El Rastro, that Madrid classic, is still alive! This very morning I met up with a few friends and we had a great time exploring the winding streets and peeking into the booths. We found ourselves both surprised and a bit nostalgic at the offerings and had a great time people-watching and seeing the urban artists working there. The autumn sun, bathing the whole market in its light, made the whole thing even better.
In El Rastro you can find objects that you didn’t know existed, objects from your childhood, and curiosities from the 80’s and 90’s: clothing and textiles from India, the legendary Marihuana store (where every good metalhead goes to look his/her best), t-shirts for every taste imaginable, old photographs, movie posters from old and new classics…..you can even find pastry vendors in traditional Madrid costumes!
The antique stores are also still open, as are the second-hand record stores and camping stores. But not everything is so retro. There are a lot more street performers now than in the past you can stumble upon them as you make your way through the crowds.
You can also find designer clothes, laptop covers, and other things advertised as “clearance items.” So, in the end, if you’re visiting Madrid or if you live here, take a few hours to get lost in El Rastro on Sunday mornings (it’s the only day it’s open!)
The Mercado de los Motores is held the first weekend of every month in an old building near the Pacifico and Menendez-Pelayo metro stops (Line 1) in south-central Madrid. Despite the name, the market has nothing at all to do with cars. The name comes from the building, which used to house the power generators for the Madrid Metro network until the 80s when it was decommissioned. The building is gorgeous, and the power works are pretty impressive (you can visit them on normal days if you like), but the real reason for coming here is the Mercado de los Motores!
The marketplace is basically divided into three sections. The first is inside the old power works: here, you find higher-end boutique designers and handicrafts, things like vintage clothes, artisanal soaps, hand-made bags, hats, iphone covers, espadrilles, scarves, and more. The second (and my favorite), is found outside, where normal people come to set up shop and the place takes on more of a flea-market vibe. You can literally peruse for hours, checking out all kinds of vintage jewelry, bicycles, clothes, decorations, and knick-knacks: everything from original Russian-language film posters to vintage Fred Perry polos (for 10euros!) to DVDs to some awesome furniture made out of reconditioned shutters from old buildings.
There is also a bar area set up outside which has comfy canvas deck chairs so you can relax in the sun and have a cold Pilsner Urquell if you get tired of shopping. People also set up food stands, selling organic meats, massive paellas (which drove me crazy watching it cook!), homemade baked goods, and more.
The other cool thing about this market is the mixture of people. A lot of people, somewhat derisively, label Mercado de los Motores as a hipster market, which seems pretty unfounded. When I went, there were tons of young people of course, but also lots of grandmas from the neighborhood, young couples with kids, curious types from around the blocks, and everyone was having a really great time. If you happen to be in Madrid on the first of the month, it's definitely a place I'd recommend checking out.
For several months, a lovely market has been organized on Saturday mornings in the Plaza del Dos de Mayo (Plaza 2nd of October): the Dosde Market. It’s become a meeting point for designers from the neighborhood and of “product of design, quality and good taste,” according to their website. They aren’t without reason. In the little stands set up by the designers, you can find beautiful pendants, clothes, accessories, stationary and gifts, for the most part.
Don’t just go to the market, but go, chat with the people (workers and shoppers alike), and buy something. Make sure to grab the contact cards of the designers in order to follow them on the internet, where they generally sell more products, organize meetings, interact with their fans and all of those types of things the 2.0 generation does on the internet.
In the area surrounding those stands, you can find some antiques and collectors items, similar to those traditionally found in the rastro. Here they’re less common and at more reasonable prices.
This market gives the plaza a renewed atmosphere. The plaza Dosde (Madrileño slang for Plaza Dos de Mayo (the 2nd of May)) tends to be the center of all the nightlife in the famous Malasaña neighborhood. During the night you can find massive botellones (outdoor drinking parties). The riot police had to interrupt the 2007 neighborhood festival because there were fights and, from that point forward, it’s been a police parking lot at night to make sure no one causes trouble on the streets.
Thanks to the police presence, things are much better and the plaza has recovered what it once had. Saturday mornings are particularly nice, but it’s also a good place to have a drink or grab a bite to eat during all days of the week, at any hour of the day or night. If the terraces are full (which is normally the case), you can just plop yourself down in the plaza and wait for one of the many Chinese salespersons that roam the plaza to come by and sell you a beer for 1 Euro. There are always kids, dogs, teenagers, punks, moderns, couples, and a great atmosphere in the plaza Dosde.
Historically, the Plaza de Dos de Mayo is where the Madrileños rebelled against the French. Afterwards, it became the epicenter of the Madrid Movement in the 1980s.