A Beauty Lover’s Guide to Madrid
Yes, it’s been a minute since our anniversary trip to Spain! Thing is, I loved every second of it so much – even the ones when it was pouring rain and my shoes were soaked – that I’ve still got it on the brain. In fact, I’m already plotting our next trip to Europe (picture me with an evil grin doing Mr. Burns fingers here). Over the years it seems like we’ve unintentionally made a loose checklist of ‘things to do while traveling’:
- Eat delicious local food
- See live music
- Do sightseeing/touristy things
- Go to some sort of event (theater, sporting events, etc)
The thing that may be a little odd about me & the husband is we don’t do every single thing together while we’re traveling. We always take some time to go off and do our own thing. For him, that’s checking out the local craft beer scene. For me (get ready for a huge surprise here!) it’s shopping. And since Madrid is the capital of Spain and also the largest city there was no shortage of opportunities for shopping. I was focused on makeup, but also ended up with a few fashion bits too. Here are some of the gems I found, roughly broken down by area.
Our hotel was on Gran Via, so naturally I spent a lot of time wandering around there. It has a lot of mall type stores like H&M, Primark and Zara, plus the El Corte Ingles department store. Makeup-wise I stumbled across a Flormar boutique (Gran Via 46) which I had never heard of before. It seems like a quality inexpensive brand, about on par with NYX – I picked up an eyeshadow quad that’s pretty nice.
Speaking of NYX, there’s one of those literally next door to the hotel we stayed at (Gran Via 36). I didn’t expect to buy anything there because I can get it easily at home, but fun story time. In a lot of the city there’s no curb between the sidewalk and street, so they’re separated by a row of bollards. Well, I was trying to move out of the way on a crowded sidewalk and wasn’t paying enough attention, and I crashed right into one of the bollards at full speed. The bruise on my leg was totally epic, and took months to fade completely. So that’s how I ended up on an emergency trip to the NYX shop to get orange concealer.
Chueca/Calle de Fuencarral
I spent a fairly ridiculous amount of time in this area because there are so many great stores! It’s about 6 blocks of pedestrian-0nly access, so it’s a lot more relaxing to walk around in. There are lots of clothing/home stores like Desigual, North Face, Muji & Brandy Melville, and a ton of great beauty shops too. The Body Shop, MAC, L’Occitane, another NYX, even a freestanding Urban Decay shop. I didn’t buy anything there because it was the same stuff you can get at Sephora, but it was still pretty neat to check out.
My favorites out of the whole bunch were Kiko Milano & Perfumerias Primor. I’ve been to a Kiko store once (the one in Las Vegas) but there aren’t any close to where I live. Naturally I took full advantage of the fact that there are about a gazillion Kiko stores in Madrid. I picked up one of their limited edition highlighters (pearls similar to Guerlain Meteorites) plus an eyeshadow quad & eyeshadow pencil. Also had a long mixed English & Spanish conversation with one of the SA’s about my hair (which was bright purple at the time).
Perfumerias Primor was amazing. I got to try out a few brands that I can’t find in store at home like Bourjois, Sleek and Bioderma. They also had great prices on higher-end brands like Dior and Sisley. I ended up with the ever-famous Bioderma micellar water (which I love!) and a Sisley eyeshadow quad that’s really pretty, but I’m glad I didn’t pay US price for it.
One huge mistake I made was only taking cute shoes with me on the trip. My Sam Edelman Felicia flats are amazingly comfortable, but it turns out they’re not nearly cushioned enough for walking ~7 miles a day. By a few days into the trip my feet literally felt like they were breaking, so I found a cute pair of sneakers at Aro, which is a brand out of Barcelona. My poor little piggies sighed in relief when I put them on.
The Salamanca neighborhood – especially Calles Serrano and Jose Ortega y Gasset – is basically the Rodeo Drive of Madrid. If you want to find the ultra-upscale shops like Chanel, Prada, Jimmy Choo, etc, this is where you want to be. I didn’t spend a ton of time there since that’s not the type of shopping I was going for, but I did wander into a Salvador Bachiller boutique (Calle Velazquez 24). I’d never heard of it before, but they have some really adorable and outstanding quality leather goods for very reasonable prices (mostly under 200€). I snagged a leather crossbody satchel for around 100€ that is still my go-to bag for everyday.
The El Rastro street market in Plaza de Cascorro is the only shopping experience that you need to do some planning for, because it’s only open on Sundays and holidays. It’s worth the effort though! Like any flea market there’s a fair amount of junk, but there are also a lot of booths showing off antiques, clothing, jewelry and hand-made leather goods. I ended up getting a really cute silk scarf with a paisley pattern in it – and let me tell you, people in Spain love their scarves! It seemed like everyone I saw was wearing one, so I felt left out and had to get my own :-) My husband came home with a nice full-grain leather laptop bag that he got practically for a song.
One thing to be aware of is it does get really crowded – even when it’s pouring rain off and on like it was the day we went – so if throngs of people make you twitchy like me, you might want to duck into one of the many cafes and restaurants nearby.
Now, I’m sure I missed a lot of awesome places because after all, I didn’t spend the whole trip shopping (even though it kind of sounds like I did). What are some of your favorites for shopping abroad?