Sunday, 6 October 2013

Mercado de Motores: Vintage & independent shopping in Madrid

***Updated in October 2014***

Madrid's Mercado de Motores

railway museum in southern Madrid may not seem the most obvious place to pick up a vintage clothing bargain. Unless you're visiting on the second weekend of the month, that is.

Not your average vintage shopping experience

Once a month, the Museo de Ferrocarril becomes one of the city's hippest, most atmospheric places to be. The Mercado de Motores trundles into town and takes over the space, filling it with indoor and outdoor stalls selling vintage clothing, accessories, decor, furniture and assorted odds and ends, with jewellery and clothing by independent Spanish designers thrown into the mix. In 2014, the range of goods for sale has widened, with kids' clothes and toys and gourmet goodies now on offer too. As the market grows in popularity, the prices sadly creep up, and some of the new items are a tad overpriced. However, it's still well worth exploring, as the quirky selection means the Mercado de Motores is a great spot to pick up a quirky gift or a statement piece.

And fear not, there are still bargains to be had. The cheapest secondhand and vintage stalls are the ones which run outside the length of the museum, rather than the ones at the back (although I can't deny I'm a fan of the gorgeous dresses at now slightly caro El Hospicio). The relatively low prices and variety of goods available should prove enough of a draw for most keen second-hand shoppers, but the quirky location, live bands, food stalls and friendly atmosphere make the Mercado de Motores a fun day out for the whole family. Its popularity over the past year means that you do often have to queue to get in though: I recommend arriving either in time for opening or late afternoon.

Turning a loss into a gain

Visiting in September 2013, my friend and I picked up a wool Burberry coat, a vintage dress and two jackets (one leather, one sequinned) between us. And we had change from €70. In the UK, 'vintage' can be a synonym for 'overpriced old tat'; thankfully in Spain the concept of second-shopping is yet to go mainstream. In 2014, some prices are a bit steeper, with a vintage dress from one of the better-curated stalls costing €20–30, but I still managed to grab a cute Salvador Bachiller clutch in perfect condition for €10. If you're prepared to take your time, there are plenty of purse-friendly items on offer.

The range of new, vintage and used goods on offer means there was plenty to peruse for a few hours, and most secondhand sellers are happy to haggle. Vintage stalls are located outside, to the side and back of the museum, while independent designers have their puestos in the museum itself. Not being much of a trainspotter, the Museo de Ferrocarril isn't somewhere I'd have visited otherwise, but the Mercado de Motores really brings it to life. Shoppers can photograph and clamber on and off the old steam trains, while platform caf├ęs serve refreshments to thirsty patrons. If you're looking for lunch, outdoor stands sell food from around the world, with stalls varying every month. Past noshing options have included barbecued burgers, Lebanese lamb rolls, gourmet sandwiches and Spanish fare.  Although the burgers are reportedly great, it's all a bit expensive for what you get and there's a distinct lack of vegetarian options. There's also a rather badly explained token system: you first need to decide what you want, check the price and go to a separate stall to purchase tokens for that amount.

In addition to eating and shopping opportunities, there's a mini train for children (although the parents seemed to be enjoying it just as much as their offspring), and DJs and live bands throughout the day. The market's understandably popular with hipsters, but the atmosphere is completely unpretentious: it's relaxed and friendly (if a bit crowded on sunny days), with all ages enjoying the experience.

Watch out, Rastro: the Mercado de Motores is serious competition.

Where: Museo del Ferrocarril, Paseo de Delicias (Metro Delicias, line 3)
When: The second Saturday and Sunday of every month from 11am. Go early as it soon gets crowded, especially in good weather.
Free entry.
To find out more, go to the Mercado de Motores Facebook page.

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