Unlike a stroll along La Rambla suggests, Mexican hats, flamenco outfits and bull figurines don't have much to do with Barcelona. To make sure you go home with something a bit more creative than 'BarcelonaBarcelona' bags or an 'all I got was this lousy' T-shirt, we've selected 13 shops where you can get a grasp of the real Barcelona and buy something authentic and unique for your loved ones back home (and for yourself). From small boutiques and galleries selling local design, to comic book stores and sweet shops: the streets of the Barri Gòtic, the Raval and the Born offer everything the tourist heart desires, so you can stay well away from the sombreros.
A visit to Chandal feels like a trip into the past: not only does this retro concept shop with an eye-popping assortment of inventory sell records from international labels, T-shirts and video games from your youth, but you can also find an impressive selection of Polaroid cameras, Super 8 film, odd musical instruments and cassette recorders. Make sure not to overlook this pearl in the Raval.
Sun hats, shell-shaped candles, espadrilles, woven baskets: Bon Vent is inspired by the Mediterranean, and every lovingly decorated square metre of this little shop is a homage to the sea and the sunny side of life. In collaboration with local and international artists alike, Bon Vent also sells handcrafted toys and painted pottery, each piece showing everyday life in Barcelona, from visits to the local markets to rooftop parties.
When you're shopping for a souvenir for yourself or someone back home, it seems like you keep going in and out of the same shop over and over. But no more. Wawas is a refreshing and innovative alternative for any visitor who wants to take home a bit of 'the real Barcelona'. While the popular Xocoa chocolate bars, tapas cookbooks and original Catalan T-shirts represent the shop's focus on souvernirs made in Barcelona, Wawas is primarily known for its own line of postcards featuring everyday and unusual views of Barcelona.
New flavours, new smells, new textures... The candy makers at Papabubble are on a mission to surprise customers with something new every day – helping you develop new sensations, excite your imagination and stimulate your childhood memories. To do all this, they work hard to reinvent and re-imagine sweets on a daily basis. Plus, they come in mixtures and packages of all sizes to suit any sweet tooth back home.
At once enchanting and disturbing, El Ingenio's handcrafted toys, tricks and costumes are reminders of a pre-digital world where people made their own entertainment. Its cabinets are full of practical jokes and curious toys; its fascinating workshop produces the oversized heads and garish costumes used in Barcelona's traditional festivities.
On a trip to New York, Iu and Estela uncovered so many treasures they wanted to export to Barcelona to fill up their own shop, but for now they're placing their bets on creators and the house brand. OMG BCN has brought together clothes by Krizia Robustella, pottery by Miriam Cernuda, alphabet books by Anna Tilche, Cush cushions, Alba Casares jewellery, and rings from the Mediodesign studio made with a 3-D printer, among other fun gift ideas. OMG's interior design itself is something to behold: a team of young architects designed the furniture and incorporated flowered Puig i Cadafalch into the floor. They have also kept the loft, where you can occasionally catch exhibitions and pop-ups from international brands.
This extraordinary bazaar opens a door to everyday objects from around the world that, seen out of context, become curiosities that take on a more playful dimension. You'll find a bit of everything with origins as diverse as India, Mexico and Romania. A tray, a chair, a religious trinket, posters, plastic tablecloths with flower motifs, drinkware, wooden letters left over from boats gone by... Fantastik has got to be the most outspoken and exotic version of the mainstream shops packed with decorative objects.
Whether you're looking for books about design, art, photography, fashion or Catalan history, there's a good chance you'll find it at Laie CCCB. Or let yourself be surprised by what this amazing bookshop near the University has to offer. Apart from the huge variety of books, they also sell notepads in the shape of salami, finger ball sets, moustache clocks, motivational coffee mugs and much more.
Few places in Barcelona offer a wider range of souvenirs, jewellery, ceramics and innovative gadgets than Art Montfalcon. Every single shelf is filled with surprises: indestructible city maps, interactive T-shirts, Note Me Pillows – this huge shop in the Barri Gòtic has everything you may (or may not) need. Original works of art by local artists and various other forms of wall art from graffiti to lithographs found upstairs round off the product range.
The trident of shops that Freaks has in C/Ali Bei can lead to the ruin any film buff, comics fan or book lover. It's also a dangerous place for aficionados of everything Japanese, with spanking-new manga in the comics shop, any Asian film you can think of in the DVD shop, and a space dedicated to Japanese artists in the bookshop, along with a cosplay aesthetic and all kinds of freaky stuff.
If you want your shop to be associated with innovation and fresh ideas, naming it Nuovum seems like a safe bet. Indeed, this shop close to La Rambla is the place to shop if you're interested in the latest collections of upcoming fashion designers. With its honeycomb-like shelves, warm lighting and pleasant background music, the dream of shopping for printed T-shirts, bags, mugs, jewellery and caps in a feel-good atmosphere becomes a reality.
It is an unwritten law that you can't leave Barcelona without ceramic tiles or some Gaudi-style items. For traditional handicraft products that show the beauty of Barcelona and of the whole of Spain, Itaca is one of the best addresses in the city centre. Located close to Las Ramblas, this shop holds dozens of excellent gift ideas, including melting clocks inspired by the world-famous Catalan artist Dalí or painted tiles featuring Castellers and other elements of the local culture.
When walking through Barcelona you see feet covered in espadrilles (aka alpargatas) strolling along pavements all around you, and while you will find shops where you could get your own pair for less than a tenner, for authentic handmade shoes from Spain you're better off paying a visit to La Manual Alpargatera. In operation since the 1940s, this shop carries every colour and style of espadrille imaginable. And you may not believe it, but the place draws queues, so get there before the doors open for the best selection.