Right to start with I’d better post a link to the obscure Pet Shop Boys album track that I was so cleverly referencing in the title, but which you probably didn’t get (…and there’s really no reason why you should, unless like me you spent your first bit of hard-saved pocket money on Actually).
That business out of the way and I can begin the post. As the title suggests, recently I’ve been doing more than a fair bit of shopping in Barcelona. This might not seem very remarkable, but for someone whose annual clothes budget is about 1% of his beer budget, it is in fact quite rare. So, always on the look out for new subject to wax on about, I thought I’d take advantage of my new-found knowledge to share my experience of everything from Barcelona shopping centres to the city’s hip vintage boutique stores.
The most recent of my delvings into the retail world was a trip to La Roca Village… a whole fake-town dedicated to the Gods of commerce, on the outskirts of BCN. Naturally it’s not the sort of place I’d usually spend the day but I got dragged there and having forked out 12 euros for a return bus fare (they have an express service that leaves from Placa Catalunya, journey time 35 mins on the way in and 45 on the way back) I naturally didn’t want to come home empty handed. Amongst the many brands I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole (Dolce & Gabana, Armani and all that) I was pleased to find a couple of my favourites in Diesel, Puma and Energy, and in the end I bought a fairly metrosexual white and gold skin tight hoodie with an oriental tiger design on the back. Probably not my wisest purchase ever, but there you go. It was 60 euros down from about 200 (and you wouldn’t catch me paying the latter!). Anyway, shopping aside, I was pretty impressed with the business concept… La Roca is basically a purpose built complex on a cheap piece of land where famous brands sell the clothes from last season that nobody wanted for a knock down price. It’s pretty clever if you think about it. Cheap rent (miles outside BCN), clothes you can’t sell in your flagship stores and are pretty much useless and prices that people are willing to travel for to get the brands they like on the cheap. Apparently it’s called ‘smart shopping’ (according to someone much more up on these trends than me!). It doesn’t really appeal to me, as it’s way too far away and apart from one or two exceptions I try to avoid brands… but if I’d thought of doing it (and had several million in the bank to invest) I’d be pretty pleased with myself.
Anyway on the other end of the spectrum I’ve also been doing some vintage shopping. First of all I popped into Humana – fantastic charity shop and the Barcelona equivalent of Oxfam – and picked up a pair of perfectly fitting bell bottom khakis. In fact I had nothing to wear them with but by bon chance they go with the new hoodie. What I like about Humana is that the prices are genuine second hand prices… ie. 2-20 euros. There’s no labelling it ‘vintage’ and then charging more than it did in the first place – take note, hideously over-priced Holala Ibiza (90 euros for an ordinary adidas top – f@ck right off!). I also recently discovered a very charming vintage boutique in El Gotico, selling sunglasses, watches and knick-knacks. It’s called something unpronounceable to English-speakers but just check the review. Anyway I picked up a sexy blue retro watch that reminds me of my beloved Casio from the 1980s. I was the envy of the playground. Anyway if vintage shopping is your thing then I strongly suggest you take a walk down Carrer Tallers in Raval… and then head further into the district for the area around Riera Baixa. You’ll find a concentration of places… some reasonably priced, some firmly pitched at Barcelona’s numerous fashion victims. Also well worthy of note is the monthly flea market BCN event, whilst Encants Flea Market has all the cheaply produced Chinese underwear you’ll ever need. After all who wants to pay more than 5 euros for a pair of boxers?
Right, I’ve written more than I ever thought I could on the subject of shopping but just to round up…
For high street shopping… check the area around Portal del Angels and up Carrer de Pelai. You’ll find all the H&Ms, Topmans and Zaras you like.
For boutiques… check out Raval and Born districts.
For shopping centres… check out Las Arenas, impressively housed in a former bull ring, Maremagnum, located by the old port, Diagonal Mar, done by the beach near Parc del Forum – and L’Illa Diagonal, on the huge Diagonal avenue that dissects Barcelona.
For even more info check out this shoppers guide to Barcelona!