Madrid: San Miguel Market

Credit: www.guias-viajar.com
Credit: www.guias-viajar.com
Credit: Acalcedo via Trivago
Credit: Acalcedo via Trivago
Credit: www.mercadodesanmiguel.es
Credit: www.mercadodesanmiguel.es

The Building

San Miguel market, named after the San Miguel square where it sits, is one of the very few iron buildings preserved to date in Madrid, and the only market at that. Its construction smack in the middle of town, right next to Plaza Mayor, was completed in 1915 under the direction of Alfonso Dubé.

The origins of the market date back to early XIX century. The first project to cover the open-air stalls was attempted in 1835, to reduce the negative visual impact of all produce and commerce detritus on the square and surrounding streets. The final project by Dubé, started in 1911 and completed in 1915.

This is a single floor space, with a high ceiling, surrounded by glass walls that allow to see both inside out and from the street in. The sturdy cast-iron pillars supporting a fully glassed-in interior pose the most wonderful contrast.



Now...

From the outside, today. Credit: www.guias-viajar.com
From the outside, today. Credit: www.guias-viajar.com

... And Then

From the outside, back when. Credit: www.espinillo.net
From the outside, back when. Credit: www.espinillo.net

But it survived!

Credit: www.guias-viajar.com
Credit: www.guias-viajar.com
Credit: www.guias-viajar.com
Credit: www.guias-viajar.com

Aging and Dwindling

By early 90s, San Miguel market began feeling the impact of modern times. Originally one of the most prestigious food markets in the city, together with La Cebada and Mostenses markets, it slowly lost its pulse with the ever increasing number of supermarkets and, quite simply, with the drastically changing city dynamics, where Plaza Mayor, and all the old Austrias surroundings ceased to be primarily inhabited by regular citizens and started being mostly occupied by bars, restaurants, souvenir stores, and other assorted commercial venues, servicing both Madrilians and tourists alike.

Produce, fish, meat, cheese stalls in the market continued closing off one by one, and the place began its slow descent to nonentity. In 1999, the Regional Government of Madrid invested serious funds in an effort to remodel and restore the market to its original look. Architectonically, the project rendered fabulous results, but it was not enough to restore commercial activity in the premises.

It seemed the lovely market was condemned to vanish in the mist of modern times. To curve that alarming possibility, a private group of associates with interests in architecture, design and gastronomy joined forces under the brand El Gastródomo de San Miguel (The Gastrodome of San Miguel) and they acquired all food stalls with purpose to unify the interior with a slightly different criteria and give the place a new chance.

Inside the market. Credit: www.condosbolsasencadamano.com
Inside the market. Credit: www.condosbolsasencadamano.com
Goodies! Credit: www.condosbolsasencadamano.com
Goodies! Credit: www.condosbolsasencadamano.com
Panoramic of the central area. Credit: www.condosbolsasencadamano.com
Panoramic of the central area. Credit: www.condosbolsasencadamano.com

The New Era

The new concept of San Miguel market opened its doors May 16 2009, with immediate and smashing success. The old cast-iron pillars now support one of Madrid's hot spots for shopping, food and drinks, and diverse cultural events.

With almost 100 years of life, the revamped market is a XXI avant-garde space that combines the spirit of any good ole food market with the modern conveniences of the times. In my opinion, the space is a perfectly harmonious combination of old market trade and sophisticated new age gourmet.

There are 34 stores and stalls, all offering fresh products, one of the leitmotifs of the market. Products served range from French cheese to champagne with oysters, chocolates, olives, fresh fruit, delicatessen meat or the ever present and ever fabulous Iberian ham.

The novelty and distinguisher with other food markets in the city is that one can either opt to take the goodies home or consume them in the central area, prepared for that purpose. One can as well buy some cheese in the fromagerie, and take it to the wine bar to order a red to go with it, and have both there. There is also a bookstore mostly dedicated to cook and food books, and a Vinçon, the famous Catalan designer store.

Seems like a slow day, or early in the day! Credit: www.guias-viajar.com
Seems like a slow day, or early in the day! Credit: www.guias-viajar.com

San Miguel has plenty of reasons to sit proudly, as it should, in one of the city's most lively areas. The interior design is wonderful, its old feel was painstakingly preserved and great care was taken to never lose that unique look of the original building, while at the same time modern, state-of-the-art elements made an appearance.

Even when it's full to capacity, it still has an airy feel to it, in part thanks to the high ceilings but mostly I'd say as consequence of a careful design of the central space that never feels quite clogged. The beauty of the original combines perfectly with the innovative design.

The space aims at showing Spain's gastronomic diversity, and plans on being a presence in the cultural circles, with wine tasting courses, food fairs, launching of new products. It has also hosted some concerts and recitals.

For the eye

Modern banners, designed to preserve that oldie goodie feel to them. Credit: www.guias-viajar.com
Modern banners, designed to preserve that oldie goodie feel to them. Credit: www.guias-viajar.com
The high, high ceiling. Credit: www.guias-viajar.com
The high, high ceiling. Credit: www.guias-viajar.com
Iberian ham, no decent gourmet market can go without a ham joint! Credit: www.guias-viajar.com
Iberian ham, no decent gourmet market can go without a ham joint! Credit: www.guias-viajar.com
At dusk, from the outside. Credit: www.guias-viajar.com
At dusk, from the outside. Credit: www.guias-viajar.com
From above. Credit: www.condosbolsasenlamano.com
From above. Credit: www.condosbolsasenlamano.com
The fruit and vegetables stall. Credit: Otromiyo via Trivago
The fruit and vegetables stall. Credit: Otromiyo via Trivago
Bustling, always full of life, a perfect reflection of the city where it lives. Credit: Bitarita via Trivago
Bustling, always full of life, a perfect reflection of the city where it lives. Credit: Bitarita via Trivago

In the papers



  • The New San Miguel Market, ABC newspaper library, Madrid 1915
    Ladies and gents, please notice the year for this newspaper article!

Credit: epasf via Trivago
Credit: epasf via Trivago

My love affair with the market

It's been a short but intense romance between San Miguel and me since it opened. You may have noticed none of the photos in this article are mine; I'm not ashamed to say that I've taken my camera to San Miguel 5 times at least, and none of those times have I been inclined to bother with removing it from my bag and snapping a few.

I've told myself multiple lies, as in, there's no good light, there are too many people to take a clean shot, the battery is low, let me save it for the perfect picture, etcetera. Truth is, I simply haven't been able to bother, I was always busy with a glass of champagne in one hand and some delicacy in the other. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking, research will turn out some photos, I'm sure. Well, I was right, wasn't I?

More by this Author


Comments 26 comments

VioletSun profile image

VioletSun 6 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

I needed this break, to relax reading your hub and enjoy the photos; I have been like the energizer bunny working non-stop, as I prepare for my Holiday trip to Florida. If I were in your shoes at the San Miguel market, I probably would enjoy myself so much that I would find tons of excuses to not take photos. I love old buildings, even if they have been modernized.

Have a Merry Christmas with your loved ones!


Elena. profile image

Elena. 6 years ago from Madrid Author

I think you'd love this market, it's really difficult not to, once you're close up and personal with its charm :-)

Happy holidays to you too, Violet! Have a wonderful time in Florida!


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

Wow! This is sooo interesting. What an incredible building. Thanks for a great hub with fabulous photos. Merry Christmas, Elena.


Elena. profile image

Elena. 6 years ago from Madrid Author

Glad you find it interesting, alekhouse :-) Merry Xmas to you, too!


Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 6 years ago from India

Ooooh, sounds like just my kind of place...I think I'd never come out! Hope you bought some exciting goodies from the market for Christmas!:)


Elena. profile image

Elena. 6 years ago from Madrid Author

I got some cheese and olives to go with an apperitif, but they never made it to ... well, today! :-P

Dec 31st, I'm stopping by the market with my SO and a friend to kick off the last day of the year, yay!


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

I love the photos. It's a beautiful place to spend the day.


Elena. profile image

Elena. 6 years ago from Madrid Author

It is indeed a wondrful place to spend a few hours! I'm heading there on Dec 31st at the latest, but maybe sooner :)


Cris A profile image

Cris A 6 years ago from Manila, Philippines

I wouldn't mind doing the marketing if the market looks like that! Gorgeous pictures as usual.

And oh by the way, Feliz Navidad! :D


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Beautiful hub! I'd love to experience this some day. Thanks for sharing.


Elena. profile image

Elena. 6 years ago from Madrid Author

Hello, Cris! Feliz Navidad to you amigo! I had a wonderfully intimate Chistmas Eve, let's see how today pans out :-) About this market, you'd be inspired to produce those wonderful images, I'm sure. And I can picture you with a glass of something bubbly, looking very sophisticated :-)


Elena. profile image

Elena. 6 years ago from Madrid Author

Cheers, habee! So you know what to do if you ever visit Madrid :-)


ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

I just love markets. Those that you visit when in another country are enthralling. I remember seeing 3 pigs heads in Pahos market, Cyprus, all with dark black sun glasses on them lol


Elena. profile image

Elena. 6 years ago from Madrid Author

Hi, ethel! I know what you mean about visiting markets in other countries, I also find them fascinating! They tend to be, in my opinion, a very good indication of what life in that city is all about, one tends to find a compilation of habits in markets that is difficult to find together anywhere else :-)


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 6 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

If my market looked like this, I guarantee I would be a daily shopper. Ah, the pleasures of life in Madrid.


Elena. profile image

Elena. 6 years ago from Madrid Author

Yeah, Frieda, Madrid is full of nitfy corners, isn't it? I dare you to come visit :-) We can have champagne and oisters in San Miguel!


Candie V profile image

Candie V 6 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

Between you and Frogdropping, you're making it hard to stay in this wet, cold, gray Pacific Northwest! Sunnier, warmer Spain and Portugal are definitely more appealing!! I'll grab Frieda and we'll be over for lunch.. we may not leave!


Elena. profile image

Elena. 6 years ago from Madrid Author

Hi Candie! I'm here, a bit worse for the wear after last night's festivities, but ready all the same to act as gracious hostess :-)


Foreigner profile image

Foreigner 6 years ago

it is indeed a fantastic place. I am very often in Madrid these days and as my favorite hotels is only 5 minutes walking time away i go this mercado in the evenings on my way home from the office. You can choose between all types of tapas for small money ( 1 euro/piece ) you can have fish, meat, sausages even oysters are available. For those who don´t like the spanish wine there´s also a beer bar :-)


Elena. profile image

Elena. 6 years ago from Madrid Author

Hello, Foreigner! I'm so tickled that you live in Madrid and know the San Miguel Market :-) Besides the wine bar, and the beer bar, thre's also vermut and champange, and hot chicken soup at Lahrdy's and ... :-) The oyster bar is really cute, too.

Maybe we've crossed paths one day in the market, who knows, I'm there often enough :-)


PiaC profile image

PiaC 5 years ago from Oakland, CA

Elena - thanks so much for this Hub! I was in Madrid a few months ago, and this was my favorite haunt. I literally went to San Miguel's 6 times in 4 days, so lovely did it seem to me. I had no idea of its history, so I loved reading about that.


Elena. profile image

Elena. 5 years ago from Madrid Author

Glad you enjoyed, Pia! San Miguel is a favorite of mine, too, but I was just familiar with its life since the 70' or 80', so it was cool to learn about the whole background when I researched to write this article :-)


Jimmy Evola profile image

Jimmy Evola 5 years ago from Australia

Great article very informative


Elena. profile image

Elena. 5 years ago from Madrid Author

Thanks, Jimmy, appreciated!


maria borg 4 years ago

hey tks for this great info, i had been lookin for a good food market as i will be going for a holiday in a weeks time,as this just what i was lookin for, hopefully i will find the place :)


Elena. profile image

Elena. 4 years ago from Madrid Author

Hi Maria, I'm sure you'll find San Miguel without any problems, and I'm sure you'll be delighted with the offerings! :) I'm also hopeful you'll enjoy, VERY MUCH!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working