Shopping is fabulous in Spain, clothing is relatively inexpensive and fashion is current, and some is cutting edge. There are a variety of Spanish stores: Zara, Mango, Sfera, Nicoli (high end) and Primark (low end). For an older crowd, favorites include Cortefiel, Massimo Dutti and Uterque (high end). There is only one major Spanish department store chain, El Corte Inglés, which provides a large selection of items as well as an expansive grocery store in some locations. Small independent boutiques also provide a wide range of fashion at varying purchase points.
Sales help is noticeably friendly and most helpful. Store clerks don’t become upset when a purchase isn’t made. Returns are remarkably easy even for sales items, unless it is a final clearance item. Some stores like Cortefiel don’t even need receipts as the bar code is printed on the inside tag of a clothing item.
Due to their late lifestyle, stores are generally open quite late. Stores hours differ by each location. For example, an El Corte Inglés I frequented in Madrid is open Monday – Saturday 10:00 am to 10:00 pm. Other chain stores are open Monday – Saturday 10:00 am – 8:00 pm or 9:30 pm, with limited hours on Sundays.
Smaller boutiques are opened Monday or Tuesday – Saturday from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm and reopen 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm. The three-hour closing mid-day may seem inconvenient, but when you live in Madrid, those are the hours many are home having the big meal of the day.
Madrid has many shoe stores and a great number of them are small, independent shops. Popular Spanish shoe store chains are Lola Rey, Marypaz, both relatively low end, and Calzados Lomas and Antonio Parriego, which offer better quality shoes.
Throughout all of Spain are a variety of convenient shops that carry all sorts of merchandise ranging from paper products to notions, seasonal items, electrical devices and candy. Perhaps it most closely resembles a five & dime or a Woolworth store that I’ve heard about from my parents. These cluttered stores jam packed with merchandise are owned and managed primarily by Chinese immigrants. Consequently, these stores are referred to as the “Chino” regardless of the store’s actual name. Spaniards love these shops and do not mean anything derogatory by calling them “Chino,” although I found it unsettling.
There are also two modern European variety stores with everything you need and don’t need, but want to buy. They are Tiger, a Danish chain, and Hema, a Dutch chain. Specialty shops are abundant in Madrid for items ranging from paper supplies to sock and everything in between.
Madrid is host to the largest flea market in Europe, called El Rastro. This large outdoor market takes place every Sunday. The tree lined main street, Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores is jam packed with vendors selling inexpensive CD’s/DVD’s and cheap products made in Asia. However, on the side streets there are bargains ranging from antiques to retro clothing to pots and pans. If you look long and hard enough, you will eventually find whatever it is that you want.
See blog FLEA MARKET DRAMA AT EL RASTRO
See blog CITY LIVING
If all your banking can be done with an ATM card, or on-line, consider yourself lucky because going to the bank is a time consuming process. Most of the banks have one or two tellers and waiting in a line for 30 minutes is not uncommon. The hours are very limiting as they open at 8:00 am or 8:30 am and close at 2:30 pm and some banks stop allowing in person transactions with a teller at 11:00 am. There are some banks that have later hours, but they are rare.
Many post office Correos in Madrid are modern and have an excellent queuing system, where you take a number when you enter and can sit and wait until your number is called at a window. However, don’t be fooled by this efficiency for I have experienced first hand the slowness of the Spanish postal service. To be on the safe side, allow two to three weeks for correspondence between Spain and the U.S. Three packages were shipped to me and I received one, three months later, another package (with Halloween candy) never arrived, and a third package, sent from Paris, was never received and was returned to the sender nine months after being sent.