Sundays in Madrid are generally quiet; shops remain closed for the day, most of the restaurants open late, and there is hardly anything which can make locals roll out of the bed earlier. Except for one thing: El Rastro, an iconic flea market in barrio La Latina, has long ago become a magnet for avid treasure-hunters as well as just casual passer-byes who are more than happy to engage in friendly chat with vendors and other locals, or simply browse through infinite objects displayed on the counters.
In the 14th century, the area today occupied by the market was a favorite spot for street vendors and local craftsmen already – tannery and used clothes were the most popular objects sold here. The name of the market translates as “the trail”, referring to the trail of blood left from the slaughtered cattle during its transportation from the slaughterhouse to the tannery. Over the years, the market has expanded and today it stretches south from Plaza de Cascorro, where the monument to soldier Eloy Gonzalo stands right in the center, to Ronda de Toledo, with stalls running all along the neighboring streets.
The assortment has also changed and it now includes everything you’d expect to find in a flea market: from fake courtier accessories to rare copies of books and magazines, from CDs and vinyl records to heirloom décor and household goods, plus some specialty items like old flamenco records and vintage photos of Spanish capital.
Whether you go to El Rastro for something in particular, or simply to enjoy the ambiance, the most fun comes afterwards, as crowds flock into the bars nearby to enjoy a typically Spanish fare of vermouth – fortified wine – and tapas. At around noon, not a single mardileño would miss the joy of sipping this peculiar drink, and in the neighborhood of La Latina there are myriads of establishments who open for vermouth.
Tapas here are arguably the best in the whole city; and the buzz stirring from El Rastro clearly does the trick – and as unpretentious as some of the bars appear, they all remain busy during the day, welcoming everyone who shows up at the door.