(AFP/Relaxnews) – In 2013, Spain was visited by 60.6 million international tourists, according to the country’s Ministry of Tourism, over 7 million of whom made a point of visiting Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia.
Between its beaches, vibrant food scene, unique architecture and wealth of cultural attractions, the city has everything vacationers could hope for. What’s more, Barcelona has transformed in recent years into a world-class shopping capital.
With over 35,000 shops and stores, the Catalan capital is nothing short of a mecca for shopping addicts. While shopping isn’t the only thing that has drawn an average 7 million tourists per year to Barcelona since 2000, it certainly hasn’t hurt. Always a popular destination among travelers, Barcelona is also becoming popular with the world’s top fashion brands.
Passeig de Gràcia: Spain’s answer to the Champs-Elysées
In early May, the French brand Longchamp, known for its luxury handbags, opened a new 700 square meter flagship store in the trendy Passeig de Gràcia district, not far from the stores of Cartier, Prada and other fashion heavyweights. This area is part of a 5km stretch of stores spanning from Las Ramblas to the Avenue Diagonal.
Between stores, tourists can stop to admire two buildings designed by the architect Gaudi: the Casa Batllò, with its facade covered in pieces of glass and tiles, and the Casa Milà, aka La Pedrera (Catalan for “The Quarry”). Gaudí is said to have drawn inspiration for the wave-shaped facade of this building from the cliffs outside of the city.
Shopping in a historic stadium
Close to downtown Barcelona, tourists can shop at a mall with a unique history. Opened to the public in 2011, Las Arenas is located within the city’s former stadium, which was built in 1900. While the interior has been entirely renovated and updated with a contemporary decor, the outside has maintained its original neo-Mudejar style. Home to 115 stores and 12 movie theaters, Las Arenas also serves as a venue for exhibits. The famous “Human Bodies” show is on display now through October 12.
After strolling through the halls of this temple to consumerism, tourists can take a cultural time-out at the National Art Museum of Catalonia, located within the Palau Nacional on the Plaça Espanya. Across from the palace is the famous Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, inaugurated in 1929 for the World Fair. Light and music shows animate the fountain in the evenings on weekends (show times vary according to the time of year).