Accidental Museums

Seven eccentric museum-worthy collections found only in El Rastro

21 October 2017
The tiny entrance to a labyrinth of storage units

There are few better ways to spend a Sunday in Madrid than strolling around El Rastro, but if you don’t have time to explore this 400-year-old market as many times as we have (possibly into three figures), then let us help you hit the ground running with seven of our most eccentric finds. 

Oh, and every shop, stall and pile you pass along the way is also fascinating, so walk slowly and take in every inch.


Holding an old photo can feel like you’re touching the past, like you were actually there with this family cooking dinner outside on a wintry Sunday, wondering how on earth tía could mistime the family portrait so badly.

Família Sánchez

Familia Sánchez

Staff at an old restaurant

Staff at an old restaurant

The internet can show you wonderful things, but nothing compares to holding a chemically processed vintage photo where you’re just a few degrees of separation from the very people in it.

To know the feeling, head to this street stall and sift through thousands of old photos of anything from frigid royal portraits to colourful retro holidays at the beach.

Address: Calle Mira el Río Baja, 8


Have you ever wondered what it feels like to be surrounded by thousands of discontinued dolls? For an unforgettably creepy experience (with the smell of stale cigarettes for effect), head to Maletas Inmigrantes (immigrant suitcases).

Dolls pinned to the walls

Dolls pinned to the walls

Address: Calle de Carlos Arniches, 2


Offices were so classy a hundred years ago – everything was beautiful to look at and made a satisfying sound when opened, pushed or picked up, and it was built to last.

There will have been no doubt in the manufacturers’ minds that their telephones, typewriters, pens and mechanical calculators would still be working perfectly 100 years later, and they were right – almost everything inside Antigüedades de Oficina works just as well as the day it rolled out of the factory.

Lots of vintage office decor and furniture

Lots of vintage office decor and furniture

An aluminium-cased antique till

An ornate antique till

An antique German typewriter

A mid 19th-century German typewriter

Address: Calle de la Arganzuela, 29


Next door to the old-world office, José, the grumpy owner of Colección Historica de las Telecomunicaciones, displays around 400 telephones, some dating back almost 150 years. Many of them are fanatically accessorised with little Nazi flags and even have a metal swastika on the rotary dial.

José is very tetchy about people taking photos of his collection of Nazi telephones, so do not take photos, however tempting it may be. Fortunately, he’s uploaded some of his own images onto Google Maps for us, but this pristine collection of telephones from a very dark period in history really needs to be seen with your own eyes.

Antique telephones from during the Franco dictatorship

Antique telephones from darker times (photo by JAR)

Address: Calle de la Arganzuela, 29


Go next door again, press the buzzer to get into Coleccíonísmo Militar Arganzuela, and be met with the smell of musty old uniforms. On your left as you walk in, you’ll see a life-size bronze bust of Franco and, just beyond it, in the glass cabinet at around head height, there’s a genuine invitation to Franco’s funeral.

It turns out the owner was as shocked as we were to realise he had this invitation in his collection, and he didn’t want any photos taken of it (dammit), as it’s apparently extremely rare. There are no pictures on the internet to show you what it looks like, so you’ll just have to go and see it in real life.

He did let us take one photo though…

Franco's funeral, 1975

Franco’s funeral, 1975

Inside the glass cabinets, there are also hundreds of swords, bullets, grenades and other antique weaponry, and, on the right of the shop, there are dozens of genuine military uniforms from various eras of (mostly fascist) political rule.

Because this is a shop and – incredibly – not a museum, you can touch and explore many of these antique war items, and they’re all for sale too.

Address: Calle de la Arganzuela, 29


Walk off the street into what looks like an Almodóvar film set, where you can imagine a feisty Madrileña acting out some melodramatic despair in every corner of the room…

All About My Mother

Pedro Almodóvar’s ‘All About My Mother’

Bold retro wallpaper

Bold retro wallpaper in the shop IKB191

Pedro Almodóvar’s films and El Rastro’s cult scene are closely intertwined. El Rastro features in some of his films, and he apparently spent a lot of his youth hanging out with his friends here.

Every day of the week, fans of this kitsch style flock to El Rastro and particularly IKB191 seeking inspiration, visual satisfaction, and, on rare occasions, an extremely expensive piece of furniture. Fun fact: the shop’s name is the colour code for the deep blue hue seen in the wallpaper above.

A velvet pink retro sofa and insect taxidermy

A pink-velvet retro sofa and preserved insects in IKB191

Retro coffee table and armchair set

Retro coffee table and armchair set in IKB191

Address: Calle de la Arganzuela, 18


Step into this old, cramped record store and let it sink in that these objects – many of which you owned – are now considered retro. Metallic fabric, lava lamps, punk badges and the smell of vintage record covers throws you back to a time you suddenly wish you were (back) in.

Satanasa record store

Satanasa record store

El Rastro has been a Mecca for a spectrum of music-loving tribes since vinyl was invented. If you fancy adding a new record to your electropop collection, exploring some funk, or discovering a niche genre such as Iberian punk, then spend some time at Satanasa – open only on Sunday mornings like the true Rastro old-timer it is.

Address: Calle Mellizo, 6


Keep an eye out for the smallest real-life door you’ve ever seen. It’s like a hidden portal into an Egyptian pyramid, and at the bottom of the steep tunnel entrance there’s a labyrinth of treasure coves that could rival the contents of a pharaoh’s tomb.

The tiny entrance to a labyrinth of storage units

The tiny entrance to a labyrinth of storage units

This old storage unit is used by the Rastro stallholder in the photo and dozens of others too. If you want to peep inside, go along at around 3 pm when the market is packing up.

Address: Calle Mira el Río Baja, 9


Read our article about the characters of El Rastro from all over the world, who live, eat and breathe this 400-year-old market.

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