Exploring Madrid’s markets

Mercado de la Cebada, Madrid

Exploring Madrid’s markets

Madrid is a city we are familiar with but we hadn’t been for a few years so there was an opportunity to visit some of their markets over the weekend. It wasn’t a work trip but the lines are increasingly blurred when work is about markets and places.

We dropped by San Fernando, Anton Martin and Mercado de la Cebada in the La Latina/Lavapies neighbourhoods.

The markets haven’t (yet) changed to being all hot food with each of them retaining butchers, greengrocers and cheese/ham type traders even though both San Fernando and Anton Martin were perhaps 70-30 hot food. The hot food on offer was global and not Spanish.

The markets attract a wide range of people with plenty on laptops and meeting friends to those who were older doing their food shop. What has been added to each one are services or maker spaces to widen the offer.

At San Fernando, there was a cold storage click and collect unit and a post office collection/ pickup locker. Others had laundrettes amongst the stalls, leather repairers and art stalls.

At Mercado de la Cebada, there were large, multi unit maker spaces with a bag seller using some of the unit as studio space while the market still retained its traditional traders. The traders all appear to be proactive in attracting business with many having flyers out with ways to order and a full range of social media platforms to find them on.

The markets are in high density areas so there are always people around giving them an increased chance of success (and that markets feature heavily in the Spanish way of life). What struck me most was that the revival of these markets hasn’t involved multi-million pound funding programmes and shiny, new food halls but the buildings have been used as they are and adapted. The council appear to manage all the markets and/or own the buildings, many are open across 2-3 floors and some are open into the evening.

As for San Miguel Market, often used as a case study, I avoided it twice. I visited not long after it opened (2009) and it was nicely done but high end albeit a roaring success in terms of showcasing Spanish food in a refurbished market hall. At the weekend, there were security teams on each entrance, touts offering day trips outside, queues to get in and a lot of big groups of tourists so perhaps its become a victim of its own success?

Outside Madrid, in the smaller towns and cities, markets appear to be keeping with their traditional role in providing fresh, in many cases, local produce (particularly meat and fish) as part of regular food shopping and with more limited opening hours.

Finally, is Vermouth, the new aperol spritz? There were vermouth stalls in each market!

You can find a list of all of Madrid’a markets over on the council website here.