On a typical afternoon in Madrid, people descend on a handful of indoor food markets to enjoy a chat over freshly prepared tapas and vino. These food markets, an essential part of the city’s culinary tradition, provide an opportunity to sample a variety of cuisines all under one roof.
You can peruse stalls and sample not only Spanish dishes but also foods from Latin America and Asia. These are the best places to go and what to try, in no particular order, to see what makes Madrid’s food markets so special.
1. Mercado de San Miguel
Mercado de San Miguel is the most famous food market in Madrid. It’s also one of the oldest. Just a stone’s throw away from Plaza Mayor, this market has been a fixture in Madrid’s food scene since 1916. At first glance, Mercado de San Miguel may appear to be a tourist trap, and many insist it is one. The prices at the 30 food stalls are typically higher than at other Madrid food markets. You’ll also likely find yourself competing with other tourists for seats and space. Still, Mercado de San Miguel is worth a visit for the sheer variety of food you can find here. The buzzing environment also makes for a one-of-a-kind gastronomic experience.
La Casa del Bacalao — Go here for the house special (the namesake salted and smoked cod) and the 1.5-euro tapas. Also try the codfish liver.
El Señor Martín — Located at the center of the market, this establishment specializes in deep-fried seafood served in paper cones. The options include boquerones (anchovies), calamari, mussels, squid, and prawns.
2. Mercado de San Antón
If you’re looking for a less expensive and less touristy alternative to Mercado de San Miguel, then Mercado de San Anton is a great option. Located in the LGBTQ-friendly Chueca neighborhood, the three-story market is packed with food stands and bars with a seemingly infinite selection of tapas. You’ll also find international cuisine, like Japanese and Latin American, among the stalls. The third floor is a rooftop bar and restaurant, which is a spacious and relaxing place to unwind.
La Cocina de San Antón — This rooftop bar and restaurant has four spaces that cater to every type of guest: a lounge area, a terrace bar, an indoor restaurant, and a greenhouse restaurant for smokers. The menu del dia (menu of the day) is available until the afternoon and offers an appetizer, entree, dessert, and drink for under 15 euros.
Hamburguesa Nostra — There are many good options for burgers in Madrid, but the quality of meat here is superb. You can choose from three types of meat (cow, veal, or oxen), and the staff will prepare your burger right in front of you.
3. Mercado de San Ildefonso
Located in the trendy Malasaña neighborhood, Mercado de San Ildefonso is a small market that attracts a younger crowd. It’s filled with the most international options of the food markets on this list, with cuisines from places like Korea, Vietnam, and Mexico. There’s a DJ playing upbeat music, which adds to the vibrant and urban vibe.
There are three floors that house around 20 food stands and three bars. On the first and second floors, you’ll find food stands serving items like seafood, sandwiches, steak, and phở. The third floor has a lounge and restaurant. Vendors here are generous with their food samples, and you can try different dishes before buying.
DP Tapas — A traditional tapas bar where you can try salmorejo (a creamier version of gazpacho) and albondigas guisados (meatball stew).
Paco’s Tacos — A Mexican spot that serves large, delicious tacos with options like cochinita pibil (suckling pig), which hails from the Yucatan.
4. Mercado de San Fernando
Mercado de San Fernando is located in the middle of the Lavapiés neighborhood. A favorite hangout spot for locals, it’s the least expensive of the markets on this list. Here, you can sample great tortilla de patata (Spanish omelette), buy fresh produce, and drink vermut (vermouth) and craft beers. You can also buy non-food items, like books and clothes.
Mercado de San Fernando is the best place to go if you want to truly experience a local market. Don’t expect to find menus in English or any English-speaking staff.
La Alpargata — A vegan restaurant that serves Spanish favorites for health-conscious eaters. The portions are large by Spanish standards.
Mercadillo Lisboa — A little bar that specializes in Portuguese pastries and wines. You can also buy excellent vermouth by the glass for 2-4 euros.
5. Mercado de La Paz
The aptly named Mercado de la Paz (“market of peace”) is one of the oldest markets in Madrid. Founded in 1882, this quiet market is tucked away in the upscale neighborhood of Salamanca and draws an older crowd. It’s a great choice if you’re shopping for fresh meats and fish, but there are also food stalls that serve freshly prepared dishes.
Casi Dani — There are a handful of places to get great tortilla de patata in Madrid, and Casi Dani is one of them. The preparation is medium-rare, which means that the egg is a bit runny.
La Boulette — Go here for specialty cheeses from Spain and France. There’s also a wide selection of canned caviar, smoked fish, pâté, and condiments.