an antique.
5. Be wary of the cheap, knock-off electronics. A lot of them won’t work and there is no way to test them in the vendor stalls usually. It’s not worth it!
6. Go for tapas and drinks afterward, or get brunch before. This isn’t a rule you HAVE to follow I guess, but it is the traditional way to spend a Sunday in Madrid. There are literally endless options in La Latina as far as restaurants with outdoor terraces go, and it’s a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon after a morning of meandering through the market.