This is a guest post by our friends from Wanderant – a travel planning tool for people who love a well-planned trip! They offer some great advice for shopping in Madrid’s Markets.
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Bargain hunters rejoice! Madrid has a ton of markets for you to explore, and we’ve compiled five of the best tips to help you along as you explore. Check out our Madrid essentials collection for recommendations on things to see between markets. But for now – sharpen your elbows and bargaining skills!
1. Ask yourself what kind of market experience you want
If you want a high-end shopping experience with a touch of class mixed in, then upmarket sites like the Nómada Market, Mercado Central de Diseñoand Mercado de San Miguel will fill what you’re looking for. If you want to immerse yourself in markets that draw huge crowds due to a flamboyant mish-mash of everything under the sun, then sites like El Rastro, Adelita Market and Mercado de Motores are the places to go.
We also love MadrEAT as it mixes the vibe of a flea market with a collection of the city’s most delicious street food trucks. Great for topping up energy reserves after a long day of bargain hunting!
The crowd of shoppers and browsers at El Rastro, photo by Eduardo Balmaseda, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
2. Carry cash and keep a close eye on it
Don’t expect the average flea market vendor to accept your credit card. Cash is thus a must when market-hopping, which presents another problem: pick-pocketing. It’s an endemic problem in the flea markets of Madrid (just like in the rest of the world), especially ones jam-packed with tourists like El Rastro.
So keep your hand on your wallet and hug your bag in front of you to make it harder for wandering hands to pilfer the cash you have on hand. Oh, and dress simply.Designer labels and serious bling draw the eyes of pickpockets.
Police at El Rastro, Photo by Tiia Monto CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
3. Arrive early for comfort, arrive late for bargains
If you’re averse to elbowing through crowds of people, then get to these markets as soon as they open. This is typically around 9:30 to 10:00 AM. You’ll have enough time to shop around at your own pace before the crowds come charging in.
On the other hand, if you’re hunting for bargains and can breathe in the energy of the crowd, then you’ll want to start shopping near the closing time. Vendors will be more willing to shave 10 to 15 percent off the asking price when they’re about to call it a night – even more if you have a knack for haggling!
Hand fans on El Rastro, Madrid, Photo by Tiia Monto, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
4. Wear clothes that you can easily take off and put on
The weather in Madrid can be swelteringly hot and humid – but a shift in the weather of the high-altitude city can bring in winds that can leave you chilled if you’re not prepared. This is why it is highly recommended that you wear multiple layers of lightweight clothing that are easy to take on and off. Sweating hard as you walk under the sun? Strip down to your shirt. Feeling the chill when you sit under the shade with a cool drink in hand? Don that jacket.
Mercado de San Miguel offers the perfect sampling of Spanish delicacies under one roof, photo by Mercadodesanmiguel.es!
5. Don’t be afraid to pace yourself
Smaller venues like the Nómada and Adelita Markets can be fully explored a day or half a day even if you adopt a more relaxed pace. Other markets are large and chock-full of various stalls – especially El Rastro.
No matter the size of the market though, don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself as you explore Madrid’s flea markets. Shopping at your own leisure is the primary charm of exploring flea markets in any part of the world, and the various flea markets of Madrid are no exception!