Madrid’s Las Salesas neighbourhood – named for the nearby Plaza de las Salesas – has sprung to life in recent years thanks to a new wave of pioneering business owners. Nestled between the iconic Gran Vía, party-loving Chueca and stately Colón, Las Salesas is especially well-known for its variety of independent shops. A quick detour through this central barrio (district) is perfect for picking up quirky and unusual souvenirs.

Rooftop view of Madrid's iconic Gran Vía
Madrid's iconic Gran Vía © Westend61 / Getty Images

Calle Barquillo: historical origins at the heart of Las Salesas

Shopping in Las Salesas has long been a tradition, and nowhere is this as apparent as on Calle Barquillo. This calle could easily be considered Las Salesas’ main drag, and many shops have been around for decades. While others haven’t been established for quite so long, several of the newer stores retain the original façades.

Funky hats, fans and other accessories at Santa Rita
Funky hats, fans and other accessories at Santa Rita © Cassandra Gambill / Lonely Planet

This is the case with Santa Rita, a business which adopted the name of the haberdashery that was originally located here. Now, this 21st-century store outfits wedding guests – and Madrid visitors – with Spanish fans, clutches, hairpins, wallets and berets.

Specialty stores for enthusiasts of all stripes

The shops of Las Salesas have evolved, allowing for specialty stores of all kinds. Gion claims to be the largest Spanish importer of traditional products and modern knick-knacks from Japan. Kimonos, tea sets, Daruma dolls and prints are just a few of the items on sale here.

macchinine's thousands of toy cars, arranged by brand, line the white glass-front shelves in a high-ceilinged shop in Madrid
macchinine's thousands of toy cars, arranged by brand © Cassandra Gambill / Lonely Planet

On the opposite side of the street is macchinine, another store with a one-track approach. Toy collectors and hobbyists of all ages make pilgrimages here; with nearly 5000 toy cars on display, this model car store feels almost like a museum. Ever since opening in 2004, the store has built up a dedicated fan base, many of whom count on macchinine to help them locate hard-to-find models or specific vintage cars from their childhood. Looking for something more affordable? Never fear, there are plenty of cars to be had for less than €20.

For a curious peek into the shared history of Spain and the bodies of water surrounding the Iberian Peninsula, dive into all things water-related at Librería Náutica Robinson. The only bookstore of its kind in Spain, this maritime bookseller features literature, in Spanish and English, on topics as far-flung as guides to saltwater fish, first-hand accounts of ocean voyages and stories for children. In addition to aquatic literature, the enterprising owners run a small publishing house, host events and sell sundry marine-related items such as compasses, calendars and key chains.

Future-looking and design-loving

Lighthearted gifts can be purchased at Anclademar, a concept store which welcomes inspiration from all over the world. Italian notebooks, American candles, chocolate bars with wasabi and anthologies of French fashion designers are all found in this stylish store. The latest Spanish brands are also in the mix, such as Avellaneda (men’s fashion), Olga Prieto (jewellery) and The Painter’s Wife (contemporary art and fashion).

Interior of concept store Do Design, which is painted white and lined with shelves full of items on either wall
The wide airy space of concept store Do Design © Cassandra Gambill / Lonely Planet

Do Design, a 200 sq metre concept store, is an airy, light-filled space dedicated in equal parts to art, fashion and design. Open since 2011, the gallery portion of the space hosts a diverse range of temporary art exhibitions. The store itself reflects the Scandinavian notion of hygge, and, fittingly, its wares are chiefly made up of lifestyle items such as wooden cake testers, Spanish leather wallets and hand-stenciled notebooks. The small size of these affordable handicrafts makes this an ideal stop for quality – and practical – souvenirs.

Greenery lines the entrance to El Huerto de Lucas, a restaurant in Madrid
Greenery lines the entrance to El Huerto de Lucas © Cassandra Gambill / Lonely Planet

Edible gifts for gourmands

Tucked away on a side street named after a saint, El Huerto de Lucas is utterly unlike anything else in the Spanish capital. From the hanging plants in the interior patio to the organic food vendors and the Eco Bistro, this venue is as green as they come. El Huerto de Lucas promotes healthy living and offers a haven for those with food intolerances or dietary restrictions. It’s also the perfect place to pick up unconventional gifts for eco-minded relatives or foodie friends; the stalls ringing the cantina sell everything from organic makeup to jams and olive oil. An attached pop-up market periodically features sustainable clothing brands as well.

For a delectable end to the day’s shopping adventures, follow the warm, buttery scents coming from Calle Barquillo to their origins at Pomme Sucre. The pâtisserie’s signature confection regularly appears on lists of the best croissants in Madrid, and comes in iterations of classic, chocolate and almond. Fruity macarons, chocolate tartlets, sugared palmiers and pastry cream-filled creations also vie for attention. Treats can be enjoyed in situ with a tea or coffee, or packaged for a sweet gift.

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