By Explorer Helen Alexander | Holidays are all about treating yourself. If you’re planning to splurge while visiting the Spanish capital Madrid, then grab your euros and follow my guide to the best places to buy locally made clothes, handcrafted accessories and vintage homewares, not to mention a few stops to pick up souvenirs and snacks along the way. Here’s a Madrid itinerary designed for a day of shopping in Madrid that also has you experiencing the wonderful charm of the city.
Shopping in Madrid
9am: Casa Hernanz for Iconic Spanish Espadrilles
Sure, you could slip on your favourite heels but I like my glamour to come with a side of comfort! So, the first stop on my itinerary is Calle de Toledo 18, where the Hernanz family have been handcrafting espadrilles for more than 150 years. Hard-working peasants traditionally wore these sandals, but today you are just as likely to spot people strutting their stuff in these colourful creations on luxury yachts and along bar-lined boulevards. Get there when the workshop opens as there’s nearly always a queue thanks to its old-school prices, which range from €20 to €60.
10.30am: Designer Threads in Trendsetting Chueca
For cutting-edge fashion by local and international designers, it has to be the bustling Chueca district and the independent boutiques along the narrow avenues that lead off Fuencarral and Hortalezastreets. For a fabulous frock, check out Basque designer Fernando Lemoniez’s boutique (CalleArgensola 17), where classic tailoring and modern fabrics, colours and patterns combine to create flattering, ultra-feminine dresses.
To add a few accessories, I go for a browse through the leather handbags, clutches, belts and shoes sold at Malababa (Santa Teresa 5). When I’m done, I reward my efforts with a mid-morning snack at Mama Framboise (Callede Fernando VI) – the patisserie’s fruit tarts, macarons and eclairs give any in Paris a run for its money.
12pm: Window Shopping with Salamanca’s Chic Set
Time to see how the other half live with a stroll through the city’s chicest neighbourhood. With luxury brands – think Chanel, Prada and Jimmy Choo – rubbing shoulders with famous Spanish designers such as Adolfo Dominguez, the area is high-fashion heaven. But instead of maxing out my credit card, I prefer to treat the barrio’s grand boulevards and futuristic skyscrapers as the backdrop to my very own catwalk show and as a place where I can gain inspiration from the chic set.
Also, this way I can save my Salamanca spending for the slightly more down to earth Federica & Co (Calle de Hermosilla 26). This ‘micro-mall’ hidden in a secret leafy garden is bursting with understated but seriously stylish knits, homewares and jewellery.
2pm: Vintage Jumble in a Bookish Barrio
There’re only so many clothes one wardrobe can fit, so before I go overboard, I make for the evocatively named El Barrio de Las Letras (Literary Quarter) to poke around the growing number of vintage furniture and antique stores. I’m tempted to take a siesta, but instead opt for a glass of sherry from one of the aged barrels at La Venencia (Calle de Echegaray 7) – one of author Ernest Hemingway’s favourite haunts when he was in town.
4pm: Spanish Souvenirs from Madrid
I’m suffering from slight shopping fatigue, so I swap window gazing for admiring works by some of the world’s renowned artists at the impressive Prado Museum (Paseo del Prado). I forget about Gucci and Versace for a few hours in favour of Goya and Velázquez, before resuming my retail therapy at the fabulously kitsch emporium Objetos de Arte Toledano, situated opposite the entrance to the museum. A perfect place to pick up souvenirs, it’s a traveller’s treasure trove selling black-and-white pearls from the island of Majorca, flamenco-dancing dolls, intricate lace fans and impressive metal armour and swords from the nearby city of Toledo.
7pm: Multi-Storey Munchies
Having made a quick detour to drop off my purchases at my hotel, the shopping extravaganza in Madrid takes a culinary curve at Mercado de San Ildefonso (Calle Fuencarral 57). Yup, it’s time for some Spanish food.
Located in the trendy neighbourhood of Malasaña, this three-level emporium takes its inspiration from Madrid’s traditional food vendors and gives them a modern twist. Having nibbled on plates of chorizo, squid and tortillas from the 18 specialty stalls, I head to the outdoor patio to watch the sun set over Madrid.
It’s open to 1am, so I could make one of the three on-site bars my next pit stop, but instead I decide to save the last of my euros and pull up a stool in the cavernous Mercado San Miguel, located next to the grand Plaza Mayor, a large arcade square completed in the early 17th century. With a glass of sparkling cava in one hand and a selection of chocolates in the other, it’s the perfect place to glean shopping tips from the locals as they gesticulate wildly while haggling over their groceries.
And the evening comes to a close then, after a lovely day experiencing the Spanish culture while shopping in Madrid for everything from souvenirs to shoes. Satisfied.
Best Time to Visit Madrid
Madrid’s largest festival – Fiesta de San Isidro – sees crowds wearing traditional Spanish dress descend on the city in May, with lots of live music and dance performances to enjoy. Columbus Day on 12 October is a national holiday and a special parade led by the military and royal family takes place along Madrid’s Plaza de Colon.
Where to Stay
If you do visit during summer, you’ll appreciate the rooftop pool with views of Almudena Cathedral at Hotel Emperador, while budget-conscious travellers who don’t want to compromise on design-led digs should check out One Shot Prado 23.