El Rastro

El Rastro de Madrid or simply el Rastro is the most popular open air flea market in Madrid (Spain). It is held every Sunday and public holiday during the year and is located along Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores, between Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toledo (just south of La Latina metro station).

A great variety of products (new and used) can be found at el Rastro. A number of antique shops in the local area are also open on Sunday.

El Rastro means "the trail". The market probably owes its name to the tanneries that were once located in Ribera de Curtidores (Ribera de Curtidores means 'riverside of tanners'). Close by, on the banks of the Manzanares River, was an abattoir. Transporting the slaughtered cattle from the abattoir to the tannery left a trail (rastro) of blood along the street. An alternative etymology suggests el Rastro once meant "outside", referring to the fact el Rastro was once outside the jurisdiction of the mayor's court.

According to municipal rules, el Rastro takes place every Sunday and public holiday of the year, from 9 am to 3 pm, in the barrio de Embajadores ('Ambassador's neighborhood) in the Central District of Madrid. The Madrid town council regulates the markets. A maximum of 3500 stalls cover the area from the Plaza de Cascorro, with its statue dedicated to Eloy Gonzalo, who was a Spanish soldier who fought in the Cuban War of Independence in which he distinguished himself and is regarded as a hero, in the north, along the main thoroughfare of Ribera de Curtidores and adjoining streets to Calle Embajadores in the east and the Ronda de Toledo and Plaza del Campillo del Mundo Nuevo in the south.

El Rastro's promotional page advises those wanting a "tourist experience" to go to el Rastro at 11am, as this when the market is busiest. Those wishing to haggle for a bargain in the stalls should be at the market a little earlier, between 9 and 10am. The crowds usually begin to thin around midday, as people head for the bars at the edges of the market and around La Plaza de Cascorro for a drink and some tapas. The stalls gradually shut and by 3 or 4 pm (depending if it is winter or summer).