Struggling to survive

Doing our groceries in local markets is a very Spanish tradition that is sadly dying out. In a world obsessed with practicality, time-saving and big shopping malls, small shops are going through a rough time. Supermarket chains are convenient and often cheaper options to jumping from stall to stall looking for our supplies. It’s no wonder then that local markets find it so hard to compete.

As a consequence, many markets have been reinventing themselves to survive. Several establishments are now gourmet spots to enjoy drinks and high quality food at perhaps slightly inflated prices. Innovative restaurants and trendy bars now take the centre stage on what it used to be a community of local merchants. 

However, for generations, our parents and grandparents have been getting the freshest products from old-fashioned independent suppliers. Many of them still do, and there’s a number of reasons why you should too. Even if you’re just visiting Spain, it’s worth taking a stroll in one of these charming old markets. But don’t be fooled by advertising, if you really want to feel the local atmosphere, look for the off the beaten track local markets. 

Why local markets rule

Why visiting a local market that’s not necessarily on your travel guide or a bit farther away than your supermarket? Well, first of all, you’ll be supporting a beautiful old tradition and its people. Local merchants have been running their own business for decades and are striving to make ends meet. That is something most of us can relate to. 

But this takes me to my next point. As they’ve been working with these products for so many years, you can be sure they know what they’re selling. Every time I visit the local market in Madrid, I learn something new. A kind of cheese I knew nothing about, a cut of meat that’s ideal for a recipe I want to try or the best season to find my favourite fruit. You can’t get this information at a supermarket, can you? Don’t be shy and ask questions at your local seller. They love talking about what they know about. 

In addition, if you really want to help the planet, mind your plastic consumption. You’re less likely to find products wrapped in plastic at local markets than at big chain stores. A good trick I do to add my little grain of sand is to take my own egg tray and ask for a fill up. This prevents them from using more plastic and cardboard every time I buy eggs. 

Our best 4 local markets for an authentic experience in Madrid

So, here is our WabiHost selection of the best off the beaten track local markets in Madrid. We hope you’ll be able to feel the true Spanish food culture when you visit. Also, let us know in the comments below whether you’ve been to any of them and which one is your favourite. 

Mercado Santa Maria de la Cabeza

This is our favourite one by far. It’s probably one of Madrid best-kept secrets when it comes to food experiences. Clean, friendly, lively, close to the touristy area yet still feeling local. They serve the best local products and WabiHost can take you to taste them.

Mercado de la Paz

Small and full of life. It’s very well kept and it boasts a couple really nice places to eat at affordable prices. 

Mercado de La Cebada

This market is huge and sadly is a great example of the losing fight markets are facing agains their competitors. Although many stalls are closed because of this, La Cebada hides a secret or two. Every first Sunday of every month, this market opens its doors to sell their last produce at quite low prices. Eat well for less. 

Mercado de Anton Martín

Although it’s becoming increasingly touristy due to its strategic location, this market still keeps some of its charm. Some stalls there sell great products at fair prices and there’re a couple of restaurants there that are well worth eating at. 

Conclusion 

By visiting a local market in Madrid you will:

  • Help small producers and merchants keeping a lovely tradition alive.
  • Learn unique features about our local food.
  • Eat well for less.
  • Help the environment.
  • Avoid tourist traps.
  • Feel like a local in Spain. 

If you don’t speak the language but would still love to experience the real Spanish food like a local, contact us and we’ll be delighted to take you on an off the beaten track foodie tour.