Madrid was my initial stop on my first visit to Spain and this region of Europe. I was traveling with a friend I had known for decades, and it was her first visit. Our itinerary included the three major cities of Spain: Madrid, Seville, and Barcelona. When speaking with friends who had been to Madrid, almost everyone mentioned the Mercado de San Miguel as a must-do. Visiting markets has always been a highlight of my travels because it often gives a glimpse of the locals, their food, traditions, and culture. When people spoke of this Market, they lit up, which intrigued me.
As a result, our first destination was the spectacular Mercado de San Miguel. The doors of this Market opened over 100 years ago when it started as a wholesale food market. It sits in an impressive historical building with expansive windows that stream warm natural light to the interior. This once wholesale food venue now stands out as one of the world’s leading gastronomic markets. Visitors can experience Spain’s essence and flavors from every corner of this fascinating and diverse country.
It could not have been a better choice to launch our trip to Spain. The Market showcased the delicious food that Spain has to offer the world in all its glory and colors.
At the Mercado de San Miguel, you’ll find all the best Spanish cuisine offers. Its referred to as a monument to the incredible cuisine of Spain. I would have to agree wholeheartedly. There are over 26 stands and carts that provide top-quality items. The prices are very reasonable, even cheap, and all the food is as fresh as you can imagine. In many cases, it is made as you watch.
The freshest fish and seafood are brought in daily from Galicia. Some of the seafood for sale was unique and a little odd, yet they sure were being purchased by many locals. The classic Mediterranean rice dishes were prepared with a flare; the Paella was superb, the best we had in Spain. The exquisite cheeses from Castile, Asturias, and the Basque Country are on a beautiful display, and samples were offered for some. So, if you want, try some, but you may bring some back to your hotel room.
Spain is known for its Iberian ham; you will find the finest on display at the Market. The selection of cured meats was extensive. How about some specialty cured meat in a paper cone, which seemed sought out by many? And oh, the prosciutto!!! It may even beat out Italian prosciutto.
Of course, there were beautiful desserts and bakery products. Various forms of nuts in paper cones were popular snacks. What is Spain without olives and olive oils? Add to all that the colorful and delectable fruits and produce.
What is all that delicious food without an Aperol Spritz or a glass of champagne? It may have been lunchtime, but everyone seemed to have an alcoholic drink in hand.
Oh, the Tapas!
What stood out, and that wasn’t easy as everything blew us away, was the Tapas. The glorious, huge, stunning Tapas. In my two trips to Spain, nowhere else came close to the presentation, beauty, and quality of Tapas offered at the San Miguel market. Not only were they gorgeous, but they were also a joy for the palate.
There were what felt like over 100 varieties. As a result, what limits you is how much room you have for all that food. Whether visiting to eat here or take home (which many locals did), the Tapas are simply perfection.
Check out all the variations of Tapas at the Market
Full of Energy
The ambiance of the San Miguel market was bustling, loud, and energetic. Packed with people chatting away, it felt at times like a community event where friends gather versus a food market. This Market draws 10 million visitors a year, so you can expect large crowds most of the time. That said, we never felt closed in and unable to view what we wanted. The waits for purchases were relatively quick and efficient. Vendors were friendly and patient.
Many Spaniards shop and gather for a drink and food at the Market. San Miguel is a social hub for the locals. Many of the stands offer alcoholic beverages of all kinds. They were pretty popular in this Market; as a result, they seemed to draw many there. I have to say I was surprised to see so much champagne being poured at a food market. This is Europe, though; what is a meal without a lovely glass of wine or champagne to complement it? Cocktails were big, too, and seemed to be Aperol Spritz was the favorite, but many choices were available.
Popular for locals and tourists
The Mercado is a huge tourist draw, and the outsiders are pretty obvious; they are the ones standing there with their mouths hanging open in awe and unable to decide where to begin.
Be warned that seating can be challenging at peak hours, but we saw many juggling food and drinks while standing expertly.
It took several trips to all the shops and various stands to decide which of these spell-binding Tapas I would choose. It was a difficult decision! As a result, I may have taken more than I should have. In the end, each was delicious; there were no regrets.
A bit later, I was satiated after a lovely glass of wine, lots of Tapas, fresh mozzarella balls, and some of the best prosciutto I have ever tasted.
Did I mention this was a photographer’s playground? Taking photos at any market is a blast, and the Mercado de San Miguel was no exception. I had so much fun! So many colors and textures to capture.
One Impressive Market
I was genuinely in awe of this Market. Having visited many markets worldwide (one of my favorite things to do during travel), Mercado de San Miguel is one of the best I have ever experienced.
When in Madrid, Spain, do not miss this gem. It is in the city’s heart and is easy to access via public transportation or Uber. It is an indoor market, so the weather is never a concern. There are many hotels nearby that are within walking distance.
Mercado de San Miguel is a gift to the senses, a food lover’s paradise, a cultural immersion, a joy to photograph, and a ton of fun to boot!
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Check out the official website for the Mercado de San Miguel.
Warning the opening video will make you hungry!
Official website of the Mercado de San Miguel
Plaza de San Miguel, s/n
From Sunday to Thursday from 10:00 to 24:00
Fridays, Saturdays, and Holiday eves from 10:00 to 01:00
Planning a trip to Spain? Check out our Spain Travel Guide
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If you are booking a trip, don’t forget to get travel insurance within 14 days of your first booking. We could not be stronger advocates of being well-insured. Not just for the little stuff but the big stuff like medical emergencies. We never leave home without it. Over the years, we have used many sites but have now found our go-to place. Squaremouth.com does a fantastic job; it has a user-friendly interface, they use top-rated and reputable insurance carriers, and most policies cover Covid medical issues and cancellations. They also mediate on your behalf if you have problems with your policy.
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Hotels, home rentals, BNBs, flights, and other transportation & tours
Expedia is a US-based company whose mission is to power global travel for everyone and everywhere. Whether planning a family vacation, booking for business, or organizing the trip of a lifetime, they are a fantastic resource. Wanderers Compass focuses on independent travel, and using sites like Expedia makes that possible. Every aspect of travel you would need, from airfare, accommodations, rental car, and cruises, to activities to do at your destination, can be booked on Expedia.
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Booking.com connects millions of travelers to memorable experiences, various transportation options, and incredible places to stay – from homes to hotels and much more. It is one of the world’s largest travel marketplaces for established brands and entrepreneurs of all sizes.
We always start with Expedia to check prices, but it sometimes says it is sold out. We then try Booking.com, and we find it lists plenty of rooms. It could be they are a Europe-based company. Try both before booking accommodations.
Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO)
Are you traveling with a family or having an extended stay at your destination?
With over 2 million bookable vacation rentals, VRBO connects homeowners with families and vacationers looking for something more than a hotel for their trip. The VRBO community offers families or groups various rental property types such as condos, cabins, lake rentals, beach houses, etc.
VRBO is under the Expedia group ownership now, which many were worried about, but it hasn’t panned out to be a concern. It is a massive network that has access to all forms of lodging should issues arise. Joelle has used VRBO for many years with her family with no problems.
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Rail Europe sells train and bus tickets for travel across Europe. They cover 24 countries, 105 rail operations, and 20,000 stations. They are the official rail and bus operations agents in the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Rail Europe continues to add coverage all the time.
It is a fast, easy, and economical way to purchase European train and bus tickets. Eurail passes are also available to buy through their site.
An excellent source for travel essentials and guides
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