Madrid’s El Mercado de San Fernando, or “el mercado de Lavapiés”, as it is more commonly known, is a vibrant indoor market where bars selling imported German beers, local Spanish wines, Italian breads, sushi, homemade Greek food, oysters and much, much more are nestled in right alongside the cobbler, grocer and butcher.
As in all big cities, neighborhoods go in and out of style as fast as Zara’s storefronts. Madrid is no exception. Once considered a dodgier side of town, Lavapies is fast becoming the city’s newest nightlife destination, attracting Madrid’s trendiest young hipster crowds. Great restaurants and bars, from urban chic to authentic Moroccan, are interspersed within the demographic makeup of the neighborhood. And the prices are still modest in comparison to other hotspots like Malasaña and Chueca.
All neighborhoods of Madrid have their local markets. Many, especially in the more upscale areas, have been refurbished and turned into fashionable displays of Spain’s haute cuisine, such as Mercado de San Miguel and Mercado de San Anton. But in 2012, Mercado de San Fernando — el mercado de Lavapiés — decided to reinvent itself making it more reflective of the eclectic tastes of its host neighborhood. Unlike the others, Lavapiés’ market has managed to embrace the new while maintaining its laid-back, local and traditional essence.
The streets of Lavapiés are lined with Indian restaurants, hipster cafés and independent boutiques, and its market is just as diverse as all the small alleys and plazuelas surrounding it. Here you will find a wonderful mix of traditional Spanish shops and foreign options. The fruit-seller and the good old Bar Barroso blend happily together with the higher-end oyster/wine bar, Bond 40, and the stylish leather handbag maker.
When I first went to Mercado de San Fernando, it was by chance. I was walking up Calle Embajadores and stumbled upon a rather austere building with a grey facade. Little did I know that I was about to slip through the market’s winding aisles to discover stands selling quiches and empanadas, as well as full bars crowded with patrons from all walks of life–families with children, the older generation, groups of hipsters, foreigners and locals alike.
I like to start off by browsing through the market’s many stands, and graze a bit before I settle down at the German bar for an imported beer. Then I head over to the Greek’s for dinner–moussaka, kalamata olives, feta cheese and spinach pie. It just doesn’t get any better than that. For me, that is. For you, who knows?
Though the possibilities are endless when it comes to food, here you can expect, above all, a great ambience. Judging from the live music and boisterous company I experienced the last time I went, it’s safe to say that the word is out.
To check out Madrid’s other great markets, read New Markets of Madrid.
Metro: Embajadores/Lavapiés (yellow line 3)
Address: C/ Embajadores, 41
Mon: Fri: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm, 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Sat: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm