El Rastro is the most popular open air flea market in Madrid, and one of the oldest in the city. Established in 1496, this weekly flea market showcase a broad variety of products, used and new.
Located around the Ribera de Curtidores, El Rastro de Madrid with its 3,500 stalls encompasses a large, almost triangular block marked by Calle de Toledo, Calle Embajadores and Ronda de Toledo, and spreads into various streets in the area, such as San Cayetano, Fray Ceferino González, Carlos Arniches, Mira el Río or Plaza de General Vara del Rey and Plaza de Campillo del Mundo Nuevo. A few antique shops in the area are also open on Sunday.
From antique furniture and collectibles on display in some of the small squares and galleries, to second hand clothes, jewellery, old flamenco records, old photos of Madrid, faux designer purses, grunge T-shirts, household apliances and electronics, it is possible to take home anything imaginable from El Rastro.
Most items sold at El Rastro is low quality offered at bargain prices. And although for every ten pieces of junk, there’s a real gem, it is unusual to find valuable treasures along the main thoroughfares. But if you’re lucky, and do not hesitate to get your hands dirty, who knows: you might very well end up finding a vintage designer dress, a mid century modern chair, a rare painting, or the internal mechanism of an old door lock. The best bet for more unique discoveries is along the side streets. That’s where you’ll find shops selling antiques and retro goods.
The organizers of El Rastro advise those wanting a more touristy experience, to show up at el Rastro at 11:00, as this when the market is busiest. Those wishing to haggle for a bargain, should be at the market a little earlier, between 08:30 and 09:00. The crowds usually begin to thin around midday, as people head for the bars at the edges of the market and around La Plaza de Cascorro for a drink and some tapas. The stalls gradually shut and by 15:00 or 16:00, depending if it is winter or summer.