- See our 2012 guide to Barajas Terminal 4
- Shops: 100+
- Restaurants, bars, cafes: 50+
- Walk from shops to gates: Up to 20 minutes, plus 4 minute transfer to T4 satellite if travelling ex-EU
- What to look for: Spanish giftware, confectionery, delicacies and wines, fragrances.
- Interesting shops: Thinking España, Les Boutiques, The Shop, Imaginarium.
- Inbound customs allowances:
- Terminals: 4
- Passenger traffic 2011: 49.6m
If a trip to Spain means coming home with a straw donkey under your arm and a novelty bottle of olive oil in your luggage, you haven’t been making the most of Madrid Barajas airport. With Thinking España, the destination shop at Barajas airport, retailer Aldeasa has raised the bar of airport souvenir retailing.
The concept was launched in 2006 when Madrid Barajas terminal four opened, and was quickly rolled out to Aldeasa’s other airport locations • as far afield as Canada and Jordan • and emulated by other airport retailers. The reason for its success is evident as soon as you step into the shop: here is a product range that respects tourists’ desires for tasteful, quality mementos, rather than slapping a photo of the beach on any old tat and flogging it for twice the price.
Local handicrafts, gifts and homewares offer surprise after delight for the casual browser, and the price range means there is something for most budgets • even the cheaper items have that ring of authenticity that guarantees them a proud place in your home. It’s a double-win for passengers, who can avoid those awful beachfront souvenir shops, and find something tasteful without scouring the back street boutiques of Madrid.
In T4 at least (the other terminals offer a less polished shopping experience), the philosophy of taste and authenticity is carried into the main duty-free shop by way of a wonderful range of Spanish delicacies, including hams, cheeses and (it had to be there) olive oils. Spain also boasts some wonderfully unique confectionery companies, and these are well promoted in the confectionery department. Elsewhere, the range of Spanish wines is also impressive • although, as always, remain price-aware when shopping for wines at airports.
The effort Aldeasa has devoted to presenting the good face of Spanish produce is also evident in other categories, notably in the giant fragrances department. A modern, spacious shop offers all the established names and several on-trend fashion perfume brands, with plenty of smiling staff on hand to help • a marked difference from the often surly staff elsewhere in the airport.
Les Boutiques, the luxury brands area, also boasts a good range of high-end and upper mid-market fashion, jewellery, watches, accessories and sunglasses.
A word to the wise here: passengers flying outside of the EU will depart from the T4 satellite building. Although the transit is short, you won’t want to come back to the main terminal, and where you spend most of your time should depend on what kind of shops you want. The luxury offer in the satellite building is better • non-EU passengers spend more on these items than other travellers • but if you are after a taste of Spain in your shopping, stay in the main building as long as possible. Rest assured, the transit is short and there is no need to hurry.
Another nice touch is the kids’ store Imaginarium, which again shows Aldeasa going well beyond conventional airport retailing to provide parents with a place to pick up something interesting for their children • or, if the children are with you, a place you are unlikely to escape from without either a purchase or a tantrum.
T4 is a good format to encourage happy browsing • the shops are centrally located after passing security, and the number of shops is not overwhelming. Unfortunately the other three terminals are not nearly as well designed • shops are thinly spread throughout buildings that are too big to be practical, particularly for short transfers. But the airport management is aware of this imbalance, and is redressing the situation: along with Aldeasa, which also runs most of the stores in the other terminals, it is in the long process of renovating and revamping much of the retail offer. Meanwhile, this means closures and even less shopping potential in these terminals. But if the refit brings the shops up to the same high standard as those in T4, passengers there have plenty to look forward to.
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