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, www.caixacatalunya.cat/obrasocial) 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, www.dhub-bcn.cat), 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, www.barbier-mueller.ch) 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, www.arlequimask.com) 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.