Until recently Barcelona El Prat airport was notable only for having some of the most unsavoury toilets outside the older quarters of Paris, and an approach to signage that would have appealed to the city’s favourite son, surrealist architect Gaudi. Both factors conspired to disincline passengers from taking advantage of a generally interesting and attractive shopping offer but, with the opening of the new Terminal 1 in June 2009, Barcelona finally has an environment that allows its shops to shine.
The new terminal, which handles most international passengers, is everything you should expect from a modern airport: spacious, comfortable and easy to use. And with a total of 49 shops and 30 restaurants, there is enough variety to keep even the most jaded traveller browsing. Nor is this an identikit international airport offer; with several local fashion, food and gifts/homeware outlets alongside the standard airport fare, there is a distinctly Catalonian flavour to the shopping experience.
Spanish fashion is particularly well represented, with dedicated outlets for decent mid-priced brands including Adolfo Dominguez and Zara, and • more unusually for an airport • shoe shops by Tascón and Sabateria Difusió. For stylish last minute gifts, stores including Thinking Barcelona and La Mallorcina should ensure you arrive home having picked up something other than the usual SDT (stupid disappointing tat). And if you’ve tasted something you want to take home with you, try delicatessen Sibarium, sweet and salted foods shop Onza or one of the several other confectionery shops. Finally Spanish wines are well represented through the Cal Pere shop, with knowledgeable staff on hand to help should you need it; although there are few bargains to be found, with Spain’s supermarkets offering a broader choice and more affordable wine brands.
The rest of the shopping offer is standard. The main duty-free shop, run by Aldeasa (which also manages most of the other shops here) is spacious, modern and bright but holds few surprises either in product or prices, which are either comparable to or greater than those on the competitive Spanish high street. What Aldeasa does well is promotion, and you can be sure that when you pass through at least one brand will be holding some form of highly visible campaign, adding vitality to the shopping experience and, perhaps, offering a bargain or a free gift.
The layout of the terminal is also conducive to a relaxed shopping experience. From the central security area, you have a clear view of the main retail area, spread over two floors, and the concourses and aircraft gates beyond. Some of the further gates can be a fair walk away, but having them in your sight from the central area gives you peace of mind to shop for as long as you can. However, one word of warning: if you are departing from concourses D or E you will have to go through passport control at the entrance to the concourse, and will not be able to return. There are few shops beyond this point. Do not go through passport control until you are ready to board!
Interestingly for a modern terminal, at Barcelona T1 both departing and arriving passengers have access to the retail area. For those wishing to buy last minute gifts for hosts, this is invaluable, and in the main duty free shop there is a dedicated till for arriving passengers meaning quicker service, avoiding long queues on the way to reclaiming your baggage. But aside from quick gifts and a bite to eat, shopping on arrival is not recommended • most liquor, tobacco, beauty and fashion products can be found at better prices on the domestic market.
Meanwhile, the offer at T2 has very little to recommend it at all. There are few shops • 12 in total • and, according to many unfortunate travellers, opening times are erratic, and the products on offer are uninspiring. Airport authority AENA has promised that a renovation of the terminal is in the pipeline, while declining to give a set date. For the meantime, our advice is: if you go through Barcelon El Prat, just hope that you’re travelling through T1.