For those of you who aren't familiar with el Mercado de San Miguel, it's a food market located next to Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain. Tourists come to this beautifully designed gastronomical mecca to get a taste of typical Spanish dishes. The covered market is a food scene for anyone who is interested in tasting a variety of meats, cheeses, paellas, wines, vegetables, fruits, and pastries. 

There's no doubt this is a tourist destination but I have no shame in admitting it's one of my favorite places in the city.  There's something about the glass windows, elegant food presentations, and casual atmosphere that make it worth multiple visits. Here's four reasons why you have to stop here at least one during your visit to Spain. 

1. The Building 

Josi Miller

As you walk up to the mercado you'll see tall glass windows and hundreds of people crowded around food stands. The wood framing gives this place a cozy and elegant look. The colors, smells, sounds, and energy that the mercado emulates is like no other market I've ever been to. Once you're in, your eyes won't know where to focus because of all the overflowing cases of  food. There are bar stools at some stands and areas where you can take your food and sit back and relax. Whether you come in to grab a snack or eat an entire meal, this place has it all. 

2. A Taste of the Best 

Josi Miller

Spanish food will always have my heart. The first time I went to Barcelona I tried clams and squid ink paella. Then in Leon, Spain I spent the entire summer embracing their meaty gastronomy by trying morcilla and various fish dishes. At the market, I can get a little sample of everything and actually see how it's made and ask the vendors questions. Whether you're craving a fruit smoothie or a pastry the market does a wonderful job of making sure that their food is fresh, beautifully plated, and delicious. 

3. Olives, Olives, Olives 

Josi Miller

I'm gonna be real with you and admit that up until three years ago I used to hate olives. That all changed when I studied abroad in high school and came to el Mercado de San Miguel. My friend and I decided to try the olive stall. We ordered an olive stick with fish, cheese, and sun dried tomato. I loved it so much I spent another two euros on another olive combination. Therefore, I give credit to the market for starting my olive tour. Now, every time I go, I ask for a new olive stick. At the moment, the olives with salmon and cheeses are my favorites. 

4. Excitement everywhere 

Josi Miller

I love nothing more than to be surrounded by fellow foodies. Normally I don't like crowds, but in this case the energy in the mercado actually calms me. I love watching people carry drinks around, try and decide what to eat next, and sit around the table totally preoccupied with their food. The environment is stress-free because everything is about food and enjoying the company of friends and family. 

All in all, el mercado will always be one of the places I'll make time to visit. If you decide to go there on your next trip to Madrid, make sure to stop by the paella stand and try both the vegetable paella and squid ink paella. Plus, don't forget the olive stall. It'll change your life for the better.