January 16, 2012

Guest Post: Chic Soufflé on Valencia as a Modern Consumerist's City

Good taste is a difficult thing to have or acquire, but an invaluable attribute in the modern consumer society. Today I'm inviting a very good friend and fellow Valencia blogger, Chic Soufflé, to provide you a consumerist's geography of Valencia, a roadmap if you will. I follow her blog avidly—it being a blend of musings on international fashion and design trends and cross-cultural (US-Spain) exchange—knowing that it will always be in good taste.
Chic Soufflé's blog, "an eclectic mix of fashion, gastronomy and art. Why not?"

In the last year or so, Valencia has seemingly had a consumerist revival, with the grand opening of 3 (of my favorite) international stores. It is the third largest city in Spain, and one where it feels like shoppers never stop shopping. (Crisis, what crisis?) For those of you who are not familiar with the “shopping layout” of the city —I’m not talking about malls—, I will attempt to give you some tips on how to shop til you drop.

Valencia's new Apple Store on Colón
Probably the most well known shopping area in the city is Calle Colón. The area on and around this major street includes a couple of locations of the ubiquitous department store El Corte Inglés (not the only ones in the city), plus a good assortment of franchises and brands popular in Spain. Here you can get your fix of Inditex stores (Zara, Massimo Dutti, Oysho, Uterqüe, Pull and Bear, Stradivarius), or other Spanish classic fashion stores like Mango, as well as the popular H&M, shoe brand stores like Camper, cosmetic stores like The Body Shop, jewelry stores like Tous, etc. It is also on this street where at the end of 2011 two of my favorite stores, Muji and Appleopened. I’m sure all of you know Apple and there’s not much I can say there that will be news to you, but if you don’t know the Japanese store Muji, I recommend you stop by to check out what I can only describe as minimalistic and pragmatic merchandise (and travel-conscious!)

Elegant Japanese design at Muji

Uterqüe, higher end of the Inditex stores

Around Calle Colón there’s a small area of pedestrian shopping streets packed with stores, cafés, and restaurants. One of them is Pasaje de Ruzafa, where the lovely British store Lush opened in 2010 (yay!). They have amazing handmade cosmetic products (their bath bubble bars and soaps are to-die-for), so I recommend a shopping stop here if only to smell their products.

Delicious smelling bath salts from Lush

Right on the other side of Colón, beginning with—and centering around—Calle Jorge Juan, there is an area of smaller boutiques and brand name stores as well as a nice pit stop for the weary shopper, the Mercado de Colón. This beautiful historic building now hosts cafés and restaurants on their ground floor, a perfect open space to take a break from the busy Colón area. 

El Mercado de Colón at dusk

It’s around Jorge Juan where you can find more exclusive boutiques, and some Spanish designer names, but also international brand stores like the classic American Kiehl’s or the French furniture and design store Habitat. This last one is actually located in a very cute galleria called Galería de Jorge Juan. And around this area, you can also find some of the best pastelerías to buy fancy and delicious cakes and pastries, such as Monplá or La Rosa de Jericó. There is also one of Cacao Sampaka’s fine chocolate shops nearby, highly recommended for chocoholics. And if you are missing American cupcakes, do not worry, in the last few years they have become really popular and are popping up everywhere in Spain. Here there are a couple of chains that serve this sweet treat, among them the local Cupcake Valencia

Old and new pastry shops: La Rosa de Jericó (left), Cupcake Valencia (right)

Cacao Sampaka

Having covered one of my favorite shopping areas, it is now time to switch directions and go towards the small pedestrian Calle Don Juan de Austria. By the main exit of the Colón metro and one of the El Corte Inglés buildings, this street has mostly shoe and clothing stores, but also another shopping galleria, the Galería Don Juan de Austria, and a couple of international cosmetic stores, Sephora and L’Occitane. And of course, it’s yet another place to find the Inditex usual suspects, but hosts other popular Spanish clothing stores like Blanco. If you are hungry, visit Bar Casa Mundo, one of the famous places in town to stop for tapas and their famous bocadillo de calamares (OK, maybe not the best anymore, but certainly a classic).

Pedestrian shopping street of Don Juan de Austria

At the end of this street, crossing the Calle de las Barcas, is Calle Poeta Querol or, what some of us refer to jokingly as the “Valencian golden mile” (la milla de oro) because a lot of the luxury brands have stores on or around this street. Unlike in other cities, our so-called “golden mile” is not in one of the city’s avenues, but instead on quite a small street that does not get as much foot traffic. I guess that’s because if you can afford to shop in these stores, you know where they are and just go there, but it’s interesting that there’s not a lot of window-shopping in this area. You will find international designer names such as Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Hugo Boss or Salvatore Ferragamo, and Spanish designers like Loewe or Purificación García. The famous (and the only international) Valencian porcelain company Lladró has a store on Poeta Querol. But there are also moderately priced stores on this street, for example Intermón (the Intermón-Oxfam store) or Nespresso (if you like coffee you probably have heard of this company—the store looks expensive but the coffee is not!) This streets ends at Calle de la Paz, which also has some designer (Carolina Herrera) and jewelry stores.

Loewe storefront on a corner of Poeta Querol

Fine ceramic gifts made by Valencia's Lladró

In the old city, there is a hipper area where you can find plenty of restaurants and bars, and that comes alive at night. Barrio del Carmen is an excellent place to go out for dinner or drinks, but you can also do some cool shopping that you can’t find elsewhere. One of my favorite clothing boutiques is called Envinarte Fusión, on Calle Serranos. They also own a wine shop two doors down on the same street with an excellent variety of national and international wines. I like the clothing store Monki and, although not technically in El Carmen, but in El Mercat neighborhood, Bugalú is a fun place to score some cooler accessories and clothing items. But the list of places is definitely longer than this, and it’s worth walking around the narrow streets of this old neighborhood to discover them.

Plaza del Tossal, one of many quaint plazas in El Carmen
great for taking a break from boutique shopping

Inside Envinarte Fusión

Oh my, how I’ve gone on! And I haven’t even mentioned another neighborhood that has in the last few years really taken off: Russafa! I encourage you to explore it, because it deserves another whole post. Great restaurants, great bars, and some very special shopping too. 

Future pursuits... the Russafa neighborhood runs along the
east side of the North Train Station tracks

It’s been fun writing about my city, and I hope this mini shopping guide has been helpful!


Sorokin said...

Very good. But now, the important question: The Malvarrosa. Are you going to save it from the bulldozers?

An American Spaniard said...

I'm sure Malvarrosa, the beach, is safe from bulldozers (other than the beach-combing machines which manicure it every night). But if you mean Cabanyal, then that's a tricky issue. While my political orientation would have me defend the little guy and support the neighborhood, the area is pretty run down in its present shape, and doesn't square with the potential for that beachfront area... I confess I would love to see Blasco Ibáñez extended to the beach like a Ramblas. So I can understand how city planners look at Cabanyal and sigh with frustration.

Anonymous said...

Do you know the name if the jewelry store near the Carolina Hererra store??

An American Spaniard said...

Anonymous: There are several jewelry shops on the Calle de la Paz. Which one?

Anonymous said...

I have the same question. It is right next to the Carolina Herrera store. They have nice jewelry. I can't find the name on the Internet . It is on the right side from the Herrera's store .

Anonymous said...

I have the same question. It is right next to the Carolina Herrera store. They have nice jewelry. I can't find the name on the Internet . It is on the right side from the Herrera's store

Unknown said...

Nice article. I think it is useful and unique article. I love this kind of article and this kind of blog. I have enjoyed it very much. Thanks for your website.

Anonymous said...

Isn't LUSH Canadian?

An American Spaniard said...

Dear Anonymous, no, I'm pretty sure Lush is British. The wikipedia page for the company indicates it started as a supplier for The Body Shop (also British), and first opened a shop in Poole.

Pasteleria Pastelea said...

These desserts are so good patisseries total defect ... at least for me. I can not resist this kind of desserts.

To all that you have this same weakness, I recommend taking a look at this web http://pastelea.com/, because you take cakes home of the most exclusive places in Valencia.

It's like Red Refrigerator, dessert ... but only scrumptious !!

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