Roll up, roll up! It’s the biggest flea market you’ll find in the Spanish capital and one of the largest in Europe! El Rastro is the place to come if you're looking for souvenirs, presents, cheap socks, televisions, sun-cream…well, anything really! "Rastro”, the Spanish for “trail”, refers to the trail of blood that traditionally led from the abattoirs to the local tanneries. Thankfully, the market is relatively blood-free these days, but that’s not to say the heat and the tempo of a good old-fashioned market doesn’t permeate the air.
Every Sunday, stalls pop up in the streets around Plaza de Cascorro from around 9 a.m. Over the years, certain streets have become known for selling specific wares, such as Calle de San Cayetano where shoppers go for art supplies, prints or other artworks, both original and copied. If you climb the hill near Plaza Mayor and La Latina, you'll come across stalls selling clothing and accessories. Come back down the hill and you'll be wandering among booksellers. Duck down a side street to find jewellery, antiques and bric-a-brac. Bartering is normal so don't be afraid to try and knock prices down – you never know until you ask! It’s also well worth shopping around, because prices can fluctuate rather a lot!
The market covers a wide area and it can get extremely crowded, especially towards 11 a.m. so, if you’re visiting as a group, make sure to arrange a meeting point because chances are you'll get separated. Watch your things too, because there have been plenty of reports of pickpocket activities.
Once things have died down, or you've had enough, you might like to head to one of the bars along Ribera de Curtidores (or one of the neighbouring streets) for a well-earned tapas and beer break.
El Rastro is right in the centre of Madrid, not far from La Latina metro station. Stallholders set up at around 9 in the morning every Sunday and every public holiday, and pack up mid-way through the afternoon. You're advised to get to the market early, especially if you're looking for a bargain.
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