If there’s a city other than Barcelona with a shop selling only felt, another boasting only feathers and another devoted to clothes hooks, I’ve yet to find it. The city has a wealth of these little, quirky stores, many of them dating back decades, but alongside them you’ll also find cutting-edge Scandinavian furniture showrooms and top-notch fashion houses from Gucci and Armani to local names such as Agatha Ruiz de la Prada and Hoss Intropia.
As a rule, the smaller specialist shops are in the Old City, while the bigger chains and designer stores are in the Eixample, particularly along the Passeig de Gràcia and Avda Diagonal. In the moneyed uptown barrios of Sarrià and Sant Gervasi you’ll also find some exclusive boutiques and, particularly, shoe shops.
The Raval specialises in edgy, youthful culture, from galleries to skateboard shops, while the Born is strong on food shops (see Shopping in Barcelona: food shops in the Born) and young, up-and-coming fashion designers. La Rambla and the Barri Gòtic are mostly dominated by souvenir shops (for some rather more sophisticated gift ideas, see Shopping in Barcelona: gifts), although the wide, pedestrianised Portal de l’Angel is a pleasant enough stretch of high-street chains (Zara, Mango, Benetton). For more on clothes and shoes, see Shopping in Barcelona: fashion and shoes.
At the top end is the Plaça Catalunya, where you’ll find the main branch of the city’s only department store, El Corte Inglés. On the opposite side of the plaça is a branch of FNAC, useful for books, CDs and DVDs, and below it a huge optician’s.
There are two large shopping malls in Poblenou, an easy metro or tram ride from the city centre: Diagonal-Mar (El Maresme station) and Glòries (Glòries station). Both have all the high-street names you’d expect, plus huge supermarkets, food courts and play areas for children. Diagonal-Mar tends to be quieter, particularly during the week.