At first glance, the San Miguel Market in Madrid seems like a tourist trap. Throngs of visitors flood this famous food hall every day to get a taste of Spain’s world-famous cuisine.
So the question is: Is it worth a visit?
The San Miguel Market in Madrid is located in the heart of the city center. It occupies a piece of prime real estate just outside the historic Plaza Mayor, and right in between Puerta del Sol and the Royal Palace. With so many important attractions nearby, it’s easy to see why the area is packed with tourists from around the globe.
San Miguel’s tourist-heavy location means that the market has gotten a bit of a bad rap in recent years for being, well… touristy. But if you do it right, it can actually be worth your time!
This historic market is not only architecturally beautiful but also full of flavors from around the country (and the world!). Here’s what you need to know to make your visit to the San Miguel Market worthwhile.
San Miguel Market History
The plaza where the market stands today was originally home to the San Miguel de los Octoes church, which dated back to at least the early 13th century. After the church was completely demolished in 1809, an open-air fish market began to take place on the same square.
While the fish market was lucrative, it was also crowded and dirty, and city officials began to look for a solution in the late 19th century. Work soon began on a covered market that would occupy the same space, with Spanish architect Alfonso Dubé taking charge of the project. His vision was to pay homage to the other wrought-iron covered markets that were popping up across Europe, drawing on Paris’ Les Halles market as inspiration.
The resulting structure—the San Miguel Market as we know it today—is truly a work of art. Inaugurated in 1916, it was one of the first covered markets in the city and is a classic example of early 20th-century architecture. It remains the only market of its kind in Madrid due to many others like it being demolished in the late 20th century.
In the 1980s, Spaniards’ shopping habits had changed drastically. Business shifted from markets to larger grocery chains, and the traditional Mercado de San Miguel fell into decline. A group of investors saved San Miguel from a similar fate and renovated the market into the gastronomic center it is today.
Visiting the San Miguel Market Today
Unlike other neighborhood markets in Madrid, people don’t go to San Miguel to do their weekly grocery shopping. Instead, they use the market as a meeting point to celebrate and eat with friends and loved ones. This gourmet food center lets people from all over the world enjoy Spanish cuisine in a unique environment.
In fact, this may just be the perfect reason to visit the market. Trying to navigate Madrid’s thousands of bars and restaurants is no small feat, especially if you’re new to Spanish cuisine. The San Miguel Market is a great way to sample typical food from all around Spain—that way, you’ll know what to look for when you head out to eat again!
Mercado San Miguel Hours & When to Go
The San Miguel Market opens daily at 10 a.m. and stays open until midnight Sunday through Thursday. On Fridays and Saturdays, it closes an hour later, at 1 a.m.
As far as when to go to the market, it depends on what kind of experience you want to have. For a quieter, more laid-back visit without the crowds, try going first thing in the morning, when the vendors are just opening up. This is a great stress-free way to explore a true Madrid icon (and get some great photos while you’re at it).
More people start pouring in around midmorning and close to lunch time, but if you’re craving a bustling market atmosphere, this is the time to go. And of course, there’s always the option to enjoy a dinnertime tapas crawl at the market—or some drinks before your night out!
What to Eat at the San Miguel Market
We wouldn’t blame you for thinking that the food at the Mercado de San Miguel is expensive and mediocre given its touristy status—but you’d be wrong! This market has some fantastic food at very fair prices if you know where to look.
From gourmet hams and cheeses to fresh fruit and vegetables, the San Miguel Market really does have something for everyone. You can spend hours walking around and exploring different stalls that offer delicacies from around Spain. You may not have time to visit all 17 of Spain’s autonomous regions in one trip, but you can eat your way across many of them at the San Miguel Market!
Need help narrowing down where to go? Here are some tips on where to eat in the Mercado San Miguel from Devour Madrid guide Joy.
La Hora del Vermut
Before you start eating your way around the market, you’ll want to open your appetite. And there’s no better way to do that than with Spain’s favorite aperitif: vermouth!
La Hora del Vermut serves up excellent vermouth on tap, including an impressive selection of bottled vermouths from all corners of Spain. Get some olives, pickled banderilla skewers, and marcona almonds to go with, and you’re well on your way to an unforgettable tapas crawl.
Don’t let the name of this wine bar fool you—it’s as Spanish as they come! Mister Pinkleton has wines from all across the country: from Galician albariños to Andalusian sherries and everything in between. Grab a glass and sip it as you peruse the market!
El Señor Martín
Madrid has some of Spain’s freshest seafood, despite being completely landlocked, and El Señor Martín is the best place at Mercado San Miguel to try it. This spot secures the catch of the day straight from Madrid’s top fish suppliers, then converts it into incredible made-to-order tapas right before your eyes. Just pick out what you want and they’ll fry it up for you on the spot!
La Casa del Bacalao
Can’t get enough seafood? You don’t want to miss a stop at La Casa del Bacalao. Here, though, salt cod is the star of the show.
In addition to serving up made-to-order salt cod tapas, this stall doubles as a miniature gourmet shop. Grab some of Spain’s finest canned goods while you’re here—they make the perfect foodie souvenir!
Did you really go to Spain if you didn’t try Iberian ham? (We’re inclined to say no.)
Family-run since 1895, Más Gourmets carves Spain’s most prized meat by hand to order, so you can guarantee it will be fresh and delicious. Pick some up here rather than shelling out even more money for the same product at the tapas bars—you can’t beat market prices for gourmet goods!
San Miguel Market FAQs
Mercado de San Miguel, or San Miguel Market in English, is Madrid’s most famous food market. It’s home to dozens of stalls serving food from all over Spain and is a popular place to eat and drink in the center of Madrid.
The San Miguel Market is open from 10 am–12 am Sunday through Thursday, and 10 am–1 am on Fridays and Saturdays.
The market is home to some great seafood tapas at El Señor Martín and La Casa del Bacalao. Try vermouth and olives at La Hora del Vermut, and sample Spanish cured meats at Más Gourmets.
Update Notice: This post was originally published on November 5, 2012 and was updated with new text and photos on September 16, 2021.