When it comes to eating out in Madrid, there is an incredible number of excellent restaurants and tapas bars to choose from–but any Madrileño knows the most exciting cooking often takes place in the neighborhood mercados. These city-wide markets fuse traditional stalls–piled high with the freshest produce from across Spain–with compact kiosks serving some of the most delicious food in the capital. They’re integral to every itinerary, so we rounded up five must-visit markets to get you started.
Mercado de San Miguel
The last remaining cast-iron structured market in Madrid became one of the city’s most visited attractions after its rejuvenation at the beginning of the millennium. This adaption to modern times and tourist tastes transitioned it from a place for finding fresh produce to the location of more than 30 incredible dining spots. Now visitors are lured into pulling up stools to bars with oozing tortillas, perfectly grilled langoustines, and crisp glasses of cava. Plaza de San Miguel; mercadodesanmiguel.es
Insider tip: When you order a drink at any of the bars in the market, you’re free to walk around with it. So, grab a drink and decide which food experience you fancy.
Mercado de San Antón
Following the success of Mercado de San Miguel, the energetic Chueca district seemed a fitting place for another upmarket food hall, so Mercado de San Antón was born. In a similar blueprint to the Plaza Mayor original, it’s a fantastic place to sample traditional flavors from across Spain–think sophisticated pintxos from the Basque country and Segovian suckling pig washed down with excellent cider from Asturias. Calle de Augusto Figueroa; mercadosananton.com
Insider tip: Once you’ve grazed through the food floors, head up to the terrace to join locals for generously poured gin and tonics and views across the skyline.
Mercado de la Paz
Built in 1879, this is one of Madrid’s oldest markets and remains a big part of many residents’ weekly–and daily–shopping and social routines. At the heart of the upmarket Salamanca district, the art nouveau building retains its original charm, avoiding additional glamor. Strolling past the perfectly presented fruit, day-fresh seafood, and glistening charcuterie allows anyone who understands Spanish to overhear stallholders and locals gossip as they barter over prices. It’s a brilliant option to pick up provisions if you’re staying somewhere you can cook or enjoy one of the eat-in kiosks to let a professional do the job for you. Calle de Ayala; mercadodelapaz.com
Insider tip: Keep your eye out for mojama–slabs of salt-cured tuna loin, delightfully grated over pasta or thinly sliced and added to warm bread with olive oil and a chunk of ripe tomato. It’s not cheap, but the umami-rich flavor is worth the price.
Mercado de San Ildefonso
A decade before this three-story food emporium, many visited the Malasaña neighborhood to find great eats. It elevated its food scene to even greater heights with its 20 stalls, three bars, and rooftop patio where trendy locals sip cold beers and graze on plates of chorizo Ibérico, made-to-order tortillas, and a special steak tartare flavored with truffle. Calle de Fuencarral; mercadodelapaz.com
Insider tip: Take the Metro to Quevedo station and head south along Malasaña’s Fuencarral street to experience one of the liveliest places in Madrid. As you explore the many great bars and restaurants, make Mercado de San Ildefonso one of your pitstops.
Mercado de Maravillas
Travel 20 minutes north from Plaza Mayor on Metro Line 1 to Alvarado to find the largest municipal market in Europe. What it lacks in charm, it makes up for in scale, and dedicated foodies should arrive early to purchase the freshest produce–whether that’s prized jamón from the mountainous Extremadura region or saffron from sun-drenched La Mancha. Unlike many commercial markets, Mercado de Maravillas maintains its buzz all day, as locals flood in to order steaming bowls of callos a la madrileña and cold Mahou lagers at lunch and after work. Calle de Bravo Murillo
Insider tip: The market is only a few blocks west of the iconic Santiago Bernabéu stadium, home to star-studded Real Madrid Football Club. Watching one of the world’s greatest teams isn’t easy at the last minute, but it’s worth trying to secure tickets in advance to experience one of the most electric atmospheres in European soccer.