Shopping in Barcelona wouldn’t be complete without visiting El Corte Ingles, Spain’s largest department store chain, which dates back to 1934 when its founder purchased a tailor shop in Madrid and turned it into the corporation it is today.
In fact, its name is a direct reference to its tailoring heritage; El Corte Ingles means The English Cut as in, the tailor’s cut. However the current incarnation of the retail giant isn’t just your average men’s haberdashery but a full on shopping destination that offers men’s and women’s clothing together with books, sporting equipment, domestic appliances, electronics and so on.
There are several El Cortes Ingles locations however the main location that anyone visiting Barcelona should visit is located in Plaça Catalunya. In addition to the items mentioned above you will also find its gourmet food store in the basement level where you can buy everything from fine French champagne to Swiss Chocolates and Dutch pancake mixes. If you are simply in need of a few groceries to stock up your fridge in a rental flat their basic supercor will suit your needs.
On the first floor you will find an ample sales floor divided between prestige cosmetics and drugstore brand toiletries alongside accessories like handbags and sunglasses and lastly fine jewelry. The remaining floors are dedicated to home décor, the sporting life for those of you who may have forgotten your golf clubs or tennis racket, for example and then a few floors for womenswear, menswear, children’s/juniors where you’ll find brands such as Burberry, Hugo Boss and Lacoste along with El Corte Ingles store brands Emilio Tucci and Dustin.
As I am not a frequent department store shopper I find the whole experience a bit overwhelming because there is always a flurry of activity like the non-stop free makeup events in the cosmetic department. Everyone in town and from out of town descends upon this particular locale to purchase whatever it is they are missing, want or need.
Food processor. Check! Beach bag. Check! Digital camera. Check! And the list goes on and on. But make no mistake even though during the weekends El Corte Ingles can reach maximum capacity this isn’t an indoor flea market and that is clearly seen through the variety of quality merchandise. Price points vary accordingly to the item and brand.
There are several other El Cortes Ingles throughout the city, most of them smaller and carrying a paired down mix of the products found at the Barcelona flagship and therefore suggest stopping in the Plaça Catalunya location. Nevertheless most of what you will find probably won´t differ much from what you can purchase back home.
If you are itching to buy something just for the fun of it, seek out local Spanish clothing brands like Purification Garcia and Carolina Herrera.
Plaça Catalunya 14
Avenida Portal De L’Angel 19-21
Avenida Diagonal 471-473
Paseo Andreu Nin 51
Avenida Diagonal 617
Avenida Meridiana 350-358
With literally thousands for stores, from Versace to vintage, Barcelona is a shopaholic’s paradise. Below, in no particular order, are ten of the best places to shop in Barcelona. Normal stores hours are 10:00am to 9:00pm; however the smaller boutiques such as those in Borne, Raval, and Gracia will normally close for siesta between 2:00pm and 5:00pm.
1. Paseo de Gracia
Paseo de Gracia (also known as Passeig de Gracia) is one of the most famous streets in Barcelona. In addition to being the location of some of the most famous modernist buildings ever created, it also has the most expensive shops in the city. The street begins at Plaza Catalunya and continues until the metro Diagonal. Desigual, Gucci, Manolo Blahnik, and many others can be found here, as well as plenty of upscale bars and restaurants. Those searching for world famous brands and pure luxury will be delighted here, but be ready to use your credit card and spend freely since this area is for upscale shopping, and the prices reflect it.
2. Portal de l’Angel
Portal de l’Angel is ideal if you happen to be in the center of town and want to shop in that area, because there are quite a few stores located in the same vicinity. It is a pedestrian street begins below the Corte Ingles in Plaza Catalunya and ends at the cathedral. The street, along with those that surround it, is lined with brand name stores such as Camper, H&M, Zara, Mango, Massimo Dutti and many more. This street offers more economical brands and its target market is a younger crowd, so if you are searching for the latest fashion trends at an affordable price you should come straight here.
3. La Roca Village
La Roca Village is part of a group of high-end shopping outlets in Europe. It is located outside of Barcelona and features over 100 shops where brand name items can be bought for up to 60% off. It is designed as if it were a village, which of course is where the name comes from, so it is an open space with wide boulevards and several restaurants. Unless you have a car, the easiest way to arrive is by bus. There is a direct bus that leaves the Fabra i Puig station in Barcelona at 9:00am, 12:00pm, 4:00pm, and 8:00pm from Monday to Friday.
Being an outlet, it also has a Rebaixes period (seasonal sales) held in July and January when well known luxury brands are sold at a bargain prices. Also, if you can visit La Roca Village at Christmas time, you´ll be amazed and delighted by all the decorations and lights they put there, the decorations are extremely well-done and it feels as if you are in a fairytale.
4. Diagonal Mar
Diagonal Mar is one of the newest shopping centers in Barcelona. It has over 150 stores, cinemas, a food court, and services such as a play area for children, nursing rooms, first aid, and Wifi internet connection. The center is open from 10am to 10pm Monday through Saturday. Good for family shopping. Medium price range.
L’Illa (Avinguda Diagonal 555-559) is a large shopping center located in uptown Barcelona. The complex includes more than 170 shops and restaurants as well as hotels, schools, a sports center, a conference center, a dance hall, and a public park. The best way to arrive is the “Tombus” which means circuit bus, and which starts at Plaza Catalunya and moves up Paseo de Gracia, goes left at Diagonal until L’Illa, and then circles back, making a total of 28 stops. This will allow you to check out the shops on Paseo de Gracia and Diagonal at the same time without excessive amounts of walking. Just look for the blue “Tombus shopping” bus. The advantage of this large shopping center is that you can find mid-priced and well known brands like Zara, Mango, etc., as well as small, unique boutiques with more exclusive models all in the same place.
If you´re into vintage clothing then the neighborhood of Raval is your best bet. One of the most famous, Lailo, is located on Carrer de la Riera Baixa, and if you don´t find what you´re looking for several other vintage stores can be found on this same street. Raval is also great if you´re looking for products from other countries and cultures, like Indian, Pakistani, etc. If you are searching for something original you´ll surely find it here.
If you´re looking for something one of a kind, Gracia is the place to go. This neighborhood was originally a village and became part of the city in the late 19th century. It has retained its small town feel and is full of restaurants, bars, plazas, and unique shoe and clothing boutiques. The goods aren´t cheap, but you´ll be sure to find something both creative and original. Take the metro to the Fontana stop, and start your shopping on the street Carrer d’Asturies, just below the metro, and keep walking until you hit Verdi, then turn right.
8. Encants mercat
If you like flea markets you´ll love Els Encants (also known as the Mercat Fira de Bellcaire). It is Barcelona´s largest open air marketing (it covers an entire block) and a variety of items are sold, from antique furniture to books and records. Make sure to haggle for the best deals. Calle Dos de Maig, open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 9:00am to 6:00pm.
9. El Borne
The neighborhood of El Borne has become one of the trendiest in Barcelona and is full of jewelry, shoe, and clothing boutiques. Take the metro to Jaume 10 and start by walking down Carrer de Argenteria. If you get tired, stop for a drink or a snack on Passeig de Borne.
10. El Corte Inglés
El Corte Inglés Spain´s largest department store. You will find them all over the city and if you like one-stop shopping this is the place for you. The one in Plaza Catalunya is the biggest and includes a supermarket, as well as all of the other departments you would come to expect such as electronics, clothes, and bed and bath. In Spain it is said that if you can´t find what you´re looking for, come to El Corte Ingles, because the huge variety of items means you can find almost anything you need. El Corte Ingles also features a wide variety of products for all ages and styles: from classic to modern to funky and from clothes to shoes to perfumes, etc.
Barcelona has earned a reputation for being one of the best cities in Europe to shop, and as you can see this reputation is well-deserved. There is something for everyone, so it´s really only a matter of deciding where your shopping spree should begin!