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Barcelona, a very special shopping city

I don't usually go shopping when I'm on my travels, and I rarely buy souvenirs of the fridge-magnet type. I tend to go for handcrafted items, unique, local products or foodie delicacies I can take home with me to remind me of the "flavours" of my trip.

This time, on my visit to Barcelona – a city I know fairly well – I set out to discover the more traditional shops, some of them more than a hundred years old, and those authentic emporiums that give Barcelona its distinctive personality. Would you like to join me?

I love to lose myself in the narrow, winding streets of the Gothic Quarter where you'll find small specialist shops that are absolute gems. Some of them have been there for decades. Casa Beethoven was founded in 1880, the Ganiveteria Roca is one of the oldest cutlers in Catalonia and Spain, and the Estampería San José stocks a wide array of religious artefacts.

Casa Beethoven Barcelona

During my walk I called in at some beautiful shops, like the hatters, the Sombrerería Obach, which was founded in 1924. This led me to La Manual Alpargatera, the first shop to make fashion espadrilles in 1940. Just off the Plaça Reial I came across the herbalists, La Herboristería del rey, which dates back to 1818. This lovely shop was featured in the film Perfume.

I also went on a guided tour run by the tourist office – the Barcelona Genuine Shops Tour and I loved it. The guide told us curious anecdotes about the streets we were walking through, in between visits to a hand-picked selection of shops.

If you're into fashion, what could be better than discovering designer boutiques where the actual designers will show you their products?

Compras en Barcelona

This is the case with Concha Blanch's beautiful boutique where colour takes centre stage, and Nayade Joid'art, where you'll find special accessories. And there surely could be no better souvenir than a book. Like the ones you'll find at the Museu Picasso shop. Can you picture yourself buying a pair of sunglasses and having a coffee or soft drink on a rooftop bar with views of Santa Maria del Mar? Well this is what you can do at Etnia Barcelona.

You're bound to have heard of sustainable fashion, but we can go one step further: a choice of shops that cater to people who care about animals. CUCO Vegan Fashion is one of them. But if you want to take an example of Catalan arts and crafts home with you as a memento, don't miss out on a visit to Empremtes de Catalunya.

L'Oleoteca de la Chinata sells cosmetics and gourmet products made with extra-virgin olive oil. But if you're looking for traditional cakes, La Colmena is one of Barcelona's oldest patisseries and famous for its sweet treats and hand-made candies.

As you can see, going shopping can be so much more than a consumer experience. It's another way of discovering the city and getting to know the people who bring visitors their products on a daily basis.

For further information about shops: barcelonashoppingcity.com

By Mar Villalba, Blog MiRuta.es

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