Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hunting for Flea Markets and antiques in Spain

Rastro, vintage shopping in Spain - Photograph by Tim Irving
Spanish Rastro or Flea Market
 About five years ago I published (on another blog), a series of photographs of the interior of a Spanish rastro. With the help of a friend in Spain I've up-dated the info for 2012 and added extra photos.

Spain rastro flea market, spanish flea market. Photo by Tim Irving
 Hunting for 'Flea Markets' in Spain

You may not have noticed but guide books and travel blogs about Spain are rather quiet when it comes to buying vintage and second-hand goods. There's a wealth of information about 'flea markets' in other European cities like Paris, London, Berlin and Amsterdam, but apart from a couple of markets in Madrid and Barcelona, information about shopping for antiquities and vintage items in Spain is veryy scarce. 

Shop interior, vintage shopping in Spain - Photograph by Tim Irving
I lived and worked in Spain for eight years. I'm a professional photographer, traveler and a collector. I collect vintage books, magazines and maps, cameras, pocket knives, fishing tackle, musical instruments and fountain pens. I could probably think of a few other things, but this gives you an idea about my shopping preferences.Wandering around thrift stores, car boot sales or flea markets is an essential experience for me, therefore flea and antique markets, and pre-owned goods stores are big pull when choosing a particular city to visit.
Items for sale in a rastro vintage shopping in Spain - Photograph by Tim Irving

Spain spanish flea market vintage shopping. Photo by Tim Irving

Most guide books will point you in the right direction for flea markets, but when visiting Spain the word to remember is Rastro which has several meanings, one of which is flea market. With the exception of "El Rastro" in Madrid, which is a large street market, most rastros in Spain are nothing like flea markets we know, but are in fact small stores run by volunteers with profits donated to charity. They sell anything and everything including clothes, furniture, garden tools and ornaments, paintings, posters, magazines, toys and games, shop and industrial fittings. Nothing is restored but it's usually in good condition, or at least repairable, and everything is uniquely Spanish - with the occasional surprise from Morocco! 
art for sale flea market in Spain - Photograph by Tim Irving

Rastros spring up and start trading in any building that offers shelter and security. You'll find that rastros in old houses tend to specialise in clothes and house items, while rastros in industrial units tend to offer larger items of furniture, old shop fittings and stock, plus bicycles and car parts. 
dress for sale interior of flea market in Spain - Photograph by Tim Irving

What about prices?
You can get a lot for your euros in a rastro. Generally items are priced from a couple of euros, to around fifty euros upwards, for items of furniture. Clothes tend to be priced between five and ten euros, depending on style and quality. Bargaining is normal - but don't be too pushy.
vintage items for sale interior of flea market in Spain - Photograph by Tim Irving

vintage Leonardo di Caprio poster Spain spanish flea market. Photo by Tim Irving

How to find a Rastro?
Every town in Spain has at least one rastro (they are growing in popularity as Spaniards are coming round to the idea of vintage chic) and the larger cities all have several. But they rarely advertise, relying instead in word of mouth. Fortunately, Spanish people are friendly and will go out of their way help, so just make enquiries. Ask in the local town hall, police station, shop or bar and you'll be given directions. Or ask a taxi driver and and let them take you.
painted door and large clock, spanish flea market. Photo by Tim Irving


  1. Essential indeed! I also regularly indulge in the pleasure of shuffling through thrift shops and yard sales. There is no other place one can access such a varied and unexpected mixture of goods. The items I pick up add to my eclectic tastes and provide elements for assemblage and collage art pieces.

    The only thrift shop I've visited outside of the US was a second hand clothing store in Paris in 1982. Coming from a region with scalding summer temperatures, I was unprepared for the occasional cool summer rains of Europe and thus needed to buy a sweater. My backpacker budget was squeaky tight, so I was grateful to find used clothing for sale. The most unsatisfying thrift store I ever visited was in Las Vegas! Very few items overall with most of it being 1980's motel furniture. I guess all the yummy finds end up in collectibles, antiques, and pawn shops.

    So you collect vintage magazines. Last year while digging through drawers of old magazines in my art class I found a 1963 copy of "TRUE The Man's Magazine." I was going to use pages of it for collage but can't bring myself to rip it up. The cover boasts a "Girl Watcher's Coloring Book" but someone tore that out long ago. It seems to be otherwise intact and is full of some excellent and amusing adverts of the time. The back pages have mail order opportunities for things like flamenco boots, a fur lined potty, and the world's shortest nightie. Since I'm not going to cut it up, I'll drop it in the mail to you.

  2. Hello dear.You have written a great post. Going to share with my followers on
    twitter. Thanks for sharing
    Antiques for sale

  3. Mindsets & Lifestyles have to change....or it will keep passing on to all generations...Praying that change will come.... Child With A Dove



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