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Madrid’s San Miguel Market is definitely one of a kind. The beautiful iron building has become a site of cultural interest, a monument that celebrated its 100th anniversary a few years ago.
Conveniently located in the heart of the Spanish capital, the structure consists of a ground floor with cast iron support, and a basement for storage. The harmonious combination of glass and metal allows abundant natural light to filter in and illuminate the space. The site corresponds to Madrid’s first urban enclosure, once surrounded by a wall, whose remains can still be observed.
The market is an emblematic building, a meeting place for tourists and Madrileños alike. Besides its fame as an epicurean destination, its call to fame comes from the quality of its products, its charm, and the careful presentation and layout of the stalls contained within this sybarite hangout.
San Miguel brings together merchants, professionals and experts in their respective fields. It can be though of as a hub of culinary culture, a place where you can find best products of Spanish cuisine, and enjoy its traditional tapas: bite-size snacks that can be taken in this splendorous setting.
Costumers can comfortably sit on tall stools that surround the main stands. These are filled with Spain’s gastronomic treasures: the most delicious smoked hams, fruits, cheeses, seafood, pastries and other baked goods; meats, vegetables, French fries prepared in situ, fresh pasta, scallops, a sushi market, fruit juices, traditional croquettes made with chicken, mushrooms, Iberian ham and codfish, pickles, a yogurt stand; another that sells paella, and even a bookstore and souvenir shop. It is almost impossible not to find a delicious treat for lunch or dinner, even take out.
Walking through the San Miguel Market is a pleasure for the senses, a unique place to take in the hustle and bustle, the colors and smells; to get carried away by sinful cravings, to be tempted by the presentation of the food… and also most suitable for people watching. Here you can share the essence of Spanish cuisine: the tapas or small portions of food served as appetizers, made with such creativity and passion that rival the best haute cuisine.
You can also partake in one of the local’s favorite pastimes. Since the building is located in the center of the oldest part of the city, it is relatively easy to find yourself eating next to famous writers, poets, actors, athletes or the celebrity of the moment, the flavor of the day.
Eating tapas at Mercado de San Miguel is akin to breaking the rules. You are not at a bar: the space is open, has different bars, cafes and stalls, where you can choose your treats and take them to a table with a good bottle of wine, beer or soft drink, or even eat at the several wine stores in the market.
San Miguel is open Sundays through Thursdays until midnight, and Fridays and Saturdays till two in the morning. It gets packed at dusk, when other businesses close and bars and pubs start to open their doors. The varied nighttime options include Pinkelton & Wine, with a great selection of wine and other spirits; Ostras Sorlut, where you can enjoy delicious oysters, paired with the finest French champagnes, sitting alongside Madrid’s “beautiful people”. Any time of year is good to visit, but summer brings out the joie de vivre in visitors as well as merchants.
If you are planning a vacation in Spain, you should, of course, pay a visit to Madrid. Once there, while strolling its historic streets and squares, going to the theater or the amazing museums, you will surely run into the delightful San Miguel Market. It is very easy to find: just steps away from the impressive Plaza Mayor. I promise you will not be sorry. ■