Reading Time: about
The first human inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula date back to the Paleolithic era, 1.2 million years ago, and since then, humans have established tribes, colonies, and civilizations in Spain. It is safe to say that the Mediterranean country has a deep and intricate history, which Spaniards are very proud of. Because of this pride, you can find well-preserved relics from the past across Spain. In this article, we will go over 10 such places: the top Vintage Spots to visit in Spain.
All of the attractions on our list will transport you back to different periods of time in the history of Spain and give you a taste of the true essence of the culture. Similarly, we also tried to pick spots that exemplify different sub-cultures within Spain.
The different regions of Spain have very different traditions, customs, and temperaments and all have a different definition of nostalgia. So, with all this being said, let's dive into the top 10 vintage spots in Spain.
1. El Rastro - Madrid
The “El Rastro” open-air market operates on weekends and holidays in the center of Madrid. The market was created in the XVII century to centralize the activity of street merchants who sold, primarily, second-hand wares (primarily second-hand clothing). The city was overrun at the time by these vendors, so they decided to create a space just for them, and created the Rastro market.
It was established in the most inhabited area of Madrid at the time, what is known as the Lavapies neighborhood. This was one of the most industrial areas of the city. Lavapies were where most of Madrid's tanneries were located. The tanneries popped up in this area because it was the closest neighborhood to Madrid’s Matadero.
The Matadero or slaughterhouse was where all of the livestock that arrived in the capital was dispatched. The original Matadero of Madrid still stands and is itself a very historic and emblematic monument to visit if you are in Madrid. Because of all this commercial activity, it was an ideal spot for merchants to set up and try to sell their goods.
The name “Rastro” or trail comes from the trail of blood that was left from the slaughtered livestock as it was transported from the Matadero, uphill to the tanneries. Morbid, but interesting nonetheless.
The market has been operating since then. The modern iteration of the market occurs on Sundays and holidays, and you can find everything from antique furniture, to trinkets and jewelry. Stands are always set up along the same streets of La calle Fray Ceferino González, La calle de San Cayetano, La calle de Rodas y and the plazas of General Vara del Rey y de Campillo del Mundo Nuevo, General Vara del Rey square, La calle del Carnero y la de Carlos Arniches, Plaza de Cascorro square and the Ronda de Toledo. Each street and square has a theme and sells a particular type of product, which you will have to discover when you visit this truly vintage corner of Madrid.
2. La Laguna in Tenerife, Canary islands
If you are visiting the Canary Island Archipelago, not tacking at least an afternoon to explore La Laguna would be an absolute mistake. Located in the northeast of the Island of Tenerife, La Laguna is the second-largest city on the island and is the twin city to Santa Cruz, the island's capital. La Laguna seems very far away from all the all inclusive resorts in Tenerife.
La Laguna is a city frozen in time. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its pristinely preserved colonial historic city center.
The city center has barely changed since the city was founded in 1496. La Laguna is often referred to as the “Florence of the Canary Islands” because of the number and excellent preservation of its historical buildings and churches. It has also been the artistic and cultural heart of the Canary Islands for centuries.
When you visit La Laguna it is like traveling back in time and experiencing the colonial era of the archipelago.
3. Seville: Flamenco in Triana
There was no way that flamenco wouldn't be on our list. It is one of the most emblematic and historic traditions of Spain, but experiencing a flamenco performance in the birthplace of flamenco, is a whole different level.
Triana is one of the most historic district in Seville. Triana was originally settled by the Romans, and became a very important part of the city over the centuries because of its proximity to the Guadalquivir river.
Seville, though completely landlocked, was Spain’s most important port city during the middle ages. The river can be sailed out all the way to the Mediterranean. Ships sailing to and from the Americas passed through Seville to be taxed, re-stocked and serviced. Triana was, therefore, bustling.
With the economy booming, the area attracted entertainers from across Andalucía. Flamenco as a musical style is believed to have originated in Jeréz but it was in Seville where it became a spectacle, and Triana was the epicenter of that transformation.
Today, there are traditional venues that on flamenco shows to this day in the heart of Triana. If you are visiting Seville, you should really experience this time capsule of a spectacle.
4. Ibiza: Hippy Markets
Everyone knows that Ibiza is THE party capital of Europe. What you might not know, is that during the 60s it was a haven for hippies across the continent.
The idyllic scenery and perfect weather attracted Hippies from all over Europe that were looking to escape the social and political situations of their respective countries and settle in paradise. Once on the island, they needed a way to make money, so they came up with a very hippie solution indeed: open-air markets to sell handmade goods. And those markets are still operating today.
There are a bunch of different markets on the island and they open on different days of the week. The largest and most well-known is the Market of Punta Arabí which opens on Wednesdays. There you can find all sorts of hand-crafted goods and dive into what Ibiza was like in the 60s.
5. Barcelona: Sitges
Sitges is located just under an hour down the coast from Barcelona. Sitges is known for it’s famous film festival and as a top LGTBQ destination within Spain, but it is also a charming beach town, filled with history, and frozen in time.
The city's emblematic seaside castle was built in 1041 and was home to the lords that oversaw the economic activities of the area. For the longest time, the people of Sitges were mainly farmers and winemakers. The farmers grew Malvasía grapes and winemakers produced the famous Malvasía wine, a sweet dessert wine.
You can feel the history in downtown Sitges and by exploring the city's streets, you can get a feel for medieval Catalonia.
6. San Sebastian: Monte Igueldo theme park y Hotel Londres
San Sebastián is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain and is brimming with sophistication and history, but there are two spots in particular that have a special nostalgic vibe.
The first is the small, kitschy theme park that sits atop Monte Igueldo. Making the trek up Monte Igueldo is worth it because of the amazing views alone. But if you want to get an extra dose of nostalgia, make sure to visit the Parque de Atracciones de Monte Igueldo. The park is small with just a handful of rides, but it is charming beyond belief and the views are unbeatable.
The second is the opulent Hotel Londres y de Inglaterra. This magnificent hotel is the oldest in the city and has been in operation for over 150 years. The hotel is located right on La Concha beach and walking in is like taking a time machine back to the Belle Epoque. At the very least have a coffee and while taking in the views of la Concha beach.
7. Pedraza, Segovia
Pedraza is a small medieval village in Castilla León, which has barely changed in over a thousand years. It has often been used in tv and film as a medieval backdrop, and it is easy to see why.
The town features a 15th-century medieval castle, a famous medieval jail, and several medieval churches. But Spain is littered with well preserved medieval cities and villages, so, why is Pedraza on our list? The reason is because Pedraza itself is filled with traditional vintage furniture and home decor shops. So when you visit Pedraza you don't only get to experience a Medieval village, but you also get to explore the many shops and maybe even take a piece of Pedraza back home with you.
8. Valencia: Paella in Malvarrosa beach
One of the most famous, if not the MOST famous dish from Spain is paella. Paella is a regional dish from Valencia, a city on the western coast of Spain.
Specifically, Paella was created in the marshland south of the city known as La Albufera. These marshes are perfect for growing the main ingredient in paella: rice. Now, having a delicious paella in la Albufera is great, there is no denying it, but we are going to suggest you go slightly north to the famous Malvarossa beach.
Malvarossa beach is widely considered the most beautiful beach in Valencia and is featured prominently in the works of the Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla. This area of Valencia just has a magical feel to it, and enjoying your paella at sunset, overlooking the Mediterranean sea is as good as it gets.
9. Vigo, Galicia
As we mentioned at the top of the article, our choices for the top vintage spots to visit in Spain would also illustrate the variety of cultures you can find in the Iberian Peninsula. So for this slot, we were debating between two beautiful cities in northern Spain: Vigo or Oviedo.
Both are spectacularly beautiful and historic, but we chose Vigo to highlight the wonderfully peculiar region of Galicia.
Galicia is quite different to other parts of Spain. Galicia is greener and rainier than the rest of the country, their gastronomy is very regional, and the influence of neighboring Portugal is most pronounced there than anywhere else in Spain. They even have a local dialect that is closely related to Portuguese.
Vigo is one of the more important cities in the region and is especially emblematic because it is located on the coast. The relationship of the inhabitants of Galicia with the sea is a huge part of the culture, and Vigo is Galicia’s most important port city.
There have been human settlements in Vigo since the paleolithic era, and the Romans established the first commercial port. Over the centuries, Vigo has suffered continuous attacks and raids by Spain’s Nothern neighbours, the most famous of which happened in 1589. The British pirate Francis Drake attacked Vigo a burnt the city to the ground, forcing the locals to build a fortified wall along the coast and a castle that still stand to this day.
Vigo’s historic city center will take you back in time as soon as you step foot in it. It is chock full of historic buildings from several different eras of Vigo’s past and t’s hard not to get swept up in the vibe of the city. Add the backdrop of the Atlantic ocean and the green lush scenery, and you have the perfect Galician experience.
10. Bilbao, Basque Country
Bilbao is the largest city in the Basque country. San Sebastián, which we have mentioned earlier on our list, is also located in the Basque Country, but even though they are so geographically close, they have completely different vibes.
San Sebastían is elegant and refined and gives the impression of being a very artistic and comfortable city. Bilbao is altogether different and can be described by 3 emblematic sites.
First off, the hanging bridge of Getxo. this bridge is a contemporary of the Eiffel tower and a unique engineering marvel. Bilbao is a port city, and boats travel up and down the Ria de Bilbao on their way out to sea or back to port. The Getxo bridge was designed to communicate the two halves of the city (on either side of the Ria) while not interrupting the flow of ships in and out. The solution was to create a hanging platform, suspended by cables, that could transport people and vehicles from one bank of the river to the other. It is the only such bridge in the world and is still working to this day.
This bridge speaks to the industrial history of Bilbao. there is a grit to Bilbao which has long been a hub of innovation and industry in Spain and an important economic center.
The second is the historic city center of Bilbao. Here you can see and feel the Medieval past of Bilbao. The medieval past of the people of this region is very storied indeed. This region was home to some of the most important military minds in Spain, who earned much wealth and recognition during the reconquering of the Iberian Peninsula. These medieval lords set the foundation for the city and the region helping it become one of the wealthiest regions in the country. Evidence of this medieval past can be found all over the city, and in the form of palatial estates all along the Ria of Bilbao.
Lastly is the World famous Guggenheim museum which speaks to Bilbao’s artistic side. Even though Bilbao is famous for being a tough blue-collar city, it also has a very developed artistic sensibility. There is no denying that Bilbao is a beautiful city and that the locals have a deep appreciation for art and “the finner” things which is something that sets the city apart and gives it a unique character.
Well, there you have it ! our top 10 vintage spots to visit in Spain. We hope you liked our list, and let us know if we left any other spots that you think should have made the list.