Some of the liveliest culinary spots across Spanish capitals, and at the same time most common lunching and meet up places are without a doubt food markets.
Often decorated with wrought-iron structures, wooden bars and stalls, and wrapped up in glass walls as a modern touch meant to lure everyone who passes next to it, the food markets stand for an absolute must go once in either Barcelona or Madrid.
What attracts even more is certainly the abundant amount of food and drinks served non-stop. Local and fresh – the two words that speak louder than any fancy explanations, but still so self-enough to create a common understanding among everyone who visit it.
While cruising around Madrid, we check-marked a few of the food markets, and here is what we appetizingly recommend:
Mercado de San Miguel
Mercado de San Miguel is the most touristic of Madrid, sitting on its very center, few steps away from Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor.
If you are new in town or your trip brings you to the Spanish Capital for a short getaway, San Miguel Market will do its job offering an introduction to the world of tapas: plain and stuffed olives, croquettas, jamon, patatas bravas, tortilla de patata...
Apart from the traditional ones, you will find as well some modern interventions - such as a slice of bread topped with an handful of surimi de angula ('elver' eels) and cubes of jamon - to be accompanied by a glass of cava, the famous and local sparkling wine.
Follow our recommendation and take the very left entrance, bumping into a corner stall with a slim bar that looks a bit more upscale than the others.
Hit the pimientos del padron straightaway. Padrón peppers are a variety of peppers from the municipality of Padrón in the province of A Coruña, Galicia, in the northwestern Spain.
These saporous green finger-peppers are lightly fried and sprinkled with kosher salt.
They come in a rich portion and stand for a crispy, healthy and incredibly refreshing tapas. We tried other pimientos de padron, but these were a boss of them all!
Mercado de la Ribera
Probably the most hipster among Madrid food markets, Mercado de la Ribera is a good spot to refresh on a Sunday antique shopping walk in El Rastro, in La Latina barrio.
Enter the market and follow the smell of jamon!
A very simple Spanish 'bruschetta' is probably the best tapas you can get here (together with ham croquette): a big slice of rustic bread, fresh and all-natural tomato and virgin olive oil spread and generous layers of jamon slices, cut on the spot.
Take a caña (small beer), find a place around the communal table and make it a true local feast.
Mercado de San Fernando
Hitting the road from Mercado de la Ribera to Lavapies neighborhood, the natural salt of the jamon will make you wish to stop for a drink.
Mercado de San Fernando, probably the most local and authentic of the 3 markets, will be ready to welcome you!
In its very heart there is a vermouth paradise, a bar called La siempre llena (run by a guy who reminds on a young version of Mick Jagger).
Spanish vermouth is an aromatized (red or white) wine flavored with herbs that goes excellently well with olives (and in the true spanish custom you will get a portion of them for free).
As soon as you are lucky or patient enough to get hold of one of few spots around the solid wooden bar, you will have the pleasure to be served by very friendly staff who cause no rush or make no pressure while tapping the vermouth almost without a pause.