Travel Spain. Madrid - Delicious Food Markets

Madrid is well known as the city that never sleeps or was that NYC? I guess so, but it also is true for Madrid. The city is nearly as large as London and Berlin and as the capital of Spain it happens to sit right in the centre of it.

During the hottest day in June the young Madrileña Isabella tells me that she has got two jobs. Her ”real one” is the badly paid position of a social worker. The job that gives her enough money to have a life is that of a shop assistant on Gran Via the boulevard in the centre of Madrid. The European Central Bank says that the situation in Spain is getting better, but for Isabella the financial crisis is still in full swing. Wages are so low, that most of her friends need to have two jobs to get by. That is if they are lucky, many others are unemployed. To her it feels like it might take years before the job market will be back to its pre-crisis status.

What is a great place to see consumer behaviour of Madrilenians? Exactly right, I have to visit a few markets to better understand what is going on. Since I love to visit markets for their food when travelling, I can kill two birds with one stone … (not that I would ever literally want to kill a living creature). 

You want to see Madrid for foodies? Come with me and visit the Mercado San Miguel, the Mercado Barcelo, the Mercado de San Idelfonso and the Mercado de la Cebada. This is going to be a delicious trip around town.

Mercado San Miguel - San Miguel Market in Old Madrid

This is the obvious choice for most visitors and also Madrilenos, and understandably though. The roughly 100 year’s old market hall is a very short walk from Plaza Mayor and it has got a lot of opportunities to sit down and eat. You can buy fruit and veg but it is not a farmers market in the true sense of the word. Get yourself a drink and eat your way through the massive choices of stuffed olives. This is a place where people meet friends and tell each other about their lives. You can even encounter little dramas in the midst of the busy crowd.

Boy: ”You know I only sleep with her, nothing more, in reality I can’t stand her, and it is so much fun to pretend to fancy her, and to see that she doesn’t get it.”

Lady friend: ”Oh yes, sure, totally get that. Makes sense. She has always been a rather ignorant girl.”

Boy: ”Well, well, well she is so clueless.”

Out of a sudden the lady friend raises her hand and strokes the guys’ head. ”You have very curly hair.” Guy gets slightly uncomfortable. Girl moves very close to that lad and kisses him. I sit directly opposite these guys, and can’t help but witness this very short and tense kiss. His eyes are wide open, I see his twitching mouth and the ever so slight roll of his eyes.

Boy: ”You know what? We better go, I am about to meet a couple of friends in a bit.”

They left straight away, and I buy a cup of Gazpacho and later end my visit with a coffee and churros with chocolate. While I am in chocolate heaven I get to speak to the guy standing next to me, we talk about this and that and I grab a heart and ask whether he feels that Mercado San Miguel is affordable for Spaniards. He tells me that it is on the more expensive side but he loves to visit to have something to nibble and to soak in the atmosphere.

Where. Mercado San Miguel. Plaza de San Miguel. 

Mercado Barceló - Barceló Market in Justicia

In 1937 a covered food market opened in this place but that structure has been demolished and replaced by a very futuristic one. The new Mercado Barceló opened its doors in 2014 and is still a place where people buy groceries of all sorts. It fills my heart with joy to see that Madrid invests into the food and market scene, that way the city remains a lively place. This is a fully functioning farmers market. Have a browse and talk to the stallholders, ask them about their products, it is so very informative. When you tasted enough delicacies head upstairs to drink a cup of coffee and eat a few tapas at one of the tiny bars.

Where. Mercado Barceló. Calle de Barceló 6. 

Mercado de San Idelfonso in Malasaña

The motto of this trendy street market that opened in mid-2014 is Taste and Smile. It runs over three levels and has lots of seating inside and even outdoors. Everything in this industrial-styled market is about food and drink, and the stallholders are entrepreneurs who truly believe in their products. Talk to them to experience their knowledge about food and their love for this place. 

If you are hungry and are in the Malasaña, Chueca and Tribunal area just stop by and you will most certainly have the best time ever. It is not overly crowded during the week but on the weekends there is lots of jostling. Foodies are balancing their full plates and glasses to find a free space ... somehow that adds to the atmosphere. The music plays loudly and there are lots of smiling faces all around you.

While speaking with a few locals I find out they all feel this to be a tad too expensive but love to visit every once in a while to simply catch up with friends. Most often they would pop in for drinks and snacks before they move on to another bar to eat.

The entry on the ground floor looks slightly boring really, just be brave and walk through to the stair case to let the fun begin.

Where. Mercado de San Idelfonso. Fuencarral 57. 

Mercado de la Cebada in La Latina

At the beginning of the 20th century this market built in 1875 became one of the most important ones of Madrid. In the fifties the old market has been demolished and rebuilt, and as it happened too often (everywhere) people decided to buy at supermarkets. 

In present days the two-storey market does look sort of neglected but that doesn’t mean that there are bad products on sale, not at all. The food you get here is of excellent quality and the vendors are welcoming and friendly. This is that type of place where you drink wine from plastic cups. The surroundings have been turned into an open-air art space for the time being. Let us cross fingers that this place will be restored in its old glory.

Where. Mercado de la Cebada. Plaza de la Cebada. 

Where is your favourite food market? I love to visit markets whenever I have the opportunity. Let us swap experiences. Do you inform yourself about the economic situation of a country before you travel there? And I mean not only so that you can get the cheapest deal. So very much looking forward to hear from you.

From Berlin with love