Barcelona is much more than tapas and sangria. From vintage to up-and-coming local designers, this stylish city is a shopping paradise on any budget
Barcelona, the city of cool, has it all. It is one of those favourably located cities that boasts a usable beach, it is surrounded by beautiful countryside, and within its winding maze of streets and plush avenues, it has some of the best restaurants, bars and clubs in Spain. But what draws me back again and again is the shopping. The local fashion scene is edgy and stylish without being brash or over the top, and you can get some unique pieces from up-and-coming local designers without the hefty designer price tag.
Like the UK, Barcelona has a tip-top variety of high-street shops and department stores where you can pick up a bargain in the style of the moment. Start off by wandering along Las Ramblas and the surrounding streets, making your way up to Placa de Catalunya. You will find outlets of well-known stores Zara and Mango, where you can get similar products to those in their UK branches but with a Spanish twist and usually for less than they charge back here. You might also want to pop in to El Corte Ingles, Spain’s leading department store, to pick up some great beauty products and mainstream fashion items and pretty much everything in between. However, to get a better sense of the style that Barcelona oozes, you need to get off the main drags and into the markets and side streets.
One of my favourite streets right now is Carrer Riera Baixa, in the El Raval area (turn left off Las Ramblas opposite Liceu metro station and walk for about 10 minutes). This part of the city still maintains its working-class roots and has a somewhat shabby-chic air. There are numerous shops dotted along this pretty street selling vintage, second-hand and Barça-styled designs. However, one of my personal addictions is the market that takes over the street on Saturday morning, where you can get up to 50% off the normal prices for some very chic segunda mano (second-hand) gear. Errete is another little gem housing designer dresses as well as first-class vintage finds. Other sure bets are Lailo, Recicla Recicla and Mies y Felj. The surrounding streets are also worth exploring, as new shops are springing up all the time. Humana, Holala and Manodos, for example, are treasure troves of the vintage and second-hand variety.
If vintage and second-hand isn’t really your style, however, then make your way over to Gracia (the area on the left out of Fontana metro station). Here you will find myriad owner-run boutiques selling clothes, shoes, art and edible goodies. Allow plenty of time to get lost in this trendy, young and bohemian neighbourhood. Philo is a perfect example of a boutique that showcases a variety of Spanish designers such as Que Pasa Julia, Naughty and Montse Canades. If you have deep pockets, check out Ella and Cia and treat yourself to a custom-made dress by these self-professed ‘craftsmen’.
Barcelona also has a world-class selection of international designer outlets such as Armani, Chanel, Escada and Louis Vuitton and most can be found around the Passeig de Gracia. However, a local designer, Custo Dalmau, has been doing the rounds of the international fashion weeks to much acclaim. He has a store on Placa Olles (off Passeig d’Isabell II) that is definitely worth a peek if you have money to spend. For less well-established, but arguably just as good, designers make a bee-line for Etxart and Panno just off Passeig del Born, in the Born district on the other side of the Barri Gotic. It has a well-rounded collection of Barcelona’s best designers and is another favourite of mine.
Eat, drink, sleep
While you’re in the Born area, sate your appetite at La Luna. This cheap, cute and characterful place offers a varied menu from local paella and tapas to interesting takes on international fare.
As the evening rolls in, you should definitely get stuck into Barcelona’s late night scene. But take ‘late-night’ literally, as locals don’t tend to go out until around midnight, and they stay out until the early hours. A good place to kick off any party session is El Xampanyet on Carrer Montcada, near the Picasso Museum. This bar is a cool blend of old and new and a popular choice with the pre-party crowd. You can also tuck in to some delicious tapas at very reasonable prices if you need some extra energy to get through the night.
After all that shopping, eating and drinking, you will need somewhere to rest your feet and get some shuteye. Apartments seem to prove popular for stays in Barça, and if you are going as a group then this is definitely a way to avoid the often pricey hotel rates. A good option is Pillow Apartments: they offer accommodation throughout the city centre and run monthly special offers chopping up to 30% off their standard rates.
Ryanair and easyJet are the cheapest options and fly from many UK airports.