Shops and shopping in Spain
The quality of shopping in Spain depends very much on which part of the country you are in. The busy commercial centres of Madrid, Barcelona and Malaga will not be so different to shopping at home with large, busy department stores offering all manner of goods.
The shops in the big cities will also be well used to tourists and many will be able to speak English, French, German and a few other languages. If you decide to go shopping in areas a bit more off the beaten track don't expect many to speak your native language and expect big variations in prices. Shopping in Spain can be quite a pleasurable pursuit if you have plenty of time and don't mind mixing it up with a bit of meandering in the coffee shops or bars for drinks and tapas.
Although the opening hours can vary considerably between regions, shops generally open at 10am and close at 2pm for siesta, reopening between 5pm to 8pm (in many cases till 9). A lot of the big stores including the hypermarkets and department stores will stay open all day. Most stores are closed on Sunday and on fiesta days (which there are a lot of).
Hypermarkets are very popular and are present in most of the larger towns. They are usually located on the outskirts and can normally be found by following the signs for the local centro commercial. The biggest are Eroski and Hipercor (part El Corte Ingles). El Corte Ingles is absolutely huge in Spain and really do sell just about everything. You can even buy flight tickets from their web site (http://www.elcorteingles.es).
Open air markets are usually open in the mornings from 0900 until 1400 and sell a wide variety of products including: vegetables, flowers, clothes, shoes, linen, pottery, arts and crafts from local artists, domestic goods, carpets and jewellery.
Credit cards are widely accepted in Spain. Cheques are not. The currency is the euro although everywhere you go you will find people still talking in pesetas and then trying to convert to euros. When you withdraw money from the bank try not to let them give you 500 euro notes as most shops refuse to accept them. Visitors can claim back the IVA (VAT) added to all purchases except food, drink, motor vehicles, and medicines.