As well as the key shops, we’ve highlighted two quiet and lovely squares where you can feel the ancient cultures of our city.
From Born, crossing Via Laietana in a street that leds to Plaça Sant Jaume (both Generalitat de Catalunya and Ajuntament de Barcelona are here, one facing each other) you’ll find the oldest wax artisan, in fact the oldest shop in Barcelona, dating from 1847 when a tailor worked there. The wax artisan family came and founded CERERIA SUBIRÀ (Baixada Llibreteria, 7) in 1909. Today, outside everything is different. Inside, it all remains the same.
The first little street on your right leads to PLAÇA DEL REI, a historical place surrounded by interesting buildings forming a solid group: Palacio Real (residence of Counts of Barcelona since 13th century, hosting Saló del Tinell, the place where Catholic Kings received Colon on his arrive from America), Santa Ágata Chapel (gothic) and the Museum of City History (it has Roman ruins on the basement). We love to sit on the stairs and listen to any of the street musicians while enjoying an ice-cream or some tea.
Walk by Plaça Sant Jaume and enter Carrer del Call. At the corner with Banys Nous you’ll find the well-known milliner, SOMBRERERÍA OBACH, on number 2. Since 1924 elegant Catalan bourgeois have come here to find hats, be it summer or winter, or for men or women. They offer personalised, kind, and no-hurries-at-all attention. Buying a hat here is what we call a pleasure.
BANYS NOUS street offers a wide range of art and really interesting antiques shops gathered in the same street. Most of them have maintained the same wooden wall windows from 18th and 19th centuries.
We highlight especially L’ARCA DE L’ÀVIA, a delightful lovely space offering antiques and textile vintage, very special pieces you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the world. You can also visit an exhibition of 16th century lace and an interesting selection of outfits and textile accessories from 17th to 20th centuries. All stylists, film wardrobe managers and specialists in the subject come here to find unique pieces. As an anecdote, there are dresses from this shop in the well-known film Titanic.
PLAÇA SANT FELIP NERI is a peaceful spot where you can’t hear anything but the sound of birds and the water running on the fountain. This is the place where the old medieval cemetery was settled. The church is from 18th century (on the walls you can clearly see the deep holes made by the guns during our Civil War), and here on the right corner remains the Shoemakers’ Guild, now converted into a Shoe Museum, with pieces from 16th to 20th centuries. You can have a cup of coffee or grab something to eat on the terrace of the Neri Hotel.
But, if you have the time, we highly recommend stopping for a few minutes on CAELUM (Palla, 8). This quiet, lady-like coffee shop, located over the old Jewish bath houses for woman, offers the best liquors, beers, sweets and cookies made in monasteries by nuns and priests following traditional recipes. In the lower floor you’ll find one of the most charming spots (the same stone walls and arcades from the old baths) for tasting your almost-spiritual choices. If you don’t feel like stopping here you can bring some delicatessen heaven home with you.
PLAÇA DEL PI is a magical spot next to the Ramblas with an interesting church and GANIVETERIA ROCA a knives-and-razors super masculine shop on one corner. There is an artisan food market on the third Friday of every month. Here you can taste for free (yep!) and buy, of course, delicious kinds of handmade cheese, honey, yoghurt, pâtés and cold meats, sweets and candies, herbs, teas, spices, jams, cookies, chocolate, wine and vinegars.
If you feel arty, go ahead narrow carrer PETRITXOL, where you’ll find fine art galleries and contemporary jewellers and traditional cafés specialized in hot chocolate with churros. If not, just head to the Ramblas and stroll slowly (we hate to say it, but beware of thieves!) and head upwards towards Plaça Catalunya. If you are the Spanish-folklore-lover type, you may want to stop at the corner of carrer Canuda with Ramblas, where the daughter of famous flamenco dancer FLORA ALBAICÍN has a little shop packed to the ceilings. You can buy anything gypsy-flamenco related: shoes, traditional fans, castañuelas (castanets in English), hair combs, cordobese hats, and of course, the most beautiful dresses.
A few steps further, on the Plaça Vil•la de Madrid (with Roman ruins from 1st and 2nd centuries, laying in the open-air), is LE BOUDOIR. They offer lingerie and beauty products, books and some elegant sex toys for women. Decorated with a charming french style, they carry brands like La Perla or Lise Charmel but they also produce their own super-sexy lingerie.
Pass to the other side of the Ramblas, and leave the Gòtic area to enter the Raval (the lower part of the left side of the Ramblas, near Colon statue, was once the Chinese Barrio). The upper part, where you are now, has become one of the coolest areas in town –if not the coolest. Tallers is full of streetwear (Trust Nobody for the best sneakers) and record stores. ELISABETS is more design focussed: Vaho Shop (modern bags made of recycled PVC street canvas), another Vialis store, a Camper store, and old herbalist (Herbolari Llansà, having just celebrated their 100th anniversary) and lots of old-crooked bars full of old señores and young hipsters.
At the end of Elisabets is an open square illuminated by the white MACBA (Contemporary Art museum) and filled with skaters, vendors selling beers, dogs, kids of all nationalities, occasional football players and young cool people sitting on the stairs having a drink and chatting.
But before you reach the square, there are a couple of streets on your left (Notariat and Doctor Dou), where you will find:
The vintage store, or like their motto says, “delicatdressen for guys and dolls”. They offer a selection of old movie stars looks, old kitsch, original vintage Chanel, Vuitton and YSL. A real treat for the time-traveller: BLOW BY LE SWING (Dr Dou, 11).
In Carrer Notariat, the indie-designer-store COMITÉ. Seven young designers (Cecilia Sörensen, Pia Kahila, Bingo, Poti Poti, Jan iú Més, A. and ¿Quepasajulia?) sell from this shop and atelier, offering clothes as well as books, records, magazines and art exhibitions...
The designers’ favourite book store, RAS (Dr Dou 10), is one of the best stocked book stores in Barcelona for books on architecture, design, urbanism and contemporary art.
On your way to the last stop in this tour, you’ll find 2 great stores:
LA COL•LECTIVA, a new space showcasing both designer and vintage clothing, some of them national brands (Memento, Norima, Malahierba or Gaby Pujol), or handcrafted designer accessories (jewellery by Sandra Velzi, rings by Manon and bags by Musabamba and D-lirio), decorated with contemporary art and antique furniture.
WILDE is a tiny, rare, hyper-little, underground spot down Carrer Joaquin Costa. Its owner collected vintage sunglasses from the 40s to the 90s for almost 14 years, and now he sells them, as well as rare models from designer brands, handbags and other accessories.
But before you leave this area make sure you stop off at RIERA BAIXA for some unique underground shops:
DISCOS EDISON (on number 10) has the finest second-hand vinyl collection in the city. Simplicity is the keyword for the space itself, leaving as much room as possible for a fantastic volume of music: jazz & blues, 50s and 60s rock & roll, techno, house and even Catalan folk.
AMATEUR (on number 16) is a colourful space for amateur artists. Designers, poets, writers.... Super-crafty, super-creative, super-indie.
LAILO (on number 20) is the place for stylists searching for good, real vintage pieces. An old lady lets you try on every piece and helps you in your hunt for treasuries. It looks like an old, messy, clothing museum. Not your average vintage shop.