Barcelona Guide: 10 of the Best Bars in Barcelona
By: Anthony Deegan
Any guide to bars in Barcelona is essentially going to be a matter of personal taste, so my choice of the top 10 is based solely on my 6+ years of living there and exploring the city. However, there should be something here for everyone to enjoy, from the seedy to the select.
Rita Blue: Placa Sant Augusti, 3 In a small square just off Las Ramblas, and next to an old church, Rita Blue is a favourite of locals and those lucky tourists who have been there. It's location in the square allows for spacious seating outdoors, perfect for relaxing in the shade after a day's shopping, but step inside and you'll discover a chilled-out gem that combines modernism with a hint of Bohemia. Funky and retro, there is a plush upstairs bar, a darker basement where the dance floor fairly heaves as the night goes on, and a crowd bent on enjoyment. If you like decent mexican food, you won't go too far wrong, but most first time visitors cut their teeth on the famous blue margaritas for which the bar is named.
Schilling: C. Ferran, 23 Boasting an ideal location on busy Ferran just off Las Ramblas, this bar is just the spot to get your breath back if you've been traipsing the streets all day. Appearing more like an informal library than a bar, the décor is muted and relaxed with high ceilings and the seating comfortable. Earlier in the day it is more of a bustling cafe, and serves breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, but as night falls it becomes a very lively cocktail bar, with a mixed crowd with a strong gay representation. Unlike many bars in Barcelona, service is usually fast, friendly and efficient. With it's wide windows facing out onto one of the city's busiest streets, this spot is one of the best to spend an hour people watching.
El Xampanyet: C. Montcada, 22 Tucked away in a narrow, cobbled street not far from the Picasso Museum, this has to be one of the pearls of the city. A bodega with blue tiled walls, marble tables, a zinc bar and a preponderance of artifacts, it combines the old and the new, and attracts an eclectic mix of old-timers and trendsetters. If you're planning a night of clubbing then this is the perfect spot to begin, get a bottle of Cava and sip it over tapas before hitting the hot spots.
Casa Almirall: Joaquín Costa, 33 One of the oldest bars in the city, Almirall is dimly lit and popular with young locals preparing for a night of dancing. There is somewhat a Bohemian feel to the place, with it's huge Art Nouveau mirror behind the bar, and nu-jazz and funky beats played at volumes which allow for easy conversation. Although the neighbourhood can seem a bit edgy, the street is a haunt for elderly prostitutes, the bar itself is welcoming and inexpensive, drawing a young and often international crowd.
Benidorm: Joaquín Costa 39 Just a few doors down is one of Barcelona's odder little spots, a bar where you need to be buzzed in at the door, before stepping down into a haven of kitsch and smoke. Small and lively, Benidorm attracts a mixture of trendier locals and, for whatever reason, Scandinavians, and features plenty of 80s disco gear including a revolving mirror-ball, plus one of the smallest toilets in the city. The music is unpredictable, depending on the DJ, and they often have famous guests playing their favourite music, like members of Pan Sonic or even Peaches.
Cafe del Sol: Plaça del Sol In the heart of the Gracia neighbourhood, in the famous Placa del Sol, is one of the most popular hangouts in that area. A perfect spot to chill out and watch the world go by, especially if you choose to sit outdoors, the crowd is a fine mixture of locals, ex-pats and tourists who have made it off the beaten track. There are quite a few other bars in this square, so if the music isn't to your liking you have only a few metres to go to find something different.
La Fianna: Banys Vells, 15 This is a bar with a difference, a strange mixture of old and hippy, goth and trendy, and is usually packed to it's not so high wooden rafters with all kinds of punters, listening to the odd musical mix that is the norm here. Originally created to have a North African/Arabian feel, the interior is one of red velvet curtains falling to cobbled floors, with enormous chandeliers of candles and Moroccan light fixtures. The food available is representative of the many countries from whence the staff have arrived, from Scandanavia to South Africa, and prices are very reasonable, so if fancy fare that is a little different to the usual Spanish or Catalan, then this is a perfect spot for you.
Bar Marsella: C. Sant Pau, 65 One of the oldest bars in the city, Bar Marsella opened for business in 1820, this wee gem has enjoyed the custom of some of the greatest artists to have lived in the city, including Picasso, Dali, Gaudi, Miro and the American novelist Hemingway. For many years it was the only place to get an absinthe, and today is known as THE absinthe bar, where it is served with all the formality of days gone by. The clientele is an odd mix, trendy youth drinking alongside Euro-trekkers whilst the last of the Anarchists sit at the bar sipping their lethal concoctions with other old-timers and survivors of the French Mai 68. Pure history, and an essential stop for seasoned bar-hoppers.
Belchica: C. Villarroel 60 You are more likely to hear French spoken here than Spanish or Catalan, as Belchica is the city's only Belgian bar and is thus home to many French-speaking Belgians, who come to enjoy a wide range of fine beers from home. There is a choice of over 40 Belgian beers, including the popular Leffe, Hoegaarden and Stella on draught. There are regular DJ sessions, a large screen TV for all manner of televised sports, but mainly football, and a space for photographic or art exhibitions which change frequently. Very popular with European and North American tourists.
Bar Pipa: Plaça Reial 3 Almost hidden away in the corner of Placa Reial, next to Bar Glaciar, this unusual spot is actually a club dedicated to pipe smokers, although I've never actually noticed many within. Convenient for the jazz and funk lovers leaving the nearby Jamboree venue, part of Pipa's appeal is it's wonderful opening hours – from 6pm til 6am. There is a decent pool table, they serve a good range of cocktails, and the music is always good without being overpowering. For anyone who doesn't fancy a night in a packed club, but doesn't want to make it home before dawn, Pipa is the ideal spot to sit and relax and await the dawn.
Anthony Deegan is a web developer and copywriter who splits his time between Ireland, Spain and Finland. In Barcelona he provides content for a Barcelona Apartments rental agency, and elsewhere concentrates on his Irish SEO Consultants business.
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