San Anton Market offers local flavor, great atmosphere and energy, as well as the tasty treats you can find to nibble
The first time I went to Madrid´s Mercado San Antón, I was overwhelmed. The second time I was charmed. This urban market in the heart of Madrid´s lively Chueca neighborhood (I liken it to NYC´s Greenwich Village) holds three floors with stalls selling fresh produce, herbs, meats, cheeses, breads and fish, as well as an area of prepared foods and tapas, and a rooftop terrace restaurant to enjoy a drink. The vibe on each level is different, but it all harmonizes to create a unique experience that will leave you looking for an excuse to come back!
I´d like to start by giving you a little bit of history about the marketplace itself. It has been around, albeit in a less polished form, has been around since the 19th century. In the beginning the stalls consisted of wooden boxes, and the market got its name from the nearby parrish of Saint Anthony. During the years of the Spanish Civil War the market continued to operate, but the present building was constructed in 1945, but it wasn´t until the beginning of the 20th century when the Association of Commerce for the Mercado de San Antón decided to renovate the market and bring it up to date for the new demands of the neighborhood. By May of 2011 the new and reborn Mercado de San Antón opened with restaurants, bars, terraces and exhibition spaces.
As I mentioned, the market has three different floors, and the first is filled with stalls of fresh produce and meats, as well as a few stands to buy prepared foods. I was very impressed by the quality of the produce, as well as the variety of products available. I used to love going to the outdoor market in Union Square when I lived in New York City to buy fresh herbs and locally grown produce. The Mercado de San Antón might not be in the open air, but it does provide an opportunity to buy quality goods in a place other than your local chain grocery store.
As you go up the escalators in the market, make sure you stop and take in the view. The floors are open in the center, so you can see all three levels of marketplace, tapas restaurants, and rooftop terrace at once. It makes you feel like you are inside an Edward Hopper painting of some overly urban setting as you ride upstairs to the second level. There is no doubt that the market is brimming with light, sound, color and energy.
On the first occasion that I visited the Mercado de San Antón, it was lunchtime on a Spanish Bank Holiday. This meant that the area was so crowded I couldn´t even see the counters of prepared tapas. On that occasion I made my way with my friend to a restaurant in the corner of the market where we enjoyed a caña (a glass of beer) and the view from one of the market´s huge windows. On my second visit, however, there weren´t so many people, and we were able to look around to see what yummy treats the market had to offer.
While sipping on a glass of red wine from one stall, we searched out a place to get something to nibble on, as well. I will warn you that the price to quantity ratio for many of the offerings is a bit expensive. We outsmarted the tapas price game, however, by choosing a slice of Spanish omlette and an eggplant and tomato stuffed empanada. As we ate our tapas and sipped the wine, we enjoyed the view seated at some of the high stools and counter that boarders the second level.
On the third level, you will find the rooftop terrace, which provides a great place to have a drink at sunset on a hot summer night in Madrid. I would also suggest you save room for something sweet, as there is a stand that sells American style cupcakes on the corner of the second floor. Very tasty, no need to say more.
We ruskommend a visit to the Mercado de San Antón with 5 boquerones for its local flavor, great atmosphere and energy, as well as the tasty treats you can find to nibble and sip on. This is a great place to meet friends, celebrate the weekend, or grab a quick bite to eat. It is, without a doubt, the type of market that´s worth a visit, even if you aren´t looking to buy anything. I´m sure you won´t leave empty handed.