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Carrer de la Palla home
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A stone's throw from the Cathedral, Carrer de la Palla in the Barrí Gòtic is a glorious mixture of old-fashioned shops, antique dealers and little boutiques, making it the perfect place to start your Christmas shopping. On the corner with Plaça Sant Josep Oriol, Joguines Monforte is like Barcelona's very own Santa's workshop. Along with toys in the window that seem to have been there since the family run shop opened in 1896, you'll find Gaudí jigsaws at 11.50 euros, a Barcelona Monopoly set at 41 euros and a Catalan version of Scrabble - if you get your 'ny' on a triple word score you're laughing.
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Urban outfitters Hydroponic (nº. 3) opened a year a go and their exclusive skate clothing brand make it the place to go for that impossibly tricky teenage gift. The store is also home to C/ Palla's own mascot, Bernie the skater dog. Big enough to pull Santa's sleigh, she'll be on hand to help you choose a decorative skate deck for your living room.
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Alternatively, for slightly less cumbersome stocking filling ideas, head to Japanese fabric shop Nunoya (nº. 6). Kimonos and pillows can be made to order and if you're handy with a needle and thread, you can buy gorgeous fabrics by the metre. Their Japanese toe socks with a goldfish print at 7 euros make an ideal secret Santa pressie too.
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For the woman who has everything, take a gander at the window of quirky designer jeweller La Basilica Galeria (nº. 7). Their tarantula necklace may give you a fright but the price of 'El Mil Del Poaig' extra virgin olive oil over the road at Oro Líquido (nº. 8) will scare you more. The Chanel of the olive world, drizzling this on your pa amb tomaquet will set you back 130 euros a bottle. More affordable and a decent present to take home is a hamper of three oils from the Basilippo range for 40 euros.
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If you're looking for a more exotic offering, Nomada's (nº. 9) is an Aladdin's cave of worldly treasures. Find lamps and magical-looking carpets from Afghanistan, venture further and discover statues from Tibet, puppets from Myanmar and not top of the average Christmas list, a bag made from an udder from the Mapuche Indians of Chile. All that's missing is a talking monkey wearing one of Nomada's cashmere and silk Nepalese jackets, but you could always buy one of their genie lamps and wish for one for Christmas. Further up the street you begin to see why this is known locally as the antique neighbourhood.
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María Ubach Antigüedades
Changing times and fashions, coupled with the current economic crisis, has meant that there are now less antique dealers than in the past but María Ubach Antigüedades (nº. 10) is still going strong. Packed with sensational pieces that are older than your in-laws, this may be beyond most Christmas budgets, but if you win the lottery a French cigar box from the 1850's could be yours for a cool 5,000 euros and can be shipped to anywhere in the world if you so desire.
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Fira de Santa Llúcia
Once you've pulled yourself away from the potential gifts on offer and strolled past the Artur Ramon Art Gallery (nº. 25) there is one last festive surprise in store. The Fira de Santa Llúcia in front of the Cathedral (Plaça de la Seu and Plaça Nova) is a hive of activity in December and is a one-stop shop for a truly Catalan Christmas. Get all your pessebre figures, handmade-crafts and all things scatalogical; here's the place to buy a Caganer or a Caga Tió; perfect for shocking the folks back home with.
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HEAVENLY CAKES- Christmas is the perfect excuse for ditching the diet and downing the calories and there's no better place to eat cake than the spiritual and friendly Caelum (nº. 8). A Carrer de la Palla resident for 12 years, it would frankly be a sin not to sample their monastery-made marzipan treats. Positioned above 14th century Jewish baths, there are sweets, biscuits, a coffee shop and arguably the nicest smelling bathrooms in the city.
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Special Christmas goodies to look out for include Anguilas de Mazapán, Pan de Cádiz and Huesos de Santos. The beauty is that this den of delicacies is stocked with offerings from more than 20 convents around Spain. Natália Mula explains: "the nuns are hidden from the world and bake as a way of bringing money in. We place our money in front of a revolving window and then are given whatever they have available."
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With no way to place a specific order, Caelum's stock is entirely in the hands of the nuns. What isn't explained are the bottles of wine and absinthe stocked above the biscuits. Could it be that these same nuns, out of sight from everyone, indulge in a cheeky shot during breaks in the baking?
Just across from the cathedral, Carrer de la Palla in the Barri Gòtic is great for shopping and a Mecca for sweet-toothed marzipan fans. Click on the slideshow to find out more.