Madrid was my initial stop on my first to visit Spain and this region of Europe. I was traveling with a friend I have known for decades, and it was her first visit as well. 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 Miquel 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 ultimately the culture. When people spoke of this market, they lit up, and that intrigued me.
As a result, our first destination was the spectacular Mercado de San Miquel. 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 extensive windows that stream in warm natural light to the interior. This once wholesale food venue now stands out as one of the world’s leading gastronomic markets. It allows visitors to 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 that Spanish cuisine has to offer. 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 there as you watch.
There is the freshest fish and seafood brought in daily from Galicia. Some of the seafood for sale was unique and a little odd, yet they sure were being bought. There were the classic Mediterranean rice dishes prepared with a flare; the Paella was superb. The exquisite cheeses from Castile, Asturias, and the Basque Country are on a beautiful display, and samples were offered for some. Therefore if you want, try some.
Spain is known for its Iberian ham, and you will find the finest on display. 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 papers cones were a popular snack. What is Spain without olives and olive oils? Add to all that the colorful and delectable fruits and produce.
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 Tapas offered at the San Miquel 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.
Scroll to see all the variation of Tapas at the Market
Full of Energy
The ambiance of the San Miquel 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 quite quick and efficient. Vendors were friendly and patient.
You will find many Spaniards shopping and gathering for a drink and food at the market. San Miquel 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 do have to say I was a bit surprised to see so much champagne was being poured at a food market. This is Europe, though; what is a meal without a lovely glass of fine wine or champagne to complement it? Cocktails were big too and seemed to be Aperol Spritzer 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 seating can be challenging at peak hours, but we saw many juggling food and drink standing quite expertly.
It took several trips by all the shops and 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, with no regrets.
A bit later, after a lovely glass of wine, lots of Tapas, fresh mozzarella balls, and some of the best prosciutto ever, I was satiated.
Did I mention this was a photographer’s playground? Taking photos at any market is always a blast, and this was no exception. I had so much fun taking a ton of pics! 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 Miquel is one of the best I have ever experienced.
When in Madrid, Spain, do not miss this gem. It is in the heart of the city 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 Miquel It is a gift to the senses, a food lover’s paradise, a joy to photograph, and a ton of fun to boot!
Check out the official website for the Mercado de San Miquel. Warning the the opening video will make you hungry!
The market was closed during the peak of Covid, but it reopened in July 2021. Check for current status and opening hours before going as they can change suddenly.