To get to know a new city, I like to wander through the streets and public spaces using all of my senses to absorb my surroundings. In Barcelona, I was particularly struck by the sights and smells (and even the tastes!) of the products crafted by local artisans. Some made decadent leather goods; others, unique jewelry; yet others, sinful chocolate.

I couldn’t help but stop and talk to many of these artisans, getting to know them and their work. The experience added so much to my time, and is an adventure I will not soon forget.

Here, I share some of my very favorite finds:



Carrer L’Argentería 66

Leather shoes on display at Malababa in Barcelona

I was drawn into this shop by the smell of handcrafted leather. Inside, I met the talented Ana Carrasco; she designs all of the collections for the brand. She began in 2003, creating her designs for family and friends. Today, she and her husband, Jaime Lara, run this successful designer brand from their shops in Barcelona and Madrid. Ana explained that her designs are prototyped and handmade for their stores by senior leather craftsmen in their workshop in Madrid. I instantly fell in love with everything in the store, from their hand-dyed, soft natural leather handbags, to glorious shoes, to colorful accessories – brooches, belts, earrings, and necklaces. Malababa has positioned itself as a brand ambassador for Spanish design. Incidentally, Spain’s Queen Letizia is also a big fan of Malababa and has been spotted wearing several of their styles.



Carrer del Carme, 3

Chocolate in Barcelona

I was lured into this El Raval kitchen by a window full of colorful cronuts and discovered that the modern design of the space is equally as impressive as the artful displays of chocolate truffles, muffins, cookies, churros, chocolate covered marshmallows, and cakes. This nineteenth-century converted chocolate factory is a fusion of modernism and contemporary décor, where chocolate is the sole protagonist. All of Chök’s mouth-watering creations are made on site throughout the day using natural, fresh, and high quality ingredients that are additive-free. You can watch them make their scrumptious creations through the glass door of their kitchen at the back of the store. And, if their sweets don’t sound tempting enough, they make an irresistible cup of hot chocolate.



Carrer Banys Vells 3

Shoes on the workbench at Velo in Barcelona

Designer Niccolò Dipaola and architect Zaida Mañas hand-make shoes to measure in their workshop/showroom, Veló, in El Born. The Italian-influenced designs are crafted with high quality leather and soled with recycled bicycle tires. Niccolò was kind enough to show me their workshop where they make their sustainable, unique and distinct designs. He explained that behind each one is a story, and each product is tailored to complement the identity of the wearer. Stop by to order a customized pair for yourself or just to chat with Niccolò and Zaida.



Carrer San Pere Mes Alt, 78

Ice cream parlor in Barcelona

Bruno Balbás opened this charming heladería in 2014 with the intention of selling ice cream sandwiches, but his idea quickly evolved. This whimsical ice cream parlour now offers handcrafted ice cream, waffles, crepes, and coffees, paired with a vintage style that conjures up images of a mid-century soda fountain; anyone with a soft spot for nostalgia will go weak at the knees. With a motto like “nice cream & friends,” Biscuiter will make you feel right at home, and is guaranteed to sweeten your day.



Carrer de la Vidriera, 4
 Jewelry on display in D-lirio

D-lirio is a delightful boutique in El Born created by Sara Saavedra. Sara’s background is in fashion and jewelry design, and in 2003 she began making her chic, urban-style jewelry and handbag designs for family and friends. By 2010, her hard work evolved into opening two stores. D-lirio’s products are made with high-quality materials and attention to detail and are designed and hand manufactured, start to finish, in Barcelona.



Calle Princes, 28 

Baking cookies at Demasie in Barcelona

Demasié is a family-owned bakery that has had a presence in Barcelona for over 150 years. The layout of this gourmet sweet shop is arguably as noteworthy as the baked goods: Demasié’s walls are covered in large geometric murals in the shape of cookies, each one representing a different flavor.

Biking the streets of Barcelona

I think there’s something special about wandering through a new city and stopping in local shops – following your senses into spaces and corners that hold history and culture, and offer opportunities to witness unique craftsmanship. It’s at the forefront in Barcelona, where even larger stores like Desigual put an emphasis on quality. Learning how people use available resources to make goods by hand – be it shoes or food or art – adds a deeper layer to your understanding of a particular place, and a way to be more connected to the people who create the things we love.


Nicolee Drake was invited to explore the history, culture, and architecture of Barcelona through a partnership between Passion Passport and PayPal. All opinions are her own.