If you don't want to spend a lot of time shopping, museum shops are your best bet for unique offerings not available elsewhere. Our favorites are the Museu Picasso and the Fundació Joan Miró. They have broad selections of jewelry, scarves and other accessories, books, posters, and interesting objects for the home at reasonable prices. If, by some chance, you are in the market for an original piece of graphic art by a Spanish master, check out the shop at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies.
The shops at La Pedrera and Casa Batlló have merchandise inspired by the Modernisme movement. At Casa Batllo, you can even find nail polish in a Gaudí-inspired color palette. The gift shop at the Museu del Modernisme Catalá is more limited, but stocks door hardware from an original Gaudí design.
Sports fans should check out the merchandise at FC Botiga, the official shops of Barcelona's wildly popular football club. (The most convenient locations are Carrer Jaume I, 18, tel. 93-269-15-32, Metro: Jaume I; and Ronda Universitat, 37 at the corner of Plaça de Catalunya, no phone, Metro: Catalunya. For last-minute shopping, there are outlets at terminals T1 and T2 at the airport and at the Sants train station.) The handsome red, blue, and gold gear will stand out at home.
The football club also has shops in two big shopping centers. Centre Comercial Maremagnum (Moll d' Espanya s/n; tel. 93-225-81-00; www.maremagnum.es; Metro: Drassanes or Barceloneta) opened in the early 1990s on the waterfront and is as much a destination for its movie theaters, restaurants, and pubs, as it is for its shops. More interesting is Arenas de Barcelona (Gran Via, 373–385; tel. 93-289-02-44; www.arenasdebarcelona.com; Metro: Plaça d’Espanya), originally Barcelona's bullring, built 1889–1900. It closed in 1977 and stood vacant until developers hired British architect Richard Rogers to transform the complex into a shopping center, which opened in March 2011. Six floors of shops and a movie theater are augmented by an excellent food court.
Shoppers and window shoppers alike will probably find neighborhood streets more interesting. To see how the other half lives, check out the boutiques along Passeig de Gracia, Barcelona's most prestigious shopping promenade. For our (more limited) money, the streets of the Barri Gòtic and adjacent Born and La Ribera are more interesting to explore and the shops more fun and unpredictable. For an overview of regional handcrafts, check out Artesania Catalunya (Carrer dels Banys Nous, 11; tel. 93-467-46-60; Metro: Liceu or Jaume I). Craft and fashion merge in the humble espadrille. La Manual Alpargatera (Carrer Avinyo, 7; tel. 93-301-01-72; www.lamanual.net; Metro: Jaume I or Barceloneta) has been making the iconic shoes since the 1940s and claims that Salvador Dalí was an aficionado. Dalí is also an inspiration for jewelry designers at BCN Art Design (Carrer Argenteria, 76, Metro: Jaume I; and Carrer Princesa, 24, Metro: Jaume I, tel] 93-268-13-08; www.bcnartdesign.es), but you'll find a broader selection of rings, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings inspired by Gaudí and Picasso. Krappa (Carrer Freneria, 1; tel. 93-442-51-00; www.krappa-bcn.com; Metro: Jaume I) makes engravings based on historic woodcuts. Many maps, cards, bookplates, and larger prints are colored by hand.
Hagglers will enjoy Barcelona's street markets. El Encants antiques market is held 9am–8pm (some dealers leave earlier) on Mon, Wed, Fri, and Sat in Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes (www.encantsbcn.com; Metro: Glòries). A market has operated here since the 14th century, but El Encants moved into a soaring new pavilion in late 2013.
One of the best flea markets is held 9am to 8pm on Thursday at Plaça Nova at the base of the Cathedral of Barcelona (Metro: Jaume 1). If you miss it, there is a smaller flea market 10am to 5pm Friday through Sunday near the Mirador de Colom (Metro: Drassanes). Plaça Reial (Metro: Liceu) is the site of a stamp and coin market 10am to 8pm on Sunday. Plaça del Pi (Metro: Liceu) hosts an art fair (www.pintorspibarcelona.com) with dozens of artists on Saturday 11am to 8pm and Sunday 11am to 2pm, while contemporary artisans line Carrer Argentería, from Santa María del Pi to Via Laietana on weekends 10am to 5pm.
La Boqueria and Mercat Santa Caterina are the best fresh food markets. These food extravaganzas are perfect for buying spices and other packaged goods to bring home. For great chocolate, visit Cacao Sampaka (Carrer Consell de Cent, 292; tel. 92-272-08-33; www.cacaosampaka.com; Metro: Passeig de Gràcia), which was co-founded by Albert Adrià, brother of famed chef Ferran. If your taste runs more to nuts or the traditional “torron” (nougat made with honey and almonds), check out the ancient (since 1851) nut roaster E & A Gispert (Carrer dels Sombrerers, 23; tel. 93-319-75-75; www.casagispert.com; Metro: Jaume I). For gourmet olive oils from around Spain, specialty dried beans, and canned fish and shellfish from Galicia, check the floor-to-ceiling shelves of upscale caterer Colmado Quilez (La Rambla de Catalunya, 63; tel. 93-215-23-56; www.lafuente.es; Metro: Passeig de Gràcia).
Catalonia has resisted the lure of Sunday trading, mainly at the insistence of the trade unions. Apart from Barcelona's coin and stamp markets, which open on Sundays, most stores shut on Sundays and many also close on Saturday afternoon. The good news is that most shops in the center stay open through the lunch hour and generally don't close until 9pm, even on Saturdays, with department stores extending this to 10pm. As a general rule of thumb, smaller shops are open Monday through Saturday 9:30 or 10am to 1:30 or 2pm, and then open again in the afternoon from 4:30 or 5pm to 8:30pm. You will always find exceptions to this, especially as the tourist trade fans out over the city. You may come across some that, frustratingly, take Monday morning off, or decide to take a long siesta, but even that adds to the unique experience of Barcelona being a modern city that has retained its retro feel.
Credit cards are accepted nearly everywhere, even for small purchases. You must show a form of photo ID (passport or photo driver's license) when making a purchase with your credit card. Don't be offended when the assistant asks for ID; it is an effective guard against fraudulent credit card use.
Sales tax is called IVA. In July 2010 it rose to 8% for food items and 18% for most other goods. Cash register receipts will show this as a separate charge. If you see a "Tax-Free Shopping" sticker displayed in a shop you can request a tax-free receipt on purchases of over 90.16€. Get this stamped at any airport Customs (in Barcelona-Prats it's in Terminal 2A) when you depart Spain and you can claim a cash refund from the banks in the airport. Refunds can be made to your credit card or by check. For more information visit www.globalrefund.com.
Sales (rebajas or rebaixes) start in early July and early January. Discounts at the sales are extraordinary, often starting at 50%. On the whole, shopping in Barcelona is a genteel affair; small business and trading has historically been a major backbone of its economy, and many establishments here still feel like a piece of living history, in terms of both service and presentation.
What to Buy
Stylish clothing, shoes, and leatherwear are the items to go for in Barcelona. Leather shoes, belts, jackets, and coats are particularly good buys; whether you want a high-end store such as Loewe or succumb to the leather hawkers on La Rambla, the quality and value of leather goods is superb.Barcelona is renowned for its expertise in design and has a vibrant design culture supported by the local government. Decorative objects and housewares here are original and well made and can be found in the shops around the MACBA and the Museu Picasso. Artisan pieces, such as ceramic tiles and gifts and earthenware bowls and plates, are cheap and plentiful. Cookware, crockery, wine glasses, and utensils in general are a great buy; a poke around a humble hardware store can unearth some great finds, too.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.