Shopping in Barcelona: gifts

by Sally.Davies

If you're after a souvenir classier than a paella fridge magnet, you'll be spoilt for choice in Barcelona. You just have to know where to look

You might be forgiven, strolling down La Rambla, for thinking that the Mexican hat was indigenous to Catalunya, not to mention the bullfighting poster and the flamenco doll (neither bullfighting nor flamenco are held dear to your average Catalan). And let’s not even get into the crude and breathtakingly unfunny T-shirts depicting sexathons. Don’t despair, however, because once you get off the main tourist drags there are Aladdin’s caves of tasteful trinkets and stylish souvenirs.

Among the best places to pick up imaginative presents to take home are museum gift shops. Barcelona has a long-standing fascination with design and architecture, and the shop at the MACBA is a great place to pick up coffee-table tomes on the subject, along with some niftily designed kitchen gadgets, kids’ art kits and the like.

Up at the Fundació Joan Miró they stock some great games, mugs, ashtrays, bookmarks and so on in the artists’ trademark primary colours, while the Espai Gaudí at La Pedrera (Passeig de Gràcia 92, Eixample, 00 34 93 484 59 00, is good for Gaudí-inspired mouse mats, pencil cases and riotously colourful postcards.

For more Barcelona-themed gift ideas – paper models of Gaudí’s buildings, Modernista fridge magnets, picture books on all things Catalan – try the shop at the Museu d’Història de Barcelona. Children are better served at the Aquarium and the Zoo, where you’ll find every conceivable fluffy animal, wind-up bath toys on a marine theme and a host of cutesy stocking fillers.

The Textile Museum has moved from the Born to become part of the Disseny Hub Barcelona, uptown (Palau Reial de Pedralbes, Avda Diagonal 686, 00 34 93 280 16 21,, but its gift shop (C/Montcada 12, Born, 0034 93 268 70 11) remains, albeit in a more designery incarnation. Some very cool things to be had here, including Space Invader ice-cube trays, Jesus and Mary cruet sets, icily hip wallpaper and baroque napkin rings.

Right next door at the Museu Barbier-Mueller d’Art Precolombí (C/Montcada 14, Born, 00 34 93 310 45 16, the vibe is very different – Mayan chocolate pots, Mexican Day of the Dead tableaux, Aztec bronzes, Ecuadorian panama hats and Frida Kahlo pendants. I suspect some of the above may not be strictly ‘pre-Columbian’, but they're quite attractive nonetheless.

Across the road at the Museu Picasso you’ll find myriad tasteful-but-topical postcards to send home along with gorgeous prints, ‘Dove of Peace’ neckties, Las Meninas calendars, Guernica playing cards and some stunning Alexander Calder-inspired mobiles. There’s also a nice kids’ book selection with plenty of tomes intended to awaken their inner artist.

Something more traditional

If you’re after something more traditional, the man in your life might appreciate a Barça scarf, shirt or (you never know) underpants. There are shops selling knock-offs all over town, but for the real thing you should go to the Botiga del Barça (C/Jaume I 18, Barri Gòtic, 00 34 93 269 15 32, or Maremagnum, Port Vell, 00 34 93 225 80 45).

The ladies, on the other hand, will almost certainly prefer something from Alonso (C/Santa Anna 27, Barri Gòtic, 00 34 93 317 60 85), an old and especially picturesque glove and accessory shop, with kaleidoscopic displays of butter-soft leather gloves, silk scarves and lace mantillas. Other assured hits are the handmade carnival masks at Arlequí Màscares (C/Princesa 7, Born, 00 34 93 268 27 52, or the carved printing blocks and illuminated ex libris stickers at Xilografies (C/Freneria 1, Barri Gòtic, 00 34 93 315 07 58).

More expert advice on Barcelona

Read my shopping overview on my Shopping in Barcelona page.

For suggestions on where to stay in Barcelona, see my Barcelona Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Barcelona page.


I came to Barcelona ten years ago for a long weekend, and showed a horrible lack of originality in deciding I couldn't leave. I made it back to London for as long as it took to pack up my things and hand in notice to my landlord, and that was that. Fortunately I was able to take my job with me – I edit Time Out's guides to Spanish cities and work as a freelance journalist for newspapers and magazines including the Guardian, the Observer, the Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph.

My Barcelona

Where I always grab a coffee: there are lots of terrace cafés along the pretty Passeig del Born, but my favourite is Rosal (no.27), which largely escapes tourist notice. Autumn update: though it's kept the name, Rosal has recently been subsumed by the faceless tapas bar next door. I'm back on the prowl for a regular haunt. Watch this space.

My favourite stroll: I’m lucky to live near the Parc de la Ciutadella, a storybook park with a boating lake, ducks to feed, a Gaudí-designed waterfall, playgrounds, sculpture and a thousand trees under which to read a book on hot summer days.

Fiction for inspiration: Cathedral of the Sea is never going to win any great literary prizes, but it’s a rollicking beach read, with a plot verging on Gothic and a fantastically detailed portrayal of the Born neighbourhood in medieval times, and particularly the construction of the 'People's Cathedral', Santa Maria del Mar.

Where to be seen: With a mixologist and DJs imported from London, the Eclipse bar on the 26th floor of the W Hotel is the current hot ticket.

The most breathtaking view: One for the brave, this one, because it does have a bit of a wobble when there’s a wind up, but the Monument a Colom (Columbus Monument) at the bottom of La Rambla has unmatched views over the city and out to sea.

The best spot for some peace and quiet: Again, it would have to be the Parc de la Ciutadella, although the gardens of the Antic Hospital in the Raval are also a lovely retreat from the crowds along La Rambla.

Shopaholics beware: Passeig de Gràcia has most of the flagship stores for Zara, Mango, Diesel et al, along with some very gorgeous designer stores. It’s also a wonderful place in which to simply stroll and take in the Modernista architecture; even the lamp-posts are works of art. For quirky boutiques and eccentric specialities, though, you'll need to lose yourself in the maze of the Old City.

City soundtrack: There’s a Raval-based band called 08001 (the Raval’s postcode), made up of a floating membership of great musicians from around the world. Its mestissa (ethnic fusion) sound is very typically barcelonin.

Don’t leave without... fer vermut (‘doing vermouth’). Sunday morning, tall glass, red vermouth, lots of ice, slice of orange, splash of soda water, a saucer of boquerones (fresh anchovies) and a couple of friends. My favourite Spanish habit.