Markets in London are just as popular as those in Madrid. Borough Market rivals Mercado de San Miguel.
At first glance, London and Madrid may seem worlds apart. But upon further inspection, I found that the comforts of Madrid did exist, albeit in different forms.
For example, I thought that nothing could compare to the plethora of cuisines available at the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid. I believed the rumor that London had little to offer in the culinary department. And I thought no one travels to London for the food. But I was mistaken.
Markets in London are just as popular as those in Madrid. Borough Market rivals Mercado de San Miguel with regard to the food, as well as the hordes of hungry visitors crowding the stands. Brits and foreigners alike bumped shoulders on a mild Saturday afternoon to sample everything from baked goods, to fruit smoothies, to savory dishes like the grilled cheese that had foodies lining up (or “queueing up,” as the Brits would say) all the way around the corner.
The outdoor market smelled of spices and smokiness as chefs fired up the grill for each individual customer upon request. As I waited for my pumpkin tortelloni with olive oil to be ready, my mouth watered as people walked by with brownies and cheesecake from the other end of the market.
Options at Borough Market are just as numerous as Mercado de San Miguel, but with a more British influence rather than Spanish. For an American living in Madrid, I found this cultural shift to be a pleasant change of pace (although I never tire of paella and croquettes).
To rival Madrid’s el Rastro, London offers Portobello Market in West London. It is divided into sections that specialize in different products, from antiques, to fashion, to vintage goods, and even a produce section. It runs down Portobello Road for a stretch of about two miles. On a rare sunny afternoon in London, Brits and tourists alike were out in droves to find a deal on a kitschy antique camera or vintage home decor.
While el Rastro is a must-see spot in Madrid, the scope of goods offered does not measure up to Portobello Market. However, the latter is much more expensive. It is situated in the posh neighborhood of Notting Hill; within a two minute walk from the market you can find luxury flats and upscale restaurants.
The essential concept and experience of spending an afternoon in a market is universal, even if the setting is different. If for the ease of haggling alone, an English speaker living in Spain would likely enjoy London’s markets just as much if not more than those in Madrid. I certainly did.
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