January 31, 2013 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Madrid, Spain

I found a hidden wonderland here in Madrid, but I’m a little hesitant to tell anyone about it. I know I’m not the only one who’s discovered it, but I’m certain most tourists never make it there. So promise me you’ll keep it our little secret and not tell a soul?

I’d heard whispers about this mystical place before, but, until recently, I never knew where it was. And that’s because it basically hides inside a city block, like a parallel universe revealed behind a magic closet door. In fact, having recently moved to this secret spot’s neighborhood, I’d actually walked by it for months, not even realizing it was there. It’s that secret.

But then one day last autumn, I peered down an alleyway from which I regularly saw Spanish grandmas depart with grocery trolleys brimming with fresh vegetables. There was a certain hustle-and-bustle that indicated the alley was more than just a breezeway, but rather a tunnel to awesome, unexpected things.

So I wandered down it like Alice in a fantastical Wonderland adventure (and if you know me, then you know that the discovery of fresh and exotic foodstuffs is nothing short of Wonderland). And there it was: the most beautiful market in Madrid, Mercado de la Paz!!! I almost shed a full, proper, drip-able tear (not even close to exaggerating). One kiosk after another glowed with expertly arranged fruits and vegetables, fish that gawked at me with blank-but-tasty stares, and mountains of round, square and triangle blocks of cheese that tempted to timber into my mouth (these things are possible in Wonderland, you know).

The Art Nouveau-style market was constructed in 1879 in the residential/shopping neighborhood of Salamanca, and has around 60 kiosks. And while I’ve noticed a couple of the them are closed (a sad and probable outcome of la crisis), you’ll still come across almost every goody your market-loving heart could desire: vegetable sellers, butchers, fish stands, an herbal shop, a cobbler, dry cleaner, hair salon, bakeries, a couple cheese Meccas, gourmet products, and even a few tapas bars for good measure. Basically it’s heaven crammed into a small Spanish city block.

You’ll discover my hidden market paradise concealed between the streets Claudio Coello, Hermosilla, Ayala and Lagasca, with entrances on Lagasca, Ayala and Claudio Coello (the last being the most discreet of the three, despite its fat “MERCADO DE LA PAZ” sign, which I somehow managed to initially miss).

Now go find your market bliss amongst the La Paz kiosks, but just don’t go telling anyone about it. It’s our little secret, remember?

7 Responses to “A hidden market wonderland in Madrid”

  1. Millie Says:

    Too ironic! I actually just got an email from my Father in Law saying that he’d seen this market on the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, and we needed to go. Something tells me I need to check it out!

  2. Kaley [Y Mucho Más] Says:

    I found my own little market, no need to worry! It’s located in the Legazpi area — Mercado Guillermo de Osma, but it’s not doing super well. If you go upstairs, a lot of shops are closed up. Hopefully the ones downstairs keep going. I love it.

  3. Erin Says:

    It kills me that so many markets, vendors and small shops are struggling. I’m trying to make an extra effort to give them business for speciality products that I just can’t find at the Mercadonas and Dias of the world. So I guess as much as I’d like to keep these little spots secret, I hope that more people discover them.

    And Millie, definitely check out La Paz – we can grab cafe while you’re at it!

  4. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures Says:

    I wish we had hidden markets here!!!

  5. Matthew Hirtes Says:

    Great article, Erin. The markets where I live, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, are not exactly hidden. Which thankfully means they’re popular which keeps them going. Three to see: Alcaravaneras, Puerto, and Vegueta.

  6. budget jan Says:

    It is wonderful to find gems like this. Now you can enjoy it – self finds are the best.

  7. Graciel Says:

    LOL, I saw this on Andrew Zimmern as well so I don’t think you need to blame yourself if the secret gets out 🙂 And yes, it looked amazing.

    Beautiful photos, btw.

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