Down On The Beach: Chiringuitos, Bars & Clubs
The much-loved chiringuito is every bit a part of Spanish culture as flamenco, Cervantes and staying up all night partying. Essentially little more than a shack in the sand that sells food and cold beverages, the best way to translate them into English would simply be 'beach bars'. But despite their garden shed appearance, and overall lack of bells and whistles, they remain fiercely popular with locals and tourists throughout summer. After all what could be better than sitting on a lovely wooden terrace by the sea with a bit of shade over your head and a sexy senor/ita serving you up ice-cold mojitos and cerveza?
You can find chiringuitos up and down Spain's scorching coastlines, and fortunately Barcelona has it's fair share of beach bars too, starting on Barceloneta Beach itself, and running all the way North via Platja de Bogatell and Platja de Marbella (the home of two gay chiringuitos). When the sun goes down these tropical-style havens don't pack up their bags, but DJs often turn up and spin some relaxing tunes for that Ibiza-style sun-down experience.
Unfortunately, due to some such nonsense as noise regulations or planning permission, or some other tedious administrative issue that only an exceptionally boring person in a suit could possibly care about, the chiringuito is under threat of closure. Which as far as Barcelona Life is concerned would be a disaster far worse than a piffling economic crisis... We'll keep you updated with any news, not to mention spearhead any 'Save Our Chiringuitos' campaign if necessary. In the meantime order yourself another jug of sangria and an ice cream and enjoy the views! (Update: they still seem to be going strong! Although wild parties on the sands may be a thing of the past).
Whilst the classic chiringuito was always a basic, ill-stocked shack of low key magnificence, the last few years have seen a more modern incarnation invade the city's sands, often run by top chefs or hospitality groups. Whilst the prices may have gone up, we won't grumble too much as the increase in quality, selection and decor of some of these "chi-chi-ringuitos" is usually worth the extra couple of yoyos (that's coolspeak for euros btw).
And in addition to the sheds literally on the sand, Barcelona also has plenty of more upmarket, lounge-style beach bars and clubs along its maritime boulevards, in which you can sip a pina colada and flash your designer labels with an ocean view. Most are positioned in a singular strip of decadent terraces on the end of Barceloneta beach, just under the two towers in the Port Olimpic area, and form an integral part of the city's nocturnal scene. See below for more...
Above: Sipping sangria in the shade...
A small selection of our favourite beach shacks...
Occupying a prime perch on Barceloneta beach, ONA's tables are perpetually packed with sun devotees enjoying a break from their worship. All their kitchen's food is made from ecological products, even the burgers, and they also do a mean mojito.
La Guingueta de la Barceloneta
Proof that the humble chiringuito is going upmarket, this little sand crawler is the baby of celebrity chefs Carles Abellán and Joan Escribà - so don't expect burger and chips on the menu. Rather designer sandwiches, Catalan hot dogs and avante garde tapas. It's easily found by "the cubes" sculpture on Barceloneta.
Set just a little back from the sands, this charismatic watering hole is less crowded and touristic than most of its neighbours, with reasonable prices and occasional live music to boot. The potted plants and bamboo canes help create a calm oasis away from the Barceloneta madness. There's no website (this Internet thing is probably just a fad, right?) but you can find it on the Placa del Mar, on the right as you look up towards the W-Hotel.
Barcelona is one of the world's most liberal cities, certainly when it comes to attitudes towards sexuality, but just to be sure you end up mixing with your crowd this beach shack is taking no chances... find it on Marbella beach, the most popular sands within the gay community in BCN. Nb. they do a fine line in gin and tonics.
Other Beach Bars & Beach Clubs
On top of the homely charms of the chiringuito, the Catalan capital also boasts some more glamorous and upmarket choices for those who fancy the appeal of a beach club but don't want to get sand in their stilettos. Most are centred around the nightlife strip on the Olympic Port.
The world's only ice bar on the beach, Ice Barcelona is the number one place to cool off in the city... so if you feel the Spanish sunshine going to your head climb inside for a glacial night out. You'll be given a sleek winter coat and a pair of mittens, then it's time to plunge into the ice chamber and drink a couple of vodkas from a frozen glass. Definitely one of the more unique things to do in Barcelona.
Opium Beach Club
If clubbing on the coast is what you're all about don't miss this place, widely regarded as the number one nightlife spot in the city. Dressed up dolls and divas brave the queues at night, whilst by day the lounge overlooking Barceloneta beach (Port Olimpic side) is a great place to kick back with a cocktail. Their restaurant is also one of the best in the area, and has a very reasonably priced lunch menu, whilst by night you can dine on Mediterranean cuisine al fresco on their terrace.
El Boo Beach Club
One of the classiest spots on the beach right now, El Boo is nicely removed from the overcrowded sands of Barceloneta and occupies a rocky pier in between the locally-frequented Mar Bella and Nova Marbella beaches. With a cocktail bar on the rooftop, a covered lounge and a terrace beach club, replete with hammocks and sun loungers, this is a prime spot for soaking up some rays.
For an in-depth guide to other great bars throughout the city, with our editorial brief and public opinion, go to our drink section.