Shopping in Barcelona

Definitely the most stylish city in Spain, Barcelona offers shoppers, apparently, more than 35,000 places to indulge themselves – enough choice there for even the most discerning visitor.

For many foreigners, of course, shopping in Spain inevitably starts with the country’s major department store,El Corte Inglés, and the largest of its stores in Barcelona is right at the heart of Plaça de Catalunya and is as grand and comprehensive as anyone could wish. It also has the added bonus of a restaurant at the top of the building that gives wonderful views across the city to those fortunate enough to get themselves a table near a window.

Those who enjoy the shopping ‘mall’ experience can now find quite a few in the city. Heron City is a typical example of the genre and is a little way from the city centre at Passeig de Andreu Nin. Architecturally much more interesting – and closer to the hub of the action – is the fabulous l’Illa del Diagonal and there are also the Centre Comercial de les Glories at the site of the old Hispano Olivetti factory, and El Triangle in Plaça de Catalunya.

Barcelona is renown for a 5 kilometre stretch of shops that runs from the top of Las Ramblas, through Plaça del Catalunya. Along Passeig de Gràcia and along the Avinguda Diagonal. This is where you’ll find all the top international names such as Chanel, Cartier, Armani, Mont Blanc and Luis Vuitton as well as the leading Spanish stores such as Bershka, Zara, Mango and Massimo Dutti. Quite a proportion of this area is pedestrianised and there are many street cafes offering partners a welcome respite from the retail therapy. Barcelona also has the interesting feature of a special ‘shopping bus’, known as the Tombbus, that takes you around all the most popular shopping districts. Leaving Plaça de Catalunya every seven minutes, it is a comfortable ride – even with music, magazines and armchairs – and only costs 1.25 euros a trip!

Some might prefer, however, to wander the narrow streets of El Born or the Barri Gòtic. Here you can find smaller, independent shops, young designers, and more ‘eclectic’ shops. This is also where you’ll discover the antique and second hand bookshops that have that special atmosphere, and smell, about them. The El Raval district is the place to go if you’re looking for alternative clothes or music stores – as well as some ethnic supermarkets. If you’re around this way on a Sunday morning there’s a fascinating market selling old stamps, cards, books, maps, etc.

You may have noticed there has been no real mention of Las Ramblas – yes, it is a wonderfully colourful and exciting walk and has some unforgettable aspects to it, but it really isn’t the place to pick up a bargain in Barcelona. The most famous shopping street in the city is, I’m afraid, the place to buy newspapers, over-priced souvenirs and artwork – or caged birds, of course – but not much else.

Most of the large stores – and definitely the Mall-type places – will tend to be open from 9 or 10 in the morning until the same time at night. Many of the smaller shops, though, still take their traditional siesta in the afternoon for a couple of hours or so at 2 pm. Although most of the places along Las Ramblas will be open on Sundays, few of the other stores will be; unless your time in the city coincides with one of the permitted Sunday opening days. You might also find that many of the smaller, independent stores close for most of August for staff holidays.