Travel FAQ: Where to buy high-quality authentic saffron in Madrid, Spain
I always come to this particular market to buy saffron in Madrid, Spain. In Canada, to find this particular quality of saffron, you need to pay a lot more for it in speciality stores like Whole Foods, not only that, you get less.
HOW MUCH SAFFRON COSTS VERSUS IN CANADA
Canada .1 grams of saffron sold for $12 CAD
Spain .125 grams of saffron sold for 2.50 EUR
To do the proper conversion, we first have to normalize the amount of saffron.
If we could find .125 grams of saffron powder in Canada, it would cost about $15 CAD (25% more).
Converting 2.50 EUR to CAD, it is about $3.25 CAD in Spain for the equivalent of $15 CAD of saffron in Canada.
Basically, saffron costs about 4.6X more expensive in Canada for the same amount of saffron.
Needless to say, when we are in Madrid, we stock up. You can keep saffron up to about a year or two (depending on the expiry date), and since we make a few paellas a year, we buy as much as we need.
WHERE TO BUY THE BEST SAFFRON IN MADRID
Take the metro to the stop “Cuatro Caminos”.
When you exit from the stop, look for the McDonald’s restaurant and walk the street to the side of it. (I’d give you street names but it’s useless for tourists in Spain, particularly in light of how they’ve (stupidly) labeled and created their streets. Read my rant below on this.)
Walk about 10 minutes.
You will reach a market called: Maravillas Market on the right-hand side of the street. Don’t blink you might miss it because it does not look like a market.
Enter the market, go up the little half escalator, turn right and walk down the corridor through the glass doors.
Right smack in the middle of the market before its little alleyways begin, you will see a little spice shop that looks like this.
Look for this particular brand of saffron, which sells for about 2.50 EUR for 4 packs (a veritable DEAL).
Do not be fooled by other imitators no matter what the guy says.
We bought a pack of saffron he swore was the same quality but was just slightly cheaper and regretted it because we had to use TWICE as much to get the same amount of flavor.
WHAT KIND OF SAFFRON TO BUY
Don’t buy saffron threads.
The real flavour is in the powder itself, and if you buy the threads, they might be cheaper and look sexier or more authentic, but do not have the intensity of flavour when they just remove the powder from the threads and sell that alone.
You will only need a pod or two AT THE VERY MOST for a massive platter of paella.
So when you buy saffron, look for saffron powder not saffron threads.
This is the exact one I buy:
QUICK RANTY NOTE ON STREET NAMES IN SPAIN
Most of Europe for me, with the half-exceptions of London and Paris, REALLY REALLY suck for street names.
I am very used to North American-style street names in big bold letters, on poles pointing in the right direction on the streets they are meant to be on, and I am particularly fond of the grid-street system rather than the ancient style of meandering pathways that were haphazardly turned into actual roads as the country modernized.
As a result, going to Europe (especially Spain and Portugal) is particularly painful and irksome for someone like me who is directionally-challenged.
For one thing, it’s full of these ridiculous roundabouts with 4-5 streets bursting out from one “intersection”, with no sense of direction noted about whether that street WAY OVER THERE is north or south.
Worse of all, the street names are written on tiny grey concrete slabs (grey on grey, naturally because that’s just the way you should absolutely write street names), discreetly hidden high above a normal passerby’s field of vision on the side of the building… and that’s if you’re lucky.
Sometimes streets don’t even have their names to begin with, and you can forget about trying to figure out what street you’re on WHILE walking down it, because unless you get close to a major roundabout you have no goddamn idea what it’s called.
When it’s super hot and you’re just trying to get back to your hotel for a rest and a quick lunch, it can be irritating to put it mildly.
London and Paris are a bit better than what I am describing for Spain or Portugal, but not by much compared to North American street name standards.
At least in Paris, they were smart enough to put the names in white text against a dark blue background with a green border, but not smart enough to put the street names on poles on the actual streets they are on so you don’t have to crane your neck up to search in the blinding sun for what street you are on.