If you’re living abroad, knowing where to get hold of certain everyday items can be a challenge. If you need groceries, our guide to Spanish supermarkets explains everything you need to know. For all other must-have essentials, however, this guide to household shopping in Spain has got you covered. Whether you want to pick up the latest must-have home tech, new garden furniture, or even the best cosmetics, here’s how:
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An overview of shopping in Spain
Stocking up on everyday essentials might not be the first thing you think of when picturing your brand new life in Spain. But when you’re not tucking into the best local tapas or watching the world go by on the plaza, you might need a few things. Thankfully, Spain is pretty well-stocked when it comes to shopping. That said, what’s on offer will largely depend on where you are based in the country. If you live in the mountains or one of the country’s many beautiful islands, for instance, your options may be limited.
As in most other European countries, you’ll find a mix of traditional, city center shopping and out-of-town big-box retail outlets in Spain. Alongside some larger supermarkets, you’ll also find other larger-format stores at these retail parks (parques commercials). While most locals will typically drive to these parks, many will have good public transport links. In more central areas, you’ll also find plenty of parking lots; although you may find it easier to cycle or walk.
Opening times in Spain
Ask any new arrival about life in Spain, and chances are they’ll mention the local opening times. As you may expect from a country famed for its laid-back lifestyle, shops in Spain open late, often around 10:00. When lunchtime comes around, Spanish life slows down, with many retailers shutting up shop for an hour or two to enjoy the siesta. Times vary between stores and regions, but you’ll typically find places close for a couple of hours between 13:00 and 16:00. Unfortunately, this tradition is changing, and indeed in many towns and cities, some retailers remain open all day.
However, if your favorite shops are closed during the afternoon, then fear not because stores in Spain typically open late; often until 21:00 or 22:00, even in smaller towns. This means that you have plenty of time to grab those all-important essentials before heading off for tapas with friends. That said, while those mid-afternoon traditions might be changing, some aren’t. After all, Spain is still a deeply religious country in many ways; so don’t expect to find any shops open on Sundays.
Spanish department stores
There are few things the Spanish like more than indulging in a little retail therapy at their local department store. And as you might expect, Spanish department stores sell almost everything under the sun. Whether you’re looking for high-end fashion, brand-new furniture, or even the latest toys and games for your kids, you’ll find it here. Many also have supermarkets on the lower floor, while others have food courts and other high-end restaurants; making them the perfect place to while away an afternoon.
These days, only one name remains in the world of Spanish department stores – El Corte Inglés. This chain opened back in 1940 and is now Europe’s largest, with almost a hundred outlets across Spain’s many regions. Typically, these stores are found in prominent central locations, with some larger cities having more than one branch. The flagship store is located in Madrid, although you’ll probably see plenty of these department stores wherever you are in Spain.
Clothes and accessories
The Spanish love their fashion, which means that wherever you are in the country, you won’t be far away from your nearest clothing stores. These shops are typically located around the main shopping streets in Spanish towns and cities, although there is an increasing number of shopping malls in out-of-town areas. When exploring the country, you’ll find many of the well-known international fashion brands, including H&M, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Mango, and, of course, Spain’s own Zara. However, away from these big names, there are a whole host of excellent independent boutiques and clothing stores throughout the country to keep you well-dressed.
Generally speaking, if you’re looking for the best new fashions, then your best bet is to hit one of the big Spanish cities. Sevilla, Madrid, and Barcelona all offer excellent shopping opportunities. This is particularly true if you’re in the market for some designer wear. In Madrid, make sure to head to the lively Salamanca neighborhood for all the biggest names, including Gucci, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton. At the other end of the spectrum, more affordable clothes can be found at Primark, Zeeman, and most larger supermarkets.
Sports and leisure
When you think of Spain, you probably picture kilometers of white sandy beaches stretching towards the horizon. However, there’s a whole lot more to this amazing country than sun, sand, and sea. Whether you’re into loftier pursuits like skiing, hiking, or mountain biking, or something a little more accessible like tennis, football, or cycling, Spain has plenty of sporting opportunities. And whatever you’re doing, you’ll need the best clothing, equipment, and accessories to help you out. Thankfully, there are a lot of options to choose from.
The largest sporting goods chains in Spain are Decathlon, Intersport, and Base, which have stores across the country. Here, you’ll find a wide range of leisure and sporting items, from the latest sneakers and athleticwear, to brand new equipment and apparatus. In addition to these big names, there are plenty of independent sports stores across Spain which also offer local knowledge. That said, you’ll probably need to practice your Spanish before you head there. These stores can be particularly helpful if you’re a keen cyclist or mountaineer, as you may discover some brand new routes near your home, too.
DIY, home, and garden
Have you just moved into your new dream home on the sunny Costa del Sol? Or perhaps you’ve found a chic studio in the elegant city of San Sebastian? Wherever you’ve ended up, it’s likely that you’ll need to visit your local hardware store at some point. Thankfully, Spain has you covered. The largest hardware chains in terms of locations are Leroy Marlin, Brico Depot, and BriCor (part of the El Cortes Inglés family). However, there are plenty of other local stores that also stock everything you’ll need to create your brand new dream home.
And once you’ve finished doing it up, you’ll probably need to fill your brand-new home with some furnishings. Fortunately, the well-known Swedish retailer IKEA has locations dotted around the country, while other furniture retailers such as Zara Home and Habitat are easy to come by. El Cortes Inglés and supermarkets Carrefour and Alcampo also sell furniture. Typically speaking, DIY stores sell kitchens and bathrooms, although you may prefer a more focused stockist. Depending on your needs and location, you might also be able to pick up some second-hand furniture at a flea market, so search online to find your nearest. Gardening stores are typically independently owned, although some DIY stores also have outdoor sections. If you need help putting together your furniture or getting your garden in shape, you can even enlist the help of others on online platforms such as TaskRabbit.
Books, stationery, and entertainment
What better way to spend an afternoon lazing on the beach or enjoying the sun in your local park than with a good book? If you’re the reading type, then Spain has plenty of bookstores to explore, with an increasing number stocking English titles. The biggest Spanish bookstore chains include Casa del Libro and, of course, El Cortes Inglés. However, the vast majority of Spanish bookstores are independently operated, so you can search online to find your nearest one. If you’re looking for a better selection of books in other languages, however, then your best bet is an international bookstore. In this case, you can check out J & J’s in Madrid and Barcelona’s Come In.
Another great place to pick up books from all around the world is fnac. This cultural department store sells everything you need to keep yourself entertained, including music, books, films, stationery, and much more. Many larger Spanish supermarkets also sell a basic range of entertainment and stationery goods. El Corte Inglés also has great stationery departments. However, if you’re in Barcelona, then make sure you stop by Raima, a popular chain of shops selling all things stationery.
Electrical goods and gadgets
Looking for the latest televisual technology to watch your favorite Spanish TV shows on? Or maybe you’d like a new coffee machine to perfect your morning routine. Whatever electronics you’re after, some fresh new tech can take your home to the next level. For all sorts of household electronics, including the larger white goods, check out MediaMarkt, Miró, selected Spanish supermarkets, and, of course, El Corte Inglés. You’ll also be able to pick up some gadgets at your nearest fnac store, including a lot of the audiovisual tech you’ll need in your new home.
If you’re in the market for a new Spanish SIM card, or any mobile accessories, you’ll find a decent selection in the electronic stores mentioned above. However, most Spanish mobile operators have their own outlets across the country. Here, you can check out the latest models, stock up on accessories, and get advice from the sales assistants. However, just be aware that you’ll probably need to brush up on your language skills ahead of time, even in the larger cities. For more information, read our complete guide to getting a Spanish mobile phone.
Health and beauty
Whether you’ve got a big date coming up, an important meeting at work, or you’re simply indulging in a little rest and relaxation, it’s essential that you look after yourself. But don’t worry, because there are plenty of options for putting your health and well-being front and center in Spain. For the vast majority of your medication needs (even over-the-counter products like paracetamol and ibuprofen), you’ll need to pay a visit to your nearest Spanish pharmacy (farmacia). However, these are very common on Spanish streets and can be easily recognized by their bright green signs. While staff members are typically knowledgeable, they probably won’t be able to converse in English. Again, this is where brushing up on your language skills beforehand will really help.
For health and beauty products, you’ll find a decent, but fairly basic, selection in most Spanish supermarkets. However, for more options, you’ll probably need to visit a dedicated chain such as Douglas or your nearest El Corte Inglés. You’ll also find some well-known international brands in Spain, including The Body Shop and Lush. And if you’re looking for health food stores and healthier grocery options, make sure to check out our complete guide to Spanish supermarkets for more information.
Children’s clothes and toys
Spain is a great place to raise kids. Whether your little ones are into playing sports, getting creative, or simply playing with friends on the beach, they certainly won’t be bored. Thankfully, there are plenty of local stores selling everything from kids’ clothing and accessories to toys and computer games. Many of the best children’s clothing stores are independently owned, so search online for your nearest one. Most of the big fashion brands also have children’s departments, while Primark and some of the larger supermarkets offer more affordable options.
While you can find a basic range of children’s toys at some larger Spanish supermarkets, you’ll need to head to either El Corte Inglés or a dedicated toy store, such as Toy Planet or Imaginarium, for a wider variety. The latter has outlets throughout the country. Here, you’ll be able to pick up all sorts of things for kids and babies. Many of the best toy stores in Spain are independent, so it’s a good idea to talk to local parents to find out more. No doubt your little ones will love visiting a store or two as well.