Bars in Barcelona

Life in Spain often seems to revolve around local bars, and Barcelona is certainly no different to other parts of the country. From breakfast right the way through to the early hours of the morning, much of Spanish social life takes place in the bar. Even television watching is often a communal activity undertaken in bars; certainly expect many of them to have at least one set blasting out in a corner.

However, my focus here will be on bars that are more likely to attract both residents and visitors looking for more than ‘just’ a local bar – whilst recognising that many tourists will often adopt one of these as their own during their stay in the city.

Barcelona, of course, has more than its fair share of exciting bars, which help make the nightlife in the city some of the best in Europe. Most of the bars get into their stride between midnight and 2 or 3 in the morning – this being especially true on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Simply head to the Gothic Quarter, Raval, Las Ramblas, Gràcia, the beach, La Ribera or even El Poble Espanyol on Montjuïc and you will find enough bars to wander around to your heart’s content.

As with restaurants, one has to be a little wary about which bars to recommend as they can change their character over time, or perhaps go out of fashion for a while. The following suggestions, however, are mainly concerned with bars that are generally accepted as amongst the very best the city has to offer – so they should still be going strong whenever you visit.

Let’s start our eclectic mix with one of the oldest bars in the whole city, the London Bar. Located on Nou de la Rambla, this has been a popular haunt for nearly a hundred years and still seems to have the feel of Picasso and Miró in its atmosphere. Don’t for a second think that this makes the London Bar a museum piece, however; far from it. There is live music almost every night; it’s open until 5 in the morning; and it’s one of the friendliest places around.

Just to emphasise the range of bars we’re looking at, from one of the oldest to one of the newest – Marmalade. On Riera Alta in El Raval, Marmalade has only just celebrated its first birthday but it has already established itself as a friendly bar serving scintillating cocktails and a really tasty selection of contemporary foods.

On the subject of cocktails, L’Ascensor in C/Bellafila has one of the most enviable reputations in the city. If you’ve never tried a caipariña – the Brazilian national cocktail – then this is the place in town to try it – they are fabulous here. The lift after which the bar is named is a quaint, wooden contraption – the only entrance. But once inside, you’ll get great music, a great atmosphere and a great night.

A couple of quirky bars that offer a fun evening are La Fira in Provença and Bosc de les Fades in the Pasaje de la Banca near Drassanes Metro station. La Fira is full of old fairground stuff that you can play with and sit on and Bosc de les Fades is just totally off the wall. It has one room that is like an old barn, another with miniature tables and another one that is like something from a Tim Burton set.

A few others definitely worthy of a visit are Gimlet in C/Rec – a small bar but it serves up some fine cocktails; El Vaso de Oro in C/Balboa– a beer drinker’s delight, but with good tapas too; El Xampanyet in C/Montcada – one of the city’s most renown bars, with a reputation for its cava; and Bar Pastís in C/de Santa Mònica close to Las Ramblas – a bar opened in the 1940s which is a homage to French music, Edith Piaf in particular, and is for all the world like a Film Noir set.

Finally, if you need your fix of sport, then one of the best bars to go is the Bristol Blue in Torrent de L’Olla and, if you are a fan of Irish bars, you’ll find dozens but, for many, the best is probably Molly’s Fair City in C/Ferran in the Barri Gòtic.

There are many, many more places worth bringing to your attention and once in Barcelona, you’ll soon come to realise just why the city’s reputation, and name, are so well well justified.