Postcard of the Week: El Rastro, Madrid’s famous Sunday market
[Written on 6th April] Today is Sunday and Madrid is quickly growing on me. I’m sat in the sun having lunch in Plaza de Tirso de Molina. Spring is well underway and it’s 23°C (although that still means I’m one of the only people in a skirt – the Spanish are still dressed as if it’s January).
I’m resting with a bocadillo (sandwich) and some calamares con ali-oli (battered squid with garlic mayonnaise) after a stroll through El Rastro, Madrid’s Sunday flea market that begins near Tirso de Molina and continues down a hill along the Calle Ribera de Curtidores. Violinists, musicians and buskers provide the soundtrack to the bustling street market, which sets up along a leafy boulevard with bars and shops along the edges that act like pit stops for the voracious bargain-hunters on a shopping spree. It struck me that while fashions change seasonally, goods sold in markets never do. Perusing the offering at various stalls, I realised that they still look very much like the markets I used to visit 10 years ago when I was 14, like Camden Market in London. The same sort of jewellery, the same incense, the same trinkets and the same style of clothes. I actually bought a rather hippy-ish beaded string of fabric elephants, which are identical to some elephants that have hung outside my family’s bungalow in south-west France since before I was born. It’s nice to see that not everything in the world is changing at the speed of light.
People may be abandoning high-street shops and buying online instead, but the appeal of the Sunday flea market hasn’t dampened and the unique atmosphere still pulls in a crowd.
If you continue down Calle Ribera de Curtidores you’ll stumble upon some antiques shops in two tiny squares either side of the market, selling vintage suitcases, gorgeous grand furniture, old fur coats and even old-fashioned globes. I’ve been wanting a decent globe for a long time (not to mention the rest of the contents of those shops!) but it will have to wait until I choose a city to stick to and in which to buy my own place. One thing I did pick up was these four signs showing iconic streets and plazas in Madrid, which I am using as drinks coasters. I like the idea that in years to come I’ll glance down at them and remember my six months here in Madrid.
El Rastro is open from 9am-3pm every Sunday and on public holidays and it’s a blissful way to pass a morning before heading to an alfresco lunch in a nearby plaza in the beautiful La Latina neighbourhood, where you’ll find young people relaxing and socialising out in the sun with a caña or a tinto in hand. Enjoy!