Characterized by originality and relative affordability, the shopping scene in Barcelona has become a jubilant fair of fashion, design, craft, and gourmet food. Different parts of town specialize in different goods, and you can explore parts of the city through shopping and browsing boutiques.
The Ciutat Vella, especially the Born-Ribera area, is rich in small-crafts shops, young designers, and an endless potpourri of artisans and merchants operating in restored medieval spaces that are often as dazzling as the wares on sale. Even the pharmacies and grocery stores of Barcelona are often sumptuous aesthetic feasts filled with charming details. Although the end of rent protection has seen many heritage establishments close, a new law will at least ensure that their unique architectural and decorative details will remain intact. Hat shop Sombrerería Obach and candlemakers Cereria Subirà are two old town traders who have remained charmingly unchanged over the decades.
Shopping for design objects and chic fashion in the Eixample is like buying art supplies at the Louvre: it's an Art Nouveau architecture theme park spinning off into dozens of sideshows—textiles, furnishings, curios, and knickknacks of every kind. Any specific shop or boutique will inevitably lead you past a dozen emporiums that you hadn't known were there. Original and surprising yet wearable clothing items are Barcelona's signature contribution to fashion. Rather than copying the runways, Barcelona designers are relentlessly daring and innovative, combining fine materials with masterful workmanship.
Browsing through shops in this unique metropolis feels more like museum-hopping than it does a shopping spree. Design shops like Doméstico and Jaime Beriestain delight the eye and stimulate the imagination, while the area around the Passeig del Born beckons young designers from across the globe. Passeig de Gràcia has joined the ranks of the Champs Elysées in Paris and Rome's Via Condotti as one of the great shopping avenues in the world, with the planet's fashion houses well represented, from Armani to Zara. Exploring Barcelona's antiques district along Carrer Banys Nous and Carrer de la Palla is always an adventure. The shops open daily around Santa Maria del Mar in the Born-Ribera district range from Catalan and international design retailers to shoe and leather handbag designers, to T-shirt decorators and coffee emporiums. The megastores in Plaça de Catalunya, along Diagonal, and in L'Illa Diagonal farther west sell clothing, furniture, furs, books, music, and more. The village-like Sarrià and Gràcia are filled with intimate antique and clothing shops, with friendly boutique owners who add a personal touch.