Madrid is home to many family-run shops that have been making and selling the same – usually one – product for decades. A typical Spanish product can make a great Christmas present, especially if you know the history behind the people who made it.
Spain is famous for being an excellent place to shop for leather, and there are leather shops all around the city where you can pick up anything from leather jackets to bags, wallets and purses. Taller Puntera is a particularly fascinating shop, located on a quiet square near Plaza Mayor. Craftsmen work on their products in an open-plan workshop that is part of the main store, so you can watch them at work and browse the beautiful leather products at the same time. It is a great place to pick up a lovely leather bag or maybe a wallet for dad for Christmas.
This Spanish staple was once the shoe of the working class, but the rope-soled footwear has become a summer fashion must-have. There are shops all over the city selling espadrilles (or alpargatas in Spanish), but in summer, Casa Hernanz has a queue snaking out the door and down the street. During the winter, it is less busy, making it a great time to pick up a pair to put away for summer.
Turrón is a nougat-like food made from almonds and is Spain’s most popular Christmastime sweet. Casa Mira is Madrid’s oldest turrón shop, and its white coat-wearing staff make a science out of serving sweets. Passersby are transfixed by its rotating window displays, piled high with tempting treats.
Spain is a foodie paradise, so why not take some of the country’s famous gastronomy home with you to enjoy over the Christmas period? It is not uncommon for Spanish workers to receive a leg of ham as a kind of Christmas bonus, so you could opt to take a classic jamón ibérico home with you. If you can’t quite fit a whole leg in your luggage, many places vacuum pack jamón so that you can easily transport it. Other Spanish favourites include olive oil, saffron (a key ingredient in paella) and paprika. You can pick up many classic Spanish food items in the Gourmet Experience of El Corte Inglés, Madrid’s main department store.
Dodge the overpriced tourist shops around the Plaza Mayor and head to Madrid al Cubo, a little souvenir shop that sells a huge range of Madrid-themed products created by local designers. You can pick up some great gifts here, from books and T-shirts to sangria in polka-dot-adorned bottles, paintings and tote bags.
Madrid’s high-end shopping district is Salamanca, concentrated around Calle Serrano and one of the most exclusive addresses in the city. It’s a great place to wander and window shop, even if you can’t afford the price tag. Check out home-grown designers, such as Agatha Ruiz de la Prada and Felipe Varela, alongside international classics, including Chanel and Louis Vuitton.
Spanish high street brands have been taking over the world in recent years, from the fresh-off-the-catwalk looks of Zara to the grungy aesthetic of Pull&Bear. Spain’s major fashion brands line the Gran Vía, Madrid’s main boulevard and an excellent place to indulge in a bit of Christmas shopping. The pedestrianised Fuencarral, just off Gran Vía, is another must-visit for all the best high street stores, as well as some great – and pretty reasonable – shoe shops.
Malasaña, just north of the Gran Vía, is a cool area for vintage shopping. Home to a good range of second-hand stores, it’s ideal for those who like a good root for potential hidden gems. The neighbourhood is also home to some lovely boutiques and local young designers.
If you really want to get into the Christmas spirit, and maybe want to pick up a few nativity characters as well, then head to Plaza Mayor and Madrid’s biggest Christmas market. The stalls sell a range of Christmas decorations as well as wigs and jokes for Spaniards to use on December 28th, the country’s version of April Fool’s Day, when people play practical jokes on each other and dress up in silly costumes.
As well as Christmas markets, Madrid also has many regular pop-up markets, including El Rastro, the city’s biggest flea market where you might come across some hidden gems. Other markets include Mercado de Diseño (Design Market), where local designers sell their creations at El Matadero, a cultural space that was formerly the city’s main slaughterhouse. It will be holding a special Christmas-themed market on December 16–17, 2017. The Mercado de Motores is a vintage market (plus food trucks) held in the atmospheric location of Madrid’s railway museum; it occurs once a month and sells itself as ‘Madrid’s coolest market’. It will take place on December 9–10, 2017.