Best Got-It-In-Spain Purchases
- Saffron: the lightest, most aromatic, and best-value buy left in all of Spain—available in any supermarket or grocery
- Rope-soled espadrilles from La Manual Alpargatera
- Any items by Javier Mariscal or Miguel Milà, legendary local designers
- Custo Barcelona's ever-original tops
- Ceramics from all over Spain at Art Escudellers
Out of the tourist areas, stores are generally open Monday–Saturday 9–2 and 4:30–8. Virtually all stores close Sunday except during the Christmas shopping period and, in the city center at least, in July and August. Most stores in the Eixample, Barri Gótic, and in the malls, such as L'Illa Diagonal, stay open through the lunch hour. The big department stores such as El Corte Inglés and FNAC are open nonstop from 9:30 to 9:30. Designated pharmacies are open all night.
Taxes and Guides
Food and basic necessities are taxed at the lowest rate, but most consumer goods are taxed at 21%. Non-EU citizens can request a Tax-Free Form on purchases of €90.16 and over in shops displaying the Tax-Free Shopping sticker. Refunds (either cash or credit) can be obtained at the airport. First get your forms stamped by the customs officer, then hand them to the refund counter in Terminal 1 or 2a (you can also mail them later). Remember that goods must be unused and unopened in order to get the refund. Global Blue Cheque users: you can also obtain a refund at the tourist office in Plaça de Catalunya, as well as the main office of Barcelona Turisme in the Eixample (Passatge de la Concepció 7–9, open 3–8), which can save you the stress of dealing with airport counters. For further information, plus tips on where to shop, check Turisme Barcelona’s website (www.barcelonashoppingline.com).
Barcelona Shopping Neighborhoods
The Ribera and Born neighborhoods, the old waterfront district around the Santa Maria del Mar basilica, seem to breed boutiques and shops of all kinds continuously. Design and clothing shops are the main draw. Check along Carrer Argenteria and Plaça de Santa Maria before zipping up Carrer Banys Vells and, two streets north of Carrer Montcada, Carrer Rec for design items, jewelry, and knickknacks of all kinds. Carrer Vidrieria is lined with shops all the way over to Plaça de les Olles, where hometown clothing designer Custo Barcelona owns the corner across from the wildly popular tapas bar Cal Pep. Around Santa Maria del Mar basilica, the aromatic Casa Gispert on Carrer Sombrerers is not to be missed, nor is Baraka, the Moroccan goods expert on Carrer Canvis Vells. Vila Viniteca up Carrer Agullers near Via Laietana is always an interesting Bacchic browse.
Beginning with the Triangle d'Or at the top of La Rambla and up Passeig de Gràcia, now rightly considered one of the world's greatest shopping streets, the Eixample is a compendium of design and fashion stores that could take years to fully explore. Eixample means "Expansion" (from the Spanish verb ensanchar) and, indeed, not only is this neighborhood immensely wide, stretching from Plaça de les Glòries all the way out to Plaça Francesc Macià, but it can cut a wide swathe through your bank statement before you know it.
Passeig de Gràcia, with reportedly the most expensive retail floor space in Spain, accommodates a lengthy and luxurious list of fashionista showcases, such as Prada, Stella McCartney, and Loewe, with more down-to-earthling brands such as Zara and Mango situated at the southern end. Also in the Eixample, Moderniste grocery stores Murria and Mantequeria Can Ravell dazzle foodies. Other targets of opportunity include Rambla de Catalunya (which runs parallel to Passeig de Gràcia and is less uptight) and Carrer Enric Granados. But this is just the tip of the shopping iceberg: turn yourself loose and discover the factory outlet stores along Carrer Girona, or wander into the Bermuda Triangle of antiques shopping in Bulevard dels Antiquaris at Passeig de Gràcia 55–57.
The Raval has traditionally held a reputation for separating you from your possessions rather than for adding to them (and you should still stay alert here for pickpockets)—but the MACBA, Barcelona's Richard Meier–designed contemporary art museum, has brought with it an upsurge of jewelry, art, and design shops in the upper part of the neighborhood between Carrer Pelai and Carrer Hospital. Carrer Tallers, just below Plaça de Catalunya, is the youth culture street of Barcelona, with music shops, goth clothing stores and tattoo parlors. The bookstore La Central del Raval on Carrer Elisabets is a wonderful place to spend time, with lunch available in its excellent restaurant. Carrer Joaquín Costa caters to hipsters with designer knicknacks and vintage sunglasses. Carrers Doctor Dou and Notoriat has a handsome array of design, fashion and crafts shops, flea market fanatics could head to Carrer Riera Baixa, which is chockablock with secondhand clothing stores, from flapper dresses to army surplus.
The onetime outlying village of Gràcia is has become a shopping destination in its own right with a host of creatively conceived, owner-run design and fashion stores, art and design galleries and crafts studios. Major High Street brands sit cheek by jowl along Gran de Grácia–-the neighborhood's main drag. Venture farther to Carrer Verdi, Carrer Torrijos, and around the Mercat de la Llibertat. Plaça del Sol and Plaça Rius i Taulet, all which abound in fashion and jewelry shops, along with arty cafés, taverns, and gourmet food boutiques. Along Carrer d'Asturiés there are dozens of shops selling clothing and food adhering to the organic, alternative lifestyle principles Gràcia's residents are famous for.
Even farther uphill than Gràcia, the formerly independent village of Sarrià is filling with antiques stores and indie fashion designers, so a trip through this charming neighborhood, which retains much of its small-town character, is hardly the shopping boondocks. Antiques shops can be found on Carrer de la Creu, Carrer Cornet i Mas, Plaça Artós, and Major de Sarrià, and there are more on the way. In addition, there are two branches of the famous Foix pastry store in Plaça de Sarrià and Major de Sarrià and two excellent wine stores: Iskia on Major de Sarrià, and La Cave on the corner of Carrer de la Creu and Avinguda Foix. Refuel at Bar Tomàs for the famous patatas allioli and Gouthier for oysters. Worth seeking out is the master florist's shop, the appropriately named Flora Miserachs, at No. 27 Carrer Avió Plus Ultra.