Barcelona is the most fantastic city, but many people have had their holiday ruined by the world expert pickpockets for which the city is unfortunately famous.
My advice would be to buy a handbag with an outside pocket, a zip, plus, more importantly, a flap; they, apparently, are the most difficult to pick. So now they just take a Stanley knife to the strap, usually from a motorbike!
So, pop along the calle Hospital (down the side of the Liceu Opera on the Rambla). There are a couple of shops there that will sell you a length of chain cut to size, and fit a clip fastener to each end which you can then clip on to your bag, which of course needs to be one with rings to which the strap is attached. It will only cost you a few euros.
More very useful tips: always put your train/bus ticket in the outside pocket, NEVER in your purse. They watch at the entrance to the metro to see where you put your purse, and check its colour and size, so that they know exactly what they’re looking for. Avoid being jostled in crowds. If you’re wearing a back pack type bag, put it on your front.
Another good tip is to make a reduced colour photocopy of the relevant page in your passport. Then have it authenticated by a official stamp on the pack by taking the photocopy, plus your passport, to a post office? bank? police station? town hall? and when that is done, have it laminated. You now have a neat ID card, which you will need when you use your credit card, and you can leave your passport safely in the hotel. And keep your credit card separate from your money.
While you’re at the shop in calle Hospital, why not buy a made to measure belt? Choose your belt, have it cut to the exact size you want, and choose a buckle from a huge variety. It will cost you about 10 euros.
So all those who have had a holiday ruined, take my tips on board and give it another go!
Barcelona, Rambla - they don't use the plural any more
This fine shop selling knives, cutlery and razors of all kinds is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Ramón Roca learned his trade in Germany and France, came back to Barcelona to open his shop in the plaça de Sant Josep Oriol. Ramón was one of the few craftsmen of his day capable of making fine blades and scalpels to the standards demanded by surgeons and he brought a special anvil from Paris to make them on. You can still see it in the shop in la Plaça del Pi, which dates from 1916.
Nowadays Ganiveteria Roca has a range of over 9,000 cutting tools of all kinds.
One of the things I like to buy for my friends who enjoy cooking is one of Roca’s own branded knives. Made of fine, non-stainless steel the knives hold a keen edge and their rounded wooden handles give them a pleasant feel. They look good too. I bought mine in 1978 and providing I continue to keep it clean and sharp it should last for ever.
Personal preferences apart, Roca has fist class knives from the world’s most prestigious manufacturers of Japan, Finland, France, Germany, Switzerland… collectors will always find something of interest and so will yachtsmen and outdoor enthusiasts. The new range of ceramic knives is attracting a lot of attention.
Catalunya’s finest and most well-known chefs are regular customers at Roca.
There are scissors for every conceivable application, even ones with double eye rings for people who work with the disabled, spring-loaded scissors for people suffering from arthritis and an astonishingly wide range of nail cutters.
The traditional cut-throat razor and its accessories are still one of the best sellers.
Roca is in the building that housed the shopkeepers guild and was probably the first to be decorated in the sgraffito style. The façade bears the date 1613.
In other words, the street market for artisan food producers. There’s something for everybody here:
- Honey- a great variety of honeys, my current favourite is the orange blossom honey with its subtle citrus tang and fine nose. In winter when its cold and wet, I like to settle down of an evening with a glass of hot milk liberally dosed with thyme honey and brandy – great before bed when you have a touch of cold, or even if you don’t.
- Handmade honeycomb candles and moulded beeswax
- Marmalades and jams made from fresh local fruits
- Dried wild and cultivated mushrooms and truffles from the foothills of the Pyrenees. Monbolet specialises in wild and cultivated mushrooms and also prepares pre-mixed, ready-to-cook rice and pasta dishes flavoured with several kinds of wild mushrooms. If you fancy trying your hand at making a Catalan fricandó –a braised steak stew– buy some moixernons, tiny button mushrooms.
- Goat and cow’s milk cheeses. Cheese lovers are spoiled for choice. I’ve tried lots of these and every one has been first class, some are drier and stronger, some more softer and smoother, but all first-rate. My all-time favourite is the creamy goats’ cheese called Formatge mantegós de cabra.
- Wines. Ecologically produced wines and sparkling wines from the Tenes valley.
- Pastries and biscuits. Typically Catalan pastries and biscuits all made using ecologically produced flour: deliciously crunchy and crumbly carquinyolis, made with eggs, sugar and almonds; chocolate, orange and almond biscuits; savoury cookies made with olive oil, eggs, herbs and spices; wholemeal and fibre rich biscuits…
- Dairy produce. Fresh cottage cheese, yoghurts, kefir, honey, marmalades, crème caramel from Can Corder, pioneer in high-quality, kilometre 0 dairy production.
- Herbs. Single herbs and mixtures to alleviate all conditions. Galangal to stimulate appetite, camomile to help digestion, herb mixtures for calming burns, easing pain; artichoke and bitter herbs for detoxing your liver, thyme for clearing your chest.
Fira d’ Artisans
Plaça del Pi
The first and third Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays of each month.
11.00 – 14.30 and 17.00 – 21.30
Google map: bit.ly/j3LF4b
Jover is a haberdasher’s shop established in 1897. The shop is very popular with young people looking for interesting items to personalise their wardrobe. French ladies in particular also flock into Jover, delighting in the colours, textures and design of the ribbons, tapes, braids and other materials on display. The shop itself is very pretty and the assistants seem to know exactly which drawer or box to open to satisfy each request. Worth a peek at least.
Cardenal Cassanyes 14, 08002 Barcelona
+39 933 178 993
Google map: bit.ly/l7mAga
One of Barcelona’s several traditional candle shops and located at number 5 since 1826. There are the traditional votary candles, fancy ones for baptisms and communions, candles you have personalised with your loved-ones names, anti-mosquito candles and modern designs to tempt the traveller. Gallisa also sells religious figurines and the traditional Christmas statuettes.
Cardenal Casañas, 5, 08002, Barcelona
+39(0)93 302 69 87
+39 93 302 69 87
This shop is worth the visit simply for the sight of so much elegant furniture and the aroma of the polish. The owners search out old pieces of art deco furniture all over Europe and lovingly hand-restore them in their own workshop. The sensuous contours, luxurious fabrics and gentle patina of the fine furniture make the showrooms
a wonderful place to visit. Film directors think so too, and the owners work closely with several of them, including Pedro Almodovar. Should you be tempted to buy, Fins de Siecles will be happy to ship your furniture anywhere in the world.
This is a new shopping centre that was once the main bull ring. Designed by Richard Rodgers, it has a roof terrace where you can walk in a full circle, and experience a 360 degree view of the entire city. The views are literally SPECTACULAR. You can then pop inside for a cool beer and a snack.
Gran Vía Corts Catalanes, 373 - 385
08015 Barcelona, Spain
Google map : bit.ly/mCi8lo
At the Avant, Silvia García Presas designs fine clothes for women. All items are unique, extremely feminine and modern, and they pay no dues to tendencies or passing fashions. All the pieces are classical in their simplicity and beautiful cut.
Silvia uses only natural silks, cottons and wools and she individually chooses each piece’s colour.
The Avant is now opening Primitiu, a space at the back of the shop selling handmade ethnic handcrafts.
Silvia, who spent two years at the Royal College of Art, was finalist in the prestigious Mango Fashion Awards, 2009.
After spending two weeks in arty, alternative Gràcia it’s now my favourite Barcelona barrio. Predominantly a working class area, its residents are largely university students, artists, musicians, and designers, which explains the abundance of art galleries, boutiques, ateliers, and music stores that line the narrow lanes. It’s a living breathing neighbourhood with plenty to do if you like eating, drinking, shopping, and hanging out in cafés, bars, and sunny squares. It’s a good fifteen-minute walk to Plaça de Catalunya, although you can catch the underground train and it’s faster, but this means you’ll rarely see a tourist in Gràcia, which is what I like most about it. It’s not far from posh L’Eixample, where there are chic shops and some of Barcelona’s best restaurants, and it’s close to Park Güell, which is a short hike (or bus ride) up the hill.
Google map: bit.ly/jjAPGY
Barcelona is a terrific city for shopping, but I find the elegant old exteriors of the stores with their marble façades with gold lettering easily as interesting as what’s inside. You’ll find the highest concentration of historic shopfronts in the Barrio Gótico (Gothic Quarter) and El Born, with a smattering in Eixample and Gràcia. My favourites are the pastry shop La Colmena, dating to 1928; the nougat shop La Campana, which opened in 1890; the pastry and chocolate shop Pastisseria Escriba, renovated in 1902; the knife store Ganiveteria Roca, dating to 1911; the hat store Sombrereria Obach, which opened in 1924; and the candle shop Subira Cereria, founded in 1761. And of course they all have beautiful things inside to look at too.
Wander around the Barrio Gótico (Gothic Quarter), El Born, Eixample and Gràcia.
Similar to the Boqueria but with a greater selection and less tourists - the fruit stalls have the most incredible selection. Pick something you have never seen before, chances are it'll be local and beautifully fresh. The stall holders know enough English (or at least have good enough miming skills) to tell you how to eat it, so go find a park and try something beautifully fresh and excitingly new - I dare you.
Staying in a self-catering apartment in Barcelona? The tapas bars may be tempting, but we were even more tempted by the variety and quality of the food on sale at this vibrant market. Being on the coast there is a wide selection of fresh fish and sea food, as well as meats, chorizo and other sausages, fruit and vegetables, herbs and spices – in fact just about every type of food imaginable. It’s easy to find, about half way along Las Ramblas, the most famous street in the city. And once you’ve found it you’re bound to be tempted to buy some of the mouth watering food on offer.
Good at any Carrefour store in Spain, the card allows discounts on certain items. It is especially valuable when purchasing petrol. Complete the on-line application a couple of weeks prior to your arrival - use where you'll be residing in Spain as your address - ask the landlord or hotelier to hold your mail.
OR apply in person at a store's customer service desk.
Online application: https://www.carrefour.es/clubcarrefour/usuario/alta.asp#
Away from the tourist-orientated boutiques of the Barri Gotic, the high street stores around Placa de Catalunya and the high-end designers of l'Eixample is Barcelona's coolest district: the Raval. The district's charming mix of historic architectural styles in varying degrees of dilapidation and lower rents than most of central Barcelona have attracted young and up-and-coming artists and designers; they and their fashionable friends have transformed the Raval into the sunny, Catalan equivalent of Shoreditch. Like Shoreditch, the northern parts of Raval, close to the sleek modern art gallery, have been intensely regenerated and now draw the tourist crowds to what was once the 'wrong' side of the Ramblas. The southern reaches of the neighbourhood are still definitely on the seedy and even dangerous side, but somewhere in the middle is a genuinely cool and intriguing maze of streets peppered with achingly-hip bars, little galleries and a clutch of fantastic, independently-owned shops. The zenith of this is Carrer de Riera Baixa, a colourful street that might just be the best place to shop in Barcelona right now. It is neither pricey nor generic, and the mix of vintage and cutting-edge and unique new clothing boutiques makes it an irresistible stop for the cool young things of the city. Join them before the rest of the world finds out and the independent stores are forced elsewhere.
Carrer de Riera Baixa, El Raval, Barcelona. Less than ten minutes walk from Liceu metro on the Ramblas.
A very cool district of Barcelona, El Raval, stretches away just to the west of the Ramblas.
Not quite Barcelona's seamy underbelly, but in a decidedly chi-chi town, the next best thing.
In keeping with its working-class roots, there are still plenty of scruffy neighbourhood bars amidst the proliferating clothes shops, hip bars and restaurants.
From Placa Catalunya (north) to La Rambla (east); Ronda Sant Antoni (west) to Ronda Sant Pau (south)
Wawas Barcelona is a small shop near the Picasso Museum in La Ribera which offers souvenirs, with a twist. Far from your average trinket shop, it is run by two local sisters whose product is a refocused view of the city's architecture and tradition. Their postcards, trays, and mugs bear images of a the less traditional - but still adored - Barcelona.
Most unique is their collaboration with Xocoa - the gourmet chocolatier of Barcelona. Wawas offers chocolate bars wrapped in their images, known as Barcelona Bombons. Without a doubt, the Barcelona souvenir you can find for friends, family, or 'novios'!
Definitely a must go!
C/ Carders 14
(around the corner from the Picasso Museum)
T (+34) 93 319 79 02
At the time of this post, this shop did not have their own website, however they referred me to the following link to view their images:
Fabulous array of fresh food of every kind, also wine and other drinks, something for everyone. Definitely the place to shop if self catering, but some very good cheap vegetarian hot food outlets associated with the market. On a budget, or want to treat yourself, this is the place! The place buzzes, and is particularly atmospheric after dark. A little art nouveau as well! Open till 8.30pm, closed Sundays.
La Rambla 91 Nearest metro: Liceu
This is a large open-air market/flea market about five minutes on the Metro from the centre. It's open Mon, Weds, Fri and Sat until about 2.30pm.
Go at lunch and scoop up some great bargains. This is the best market ever for bartering; most vendors start with stupid "tourist" prices but you can talk them down to just a couple of euros for stuff, especially near closing.
Good area guide for Barcelona:
Getting to the market: Red line to Metro Glories exit the station and walk around the roundabout with the little monument and go under the underpass.
The Guardian has a marked price of €3.00 but on Las Ramblas, the paper shops on the middle pedestrianised area all have €5 written in pen on the paper's masthead.
To avoid this rip-off, go to any of the newspaper shops on the pavement side of Las Ramblas, who correctly sell the paper for €3.00.
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