The following article is published in the #RGNNMadrid Magazine: Vol. II, Summer 2017, produced during ROOSTERGNN Academy’s Travel Journalism & Photography Internship Seminar in Madrid, Spain, under the editorial direction of RGNN Expert and Mentor Patricia Rafael Lage. Follow #RGNNMadrid for all of our Madrid coverage.

Madrid is one of the richest culinary capitals of Europe. In order to understand the Madrilian culture and city way of living, you must go to their neighborhood food markets. There, through the smell of local ethnic foods, the loud noises between store owners and customers, and the beautiful architecture, you will be able to see and taste the real beauty and food culture of Madrid and Spain.

Mercado de San Ildefonso: The Street Food Market

Mercado de San Ildefonso at 11pm Saturday night | Yimin Shen

If you are looking for a fun place to eat, grab drinks, and party, Mercado de San Ildefonso is the right place to go. It’s crowded, chaotic, and it gets crazy after 11pm.

Located in the center of Malasaña, Mercado de San Ildefonso is a three-story food market that has over 18 food stands, bars, and hangout areas. Surrounded by numerous clothing stores and shoe shops on calle Fuencarral, you would probably walk pass by it without even noticing it. However, it’s the urban design and open architecture space inside that sets it apart from other typical food markets.

As you enter the market from its small entrance on calle Fuencarral, you are suddenly walking into a crazy food party. Here, the music is loud and the food is amazing. You can literally find anything here: tapas (6€ a plate), tortilla española (12€) meat skewers, seafood, poke bowls (12€) and Chinese food. There are also four bars located on different floors serving soft drinks, beer, wines, and cocktails.

Mercado de San Ildefonso is great for a quick bite or quick drink while shopping in the area. However, the locals say the best time to visit the market is late at night. “It turns into a party after 11pm,” 19-year-old Madrileño Alejandro Gómez said. “My friends and I like to come here to drink before we go out.”

Mercado de San Miguel: Tourists’ Must-See

 Located right next to Plaza Mayor, Mercado de San Miguel is one of the liveliest culinary spots in the city of Madrid, also one of the most visited tourist spot. Here, you can find a wide collection of food, tourists, and store owners who speak fluent English. It might seem like a tourist trap—expensive and touristy—but it is definitely worth a visit.

Originally built in 1913, the market had a long history before it was purchased by private investors and reopened in 2009 with a new look. Mercado de San Miguel are mostly visited by tourists, who come to eat, shop, and experience Spanish food culture.

The market serves prepared tapas, sushi, pastries, seafood, fresh fruit and other Spanish snacks. It’s a great place to enjoy good food and wine after your tour in Plaza Mayor. Prices at Mercado de San Miguel are relatively high compared to other food markets.

Mercado de San Fernando

Typical puestos de fruta at Mercado de San Fernando | Yimin Shen

As you make your way to Mercado de San Fernando, you might find the neighborhood a bit unusual. Compared to the neighborhoods of Mercado de San Ildefonso and San Miguel, Lavapiés is a humble and less decorated neighborhood filled with old apartments, small convenience stores, and ethnic restaurants owned by immigrants, which makes it the most multicultural atmosphere of Madrid.

Serving a wide range of ethnic food and imported goods, Mercado de San Fernando is the perfect representation of the diverse community. The market has everything you can think of, imported beers and wines, homemade Greek food, Japanese and Chinese restaurants, Spanish tapas and oysters, and even leather and shoes shops. And compared to Mercado de San Ildefonso and San Miguel, everything here at San Fernando is more affordable. Here, you can get a bottle of wine for 2 €, a tortilla for 1.50 €, and a plate of sushi for only 3€. “We make food for the people of Madrid,” bar El Mochuelo owner Daniel Fernández said. “I want everybody to be able to afford and enjoy our food.”

Mercado de San Ildefonso; Calle Fuencarral 57; open daily 10am-1am; Average 15 euro per person for a meal and a drink; Metro Tribunal.

Mercado de San Miguel; Plaza de San Miguel; Sunday-Wednesday 10am-midnight, Thursday-Saturday 10am-2am; Average 20 euro per person for a meal and a drink; Metro Sol.

Mercado de San Fernando; Calle Embajadores 41; Monday 9am-2pm & 5:30pm-9pm, Tuesday-Thursday 9am-9pm, Friday 9am-11pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm; Metro Embajadores.