We’ve all done it. You go on a weekend break somewhere and fall in love with the place and want to bring a part of it home. Maybe it’s the music, maybe it’s the local wine, or a memory of the local food. But somehow you know the Duty Free at the airport just won’t cut it. That’s where the local design and art stores come in. It’s a little much to try to import a sofa or a coffee table, but there are some pieces that you just know will look great in your living room and will be just that little bit different from the high street back home.
We took a walk around the Rastro in Madrid’s Latina district and I was amazed at the range of pieces they have available. From Tolix-style stools to original art and genuine antiques, there’s a piece for every budget, whether your style is mid-century modern, or Victorian, or modern ethnic, or hipster. You just need to know where to look.
So, with a local guide and a camera in hand, we set out to find some distinctive pieces that could sit well with most design directions and that could fit in a suitcase, or could be easily shipped home.
The Rastro has something for every budget. You just need to know where to look. And come with an open mind!
– Sonia Viso, our local tour guide
El Rastro is the largest open air flea market in Spain and takes place every Sunday morning and public holiday throughout the year. We went in late September when the sun is still high in the sky in Madrid and spent a long morning browsing the stalls and antique shops.
Starting out from La Latina metro stop, we took the chance to grab a quick breakfast of churros and hot chocolate before heading to the market. The main square is surrounded on all sides with cafes and bars, serving everything from typical Spanish breakfasts through to gazpacho, tortilla and calamares in bread rolls.
Plaza de Cascorro
From La Latina and Puerta de Toledo metro stations, it’s a short walk to Plaza de Cascorro. The market stalls run along the Plaza and La Ribera de Curtidores down to Ronda de Toledo and spill out onto the surrounding streets. Don’t be disappointed by the first few stalls you see. There are a lot selling cheap clothing, posters and tourist bits and pieces; it’s the side streets that contain the real treasures, in the way of both second-hand stalls with curious collections of antiques and a very wide range of antique and decorative shops containing both reproduction and vintage furniture and accessories.
Entre dos Aguas
With the sound of Paco de Lucia’s Entre dos Aguas blasting out from one of the stalls, we set out to find some eye-catching bargains to take home. Round every corner there was something peculiar or distinctive: a lot of vintage magazines and newspapers that would look really cool framed up, lot of old signs and prints and objects that would add life to a minimalist aesthetic, and some really cheap furniture and design pieces.
If we’d had a van with us instead of a couple of suitcases, I could easily have filled it and brought home a unique collection of everything from vintage comics to stone garden ornaments. As it was, we settled for some 1960s 7” single, some comics and some chinoiserie cushions. I just wish I could get my walls at home to have that brick and patina effect you see everywhere here.
La China Mandarina
After what became a full morning of bargain hunting, we looked to Sonia for recommendations on where to go next… and ended up staying in La Latina to enjoy some tapas and some beers. La Latina is amongst the oldest of Madrid’s neighborhoods and is renowned for a lively party atmosphere, whatever time of day. We took the chance to visit La China Mandarina, one of the newer styles of cafe bar that Sonia told us are springing up. Just off the main square, they serve tapas and fusion-inspired lighter plates, have beer on tap and a constant supply of sangria.
Addresses and Practical Information
- El Rastro Market, Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores, 28005 Madrid. Open: Sundays and public holidays throughout the year, 9am to 3pm, nearest metro La Latina or Puerta de Toledo.
- Furniture store featured is in the Mi Casa del Rastro building on Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores, 31, 28005 Madrid
- La China Mandarina – Plaza de Cascorro, 17, 28005 Madrid
- Flights to Madrid from London start from around £40 return and take 2 hours 35 minutes.