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EL RASTRO

This colourful street market, in one of the city’s oldest working-class neighbourhoods, has been going for much more than 100 years. The word rastro means “trail” and refers to the animal innards that were dragged through the streets when this was the site of the main abattoir. Goya immortalized the street types here in paintings such as The Blind Guitarist, while earlier the area had been the backdrop for satires by playwrights of the Golden Age. Among the most exotic inhabitants were the amazonas, a team of horsewomen who performed at royal receptions in the 16th century, and are remembered in Calle Amazonas.

NEED TO KNOW

prac_info Open 9am–3pm Sun and public hols

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  • While Sunday is the main trading day, some stallholders set out their wares on Saturdays, too.
  • The Rastro is a happy hunting ground for thieves and pickpockets, so keep a close eye on your valuables at all times.

1. Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores

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The Rastro’s main street is named after the curtidores (tanners) who once plied their trade here. You can still pick up a leather jacket on one of the dozens of stalls, as well as T-shirts, belts, handbags and hats.

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Shoppers at Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores

2. Statue of Eloy Gonzalo

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At the siege of Cascorro in Cuba (1898) Eloy Gonzalo volunteered to start a blaze in the enemy camp and was fatally wounded. Look closely at the statue and you’ll see the petrol can.

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Eloy Gonzalo during the siege of Cascorro

3. Plaza del General Vara de Rey

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Second-hand clothes, candelabras, books and old furniture are on offer in this bustling square.

4. Calle Carlos Arniches

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Dropping away from the square, this stall-lined street marks the beginning of the flea market proper. The lock vendor and his dog are a regular fixture.

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The vibrant Calle Carlos Arniches

5. Calle Mira el Sol

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The place to head to if you’re after something electrical, including spare parts and mobile phones. The corner with Ribera de Curtidores is the favourite pitch of the organillera (female organ grinder).

6. Calle del Gasómetro

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Car owners may find what they’re looking for here: there’s usually a good selection of antitheft locks, windscreen wipers, brake lights and tools. There’s also a brisk trade in computer parts.

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Items for sale at Calle de Gasómetro

7. Plaza Campillo del Mundo Nuevo

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Adult collectors and children are the main customers, browsing the stacks of old comics and magazines in the vicinity of this square. You’ll also find CDs, vinyl records, toys and oddities such as binoculars and magnifying glasses.

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Collectors items at Plaza Campillo del Mundo Nuevo

8. Stalls off Ribera de Curtidores

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Painting equipment and picture frames are the speciality of Calle San Cayetano, while stalls near the Army & Navy store on Calle Carnero sell a wide range of sports gear. Pet owners should head for Calle Fray Ceferino González for the miscellany of dog collars, fishing nets and bird cages. There are also antique and furniture restoration shops.

9. Eating in El Rastro

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There are many bars and cafés in the area. Malacatín, at Calle de la Ruda 5, rustles up the delicious, meaty local stew cocido Madrileño.

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The chic interiors of Malacatín

10. Puerta de Toledo

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This triumphal arch was unveiled in 1827 and dedicated to Fernando VII. It was first proposed during the French occupation to extol the values of liberty and democracy.

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Puerta de Toledo

RÍO MANZANARES

The streets of the Rastro lead down to one of Madrid’s most neglected features. The Manzanares River is famous only for being short on water and has been the butt of jokes since time immemorial. Until late in the 19th century, its banks were the haunt of washerwomen (lavanderas), colourful figures who appear in the paintings of Francisco Goya. The Baroque bridge dates from 1719–32 and the sculptures of Madrid’s patron saint, San Isidro are in the middle of it.

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