There are some places you visit in the world that truly are too cool for school. Fashionistas flock and designer divas rush to get the latest looks from certain fashion capitals. But then there are other cities where the best buys are sourced only by the in-the-know-crowd, and this is what I discovered when shopping in Madrid.
Spain’s capital has a long history with fashion. It may not be one of the best-known events in the calendar like New York, London and Paris, but Madrid has had its own fashion week for 56 years.
But part of what makes shopping in Madrid such a joy is the city itself. Madrid is a very walkable place.
Its best bits huddle in the centre of town and demand to be enjoyed late into the more temperate climate of the evening.
I started my tour of Madrid’s shopping hot spots in leafy Barrio de Salamanca, an area that has become synonymous with glamour.
It’s here that Madrid’s most prestigious designers have located their boutiques, while restaurants, cafés and bars, much in favour with the city’s gourmets, vie for attention.
It was here that I discovered some of Madrid’s designer boutiques – Del Pozo, in Calle de Lagasca, renowned for its well-structured ready to wear pieces and floaty couture wedding dresses.
Then there were shoe shops Pedro Garcia, in Calle de Jorge Juan where this season, everything from pumps to boots are adorned with Swarovski crystals. And there was even a little slice of Britain at men’s shoe shop, Berwick 1707, in Calle de Jorge Juan, which has been making shoes to exacting standards since early in the 18th century.
Then there’s Calle Serrano, otherwise known as Milla de Oro, or the Golden Mile. Here international designer brands such as Prada, Dior, Michael Kors, mix with Spanish labels like Manolo Blahnik and BDBA.
The Milla de Oro also has a branch of Spain’s biggest department store, El Corte Ingles, which has a Gourmet Shopping Experience at all of its stores in the city. It is available to all shoppers – and of course non-EU visitors can enjoy tax-free shopping – and includes finger free shopping (shoppers can place trackable stickers onto items they want to buy to save having to carry everything), one-and-a-half hours with a personal shopper and in-store credit on its fashion and food items, from €180.
The shop’s most popular brands rank among the country’s most loved – this is Spain’s biggest department store after all. They include Bimba y Lola for bags and accessories, luxury brand Loewe, and Purificacion Garcia, who has brought her brand of “new couture” to Spain since 1997. And if you want to make like royalty, try Felipe Varela – Queen Letizia of Spain’s favourite label, with dresses in bright colours with cinched waists.
The gourmet experience doesn’t end with the store’s plentiful fashion concessions either. The department store stocks some of the finest foods from across Spain and elsewhere, and a refuelling stop in its restaurant to sample some of its fine wines, hams and more, is a must during a long shopping trip.
A taste of shopping in Madrid
In fact shopping in Madrid has excellent choices for foodies. In Barrio de Salamanca we discovered Frinsa, home to the best catch of shellfish from Galicia, in northern Spain. So much more than simple tinned tuna, their excellent range includes razor clams, oysters, cockles and mussels.
There’s also San Antón market – known for its seasonal gourmet products including 60 types of bread, and its second-floor tasting area.
But my favourite (perhaps due to an acute fuet obsession that I gained in Madrid) was San Miguel market, where snacking at each stand is par for the course. It’s a place for relaxed browsing, while tasting some of the best foods from across Spain – it also has inspired interiors.
Fancy taking a tour of Madrid’s shopping hotspots? Shopping in Spain has a Madrid Shopping Experience, which they personalise to you and ensure you get VIP treatment when you arrive at various stores around the city. It was our key to discovering Barrio de Salamanca and the Milla de Oro.
Read more about the city and cultural things to do in Madrid on a luxury weekend break.