A non-touristy guide to shopping in the Catalan capital.
There’s no shortage of souvenir shops in Barcelona, Spain’s most popular tourist destination renowned for its sun-dappled Mediterranean beaches, high-octane futbol matches, and fanciful Gaudí landmarks. But there are better gifts to take home from the Catalan capital than the usual Sagrada Família magnets and ersatz castanets—you just have to know where to look. From hand-sewn espadrilles to locally made bubbly and vermut, these ten items with a sense of place will keep Barcelona on your mind—and in your belly—long after your trip.
Top Picks for You
You’ll see espardenyes, the rope-soled sandals also called espadrilles or alpargatas, on the feet of stylish beachgoers from Martha’s Vineyard to the Maldives, but to take home a pair of the originals, you have to visit Catalonia, where locals have been donning them since at least the 14th century. La Manual, opened in 1941 in the Gothic Quarter, has long been Barcelona’s favorite espardenya supplier, thanks to the wide variety of styles, colors, and patterns available in this old-fashioned shop.
INSIDER TIPDon’t get them wet! Moisture can warp the rope and fade the canvas upper.
L’hora del vermut is sacred in Barcelona—that hour-long window just before lunch when locals flood the bodegas (wine bars) to catch up over icy glasses of vermouth and heaping plates of olives. Emulate that signature Mediterranean alegria at home by throwing your own tapas and vermut party; when in Barcelona, scoop up a bottle or two of the local stuff, like Morro Fi (rich with chocolate and coffee notes) or Casa Mariol (heady with rosemary and thyme plucked from the surrounding mountains), available for purchase at their namesake bars.
Support local artisans and impress your friends by investing in one-of-a-kind design pieces made in Barcelona. If home entertaining is your thing, pop into Luesma & Vega, the haute plate showroom where the likes of Andoni Aduriz (of three-star Mugaritz) shop for the latest nature-inspired dinnerware. Art enthusiasts, on the other hand, should seek out handmade works by Catalan studio Apparatu, whose modern ceramic sculptures and furniture are turning heads in fine-art circles across the Continent. Find a solid selection of Apparatu wares at Domésticoshop in the Eixample neighborhood—and while you’re up there, stop by Matèria to purchase butter-soft blankets and shawls by Teixidors, a family-run company that trains developmentally disabled people to weave on traditional wooden looms.
Prosecco and other budget sparklers rely on industrial carbonization to make their wines fizz, but cava, bottled in the Penedès region just south of Barcelona, gets its effervescence from a long and leisurely fermentation—the same process used in fine Champagne. You can probably find cava on the shelves of your local wine shop, but chances are, it pales in comparison to the complex Gran Reserva gems on offer at Barcelona wine purveyors like Cellarer and Vila Viniteca, whose staff will lovingly pack your purchases so they don’t explode in transit.
INSIDER TIPRecaredo’s “Gran Reserva,” made from indigenous Xarel-Lo, Parellada, and Macabeo grapes, beats out most champagnes for about half the price.
A defecating workman is perhaps the world’s most unholy—and improbable—symbol of Christmas. Come holiday season, families across Catalonia adorn their household nativity scenes with caganer (literally “crapper” or “pooper”) figurines. The origins and meaning of the tongue-in-cheek tradition are unknown, but that doesn’t stop Barceloníes from keeping it alive. Elicit a few laughs next December by setting out your own caganer purchased at Pessebres Puig, an artisan shop that’s been painting these lilliputian poopers by hand since 1933.
The Moors brought exquisite ceramic craftsmanship to the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century with their florid mosaics and azulejos, and the tradition further blossomed in Renaissance Spain with Barcelona as Catalonia’s leading hub of production. Though you won’t find specimens from the city’s glory days of pottery outside museums, the modern reproductions that line the walls at Itaca L’Art del Poble are a close approximation and make excellent souvenirs. Choose from playfully decorated pitchers, ancient-looking wine jugs, ornately patterned bowls, and more.
FC Barcelona T-Shirt
Millions of soccer fans make the pilgrimage to Barcelona each year to cheer on Barcelona’s home team, Futbol Club Barcelona. But even if you don’t make it to the bleachers at Camp Nou stadium, you can flaunt your Barça pride by sporting a jersey with your favorite futbolista’s name on the back. Avoid counterfeit swag by shopping in an official store, of which there are several in the city center.
These plump, umami-packed fillets from the Catalan coast will make you question everything you ever thought you knew about anchovies. With just the right amount of salt and funk, they’re as satisfying eaten straight from the can over the kitchen sink—we won’t snitch—as they are draped over toasted, garlic-rubbed slices of baguette (as you’ll find them in Barcelona tapas bars). Find them at any of the gourmet conserves stalls in neighborhood markets like Mercat de Santa Caterina or Mercat de Sants.
Old-School Mortar and Pestle
A fixture in home kitchens the city over, the mortar and pestle is an essential tool for making Catalonia’s favorite mother sauces such as alioli (the garlicky mayonnaise invented by the Catalans) and romescu (roasted peppers pounded with garlic and almonds). Spanish-style morteros, which you can find in any neighborhood hardware store in Barcelona, are canary-yellow with bright green splotches—making them as aesthetically pleasing as they are practical.
A Piece of Gaudí
If Gaudí’s physics-defying constructions bursting with colors, patterns, and textures leave you inspired—and how could they not!—consider taking home a memento that will get your creative juices flowing. At the well-appointed gift shops inside La Pedrera and Casa Batlló, take your pick from Moderniste-style jewelry, kitchenware, posters, and decorations made by local artisans. The coffee mugs with gilded handles modeled after the doorknobs at La Pedrera are particularly eye-catching.