Category Archives: Food

Sampling Oysters on a Saturday Morning.

Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel
Plaza de San Miguel
Metro Opera/Sol
Monday to Sunday from 10:00 hours to 22:00
youtube: mercadodesanmiguel

Quite some time ago you could read about the unclear future of the Mercado de San Miguel, the beautiful, thrilling but somewhat dilapidated market in Madrid’s city center. Almost two years after closing, the place has reopened and you better chalk up a visit on your shopping list.

The new Mercado has lost a little bit and won a lot. Lost in the sense that walking past the stalls you will not encounter true Spanish produce-you-had-never-even-imagined-to-be-edible-in-the-first-place anymore.  Tripe? Gone. Sheep heads? Nah. Paws? Go somewhere else.

However, these kinds of foods (sort of) are still freely available in every other market, whereas the new and improved San Miguel offers a Spanish atmosphere you will not be able to resist. You can of course go in and do your shopping, but why not sample a chunk of that French cheese, chew on some Italian dolci, have a glass of Spanish vermouth or lunch with half a dozen oysters from Normandy while you’re at it. The inner court is actually one big bar packed with Spanish enjoying a wildly international offer of anything that has to do with food. At only 10 days after reopening the combination of gourmet market and bar seems to be a big success, looking at the hundreds of visitors buying, looking and eating on this drizzly Saturday morning.

The building itself has improved as well. Already a very elegant and classic structure, the renovation made the space even lighter, bigger and cleaner. The glass façade that replaces the brick walls literally invites passers-by to check out on the buzz inside. Do not forget to walk around the entire market: there is a bakery hidden in one of the corners.

The most central market of the city does not offer the usual grub anymore, which surely is a loss for everybody living in the centre and any tourist trying to get a glimpse of normal Spanish life. The new Mercado, on the other hand, does show a deep love for food and style and is still an excellent place to drag your friends to.

No Sheep Heads For Now

Mercado de San MiguelOnce upon a time, a little tour through San Miguel Market was an excellent opportunity to send shivers up the spines of visitors just before going to lunch in La Latina. Tripe, entire rabbits, and skinless sheep heads with the eyes still in place (for a nice broth, I suppose) are just some of the items meant for human consumption in this spectacular 90-year-old building. The ghoulish tour made lunch companions content with their less daring choices of patatas bravas and pincho de tortilla.

Spanish like to say they eat EVERYTHING whereas the rest of Europe would disguise these animal parts as cheap sausage or mystery meat. Looking at the offerings in markets and supermarkets, they’re not exaggerating. Can someone please explain to me the thrill of scraping out pig paws?

Many more markets can be found in Madrid, but San Miguel is by far the most beautiful. Construction was finished in 1916 and the decision to build this market, as well as many others in Madrid, came from the fact that the expanding capital needed to find a solution to the ad hoc system of markets clogging the steets. Lots of glass and curly wrought iron make the Mercado de San Miguel look very light, classic and deeply Spanish.

Sadly, nowadays it is also very closed. Last year even the last fruteria (fruit shop) and pescaderia (fish shop) left, neither of them exactly known for the quality or variety of their products. The market is under reconstruction, but, if you ask neighbours what will happen to it, they start fluttering their hands and fixate their eyes on a point far beyond the horizon. They say it might be a market again, at some point in the future, or something cultural, or…. The latest oficial news is that the spaces were bought by a company called El Gastródromo, that wants to turn it into a market with room for bars, restaurants and cultural activities concerning food. Until then you have to take your visitors to nearby, but less alluring, Mercado de la Cebada in La Latina or the sheep heads will just have to wait.


First published on, autumn 2007