MADRID — Living in Madrid for the last 15 years, I’ve witnessed a transformation in the city’s shopping experience so astonishingly favorable that it defies warnings about the dire straits of retail. While it certainly didn’t feel like good news at the time, the financial crisis of 2009 to 2013 spawned a change in Spanish consumption from bigger and blander global brands to better, bespoke and distinctly local design. In a country where exceptional items that are both beautiful and functional are still produced, it’s wonderful to feel that spark of creativity and quality on the city sidewalks.
Barrio Salamanca remains the city’s most upscale shopping area, and its main thoroughfares — Serrano, Velázquez and Ortega y Gasset — still offer the biggest international and national fashion brands, many in newly refurbished flagship stores. Seek out the excellent Spanish designers and niche brands nestled among them and on adjacent streets like Calles Claudio Coello and Jorge Juan. Lander Urquijo does bespoke and off-the-rack men’s wear and accessories. There are also three extraordinary shoemakers for men: Berwick 1707, Carmina and Glent Shoes within 100 yards of one another.
Local women’s fashion favorites include Masscob, Closs Madrid and Renatta & Go. Luxury children’s clothes are a thing in Spain, and the latest in stylish togs for juniors can be found at Thanksmum, Condor and — for the classicists — Chucu-Chu. Antiques stores and fine porcelain purveyors are thick on the ground in these parts, but for fun, fresh and highly affordable housewares (stylish tablecloths, mohair throws and boldly patterned sheets) pop into Zara Home.
For years on the western side of the Paseo de la Castellana, the city’s main north-south axis, there were just a few trendy shopping streets like Almirante or Blanca de Navarra that featured clusters of smaller brands and chic one-off shops. Now those little centers of style have spread out to create some of the city’s coolest neighborhoods — Salesas, Chueca and Malasaña — which provide a wonderful day of wandering and shopping without following any set itinerary.
Those with less time to spare can hit all three by walking up Calle Fernando VI from Plaza de las Salesas, ducking in and out of side streets to check out gorgeous flower shops, old-school fruit stands and groovy galleries like Do Design, Galería La Caja Negra and Mad is Mad. Well-curated multibrand clothing stores in the area include Pez for women and Suus for men.
Fortify yourself with something sweet at local macaron merchants Mamá Framboise or the century-old but newly revamped La Duquesita. Seemingly for no reason, Calle Fernando VI becomes Calle Mejía Lequerica, where there is all kinds of newness at sidewalk level — starting with the huge housewares emporium Batavia and the new Barceló Market, which exemplifies the revival of Madrid’s neighborhood markets.