Barcelona Nightlife... Nonstop Fiestas!
It may lack the diversity of the London scene or the cutting edge of the experimental Berlin nightlife, but considering it's only Spain's second biggest city Barcelona certainly packs a helluva party punch - and whether you like to get high with the hippies, or get down with the glitterati you'll find more than enough going on after the sun goes down... in fact, if you want to keep pace with the locals, you'd best be prepared to see the sun come back up again.
A metropolitan city of close to two million people (five if you include the whole urban area), there isn't one area to sample Barcelona's nightlife but rather a whole host of happening neighbourhoods to check out. Read on for the best barrios for going out and the best venues in each district, along with the general vibe... by the end of the article you'll have all the info you need to start your own nocturnal adventures!
WHERE TO GO OUT
A natural starting point for newcomers is of course Las Ramblas and - on either side of it - the narrow streets of the medieval Old Town. Barcelona's busiest boulevard by day, Las Ramblas is also heaving by night, especially in the early stages of the evening when the street performers are still playing their trade and the pavements throng with locals and tourists heading out for drinks and dinner. Restaurants at this time are spilling over with customers fuelling themselves on tapas and other treats (although you'll find better quality for cheaper elsewhere! Check our eating out section for suggestions), whilst the strip also has plenty of bars and clubs: Boadas cocktail bar, the Kiosk La Cazalla, and Boulevard Club are some of the more well known. For something a little more sophisticated drop by on Le Pop Cocktail Bar (the lounge of Le Meridien Hotel), which boasts one of the best bartenders in town.
Generally speaking Las Ramblas (above) is merely a crossing point to greener nightlife pastures, and for the more authentic local venues you'll have to negotiate the labyrinthine alleys of the Gothic Quarter. Here you'll find scores of sassy little spots hidden away in dark corners, such as the stylish Milk Bar, which has a great cocktail menu, and Sugar; plus of course a handsome selection of Irish and British pubs, like the friendly and flirty Flaherty's, where you can mingle with (ie. chat up) some fellow tourists - check out their Beer Pong tournaments on Thursdays, or Ladies Night on Fridays. Plaza Real (Royal Square) is a great place to orientate yourself in this neck of the woods, with famous clubs like Jamboree, Sidecar and Tarantos perennial faves with the backpacker crowd that congregate here. The latter actually hosts the flamenco part of this highly-rated Tapas and Flamenco Night.
Above: Things tend to get blurry in BCN after dark!
El Born (to Party!)
For a slightly more sophisticated slice of Barcelona's nightlife, the equally pretty, but slightly less touristy, El Born is also very central and here you'll find all manner of trendily-attired nightowls crowding into cafes and bars - especially in the district's heart, the Passeig del Born. Check out Miramelindo and Coppelia Club for two reliable faves, or trawl the backstreets to find hidden hotspots and weird and wonderful surprises like Cat Bar.
Revel in Raval...
If you can't identify with Born (get it?), then the edgier Raval is the other side of the Ramblas, where street kids play cricket or football and generally run riot as Bohemian imbibers stroke their side whiskers and order another chupito or two. The heart of the district is the Rambla de Raval where hip bars like Zentraus and Ambar are interspersed with kebab joints, whilst a more glam crowd congregate at cocktail bars like the suave Marmalade, where you can order a 'Pornstar Martini' or the lusty 7Sins, where a basement dancefloor creates a pre-club vibe (technically the latter is just out of Raval, by Plac Universitat). Meanwhile in the area surrounding the MACBA museum, skate fashion rules supreme. Pierced and tattooed kids practice tricks on their boards before later heading down to the Nou de la Rambla, where legendary clubs like Les Enfants (the oldest disco in the city!), Moog (famous for tech/minimal DJs) and Sala Apolo (home of the excellent midweek parties, Nasty Mondays and Crappy Tuesdays). For something more relaxed, pop into The Quiet Man for a pint. Live music every Friday and Saturday nights and always a convivial atmosphere.
In (The) Addition...
If the Gothic Quarter, Born and Raval make up Barcelona's Old Town, then 80% of the rest of the city is made up of L'Eixample, which means 'The Addition'. This grand, grid-patterned section of the Catalan capital rose up during the industrial revolution in the beautiful Modernista architectural style and is largely residential... but that doesn't mean there's nothing going on! Finding a good bar in L'Eixample is more about knowledge than luck, on account of its huge size, but here's a hitlist to get you started: it doesn't get more central than Belushi's Bar which is just off Placa Catalunya (the city's central square) and the perfect place to kick off the night before heading clubbing. Be prepared for a young international party crowd and dangerous drinks promos. Meanwhile ale lovers more into sipping a quiet pint should make a bee(r)-line for The Loch Inn, a great Scottish boozer with an amazing beer and whisky selection. Whilst cocktail lovers should move swiftly over to Slow Barcelona (which also has an suave club upstairs), for some of the most innovative concoctions in town. Finally the part of Eixample around Casanova street has been dubbed Gayxample, and you don't need to be genius to figure out why. Trendy bars, restuarants and saunas abound, as well as the odd disco, like Metro or Arena.
Fiestas de Gracia...
A similarly alternative vibe to Raval prevails in the district of Gracia, but more locally dominated than the immigrant-inhabited 'Ravalistan'. Here in Gracia you’ll find a very Catalan quarter oozing charisma and aspiring artists – with not too many tourists, except those lost on the way to Parc Guell. There are many fine bars, like the excellent La Cigale and La Fourmi that cater to the barri's more Bohemian residents, whilst a slightly more genteel and older crowd can be found at Belle Epoque and Tournesol. Alternatively, if it's a hot day and you're broke, you can just hang out on one of Gracia's many squares, such as the Placa del Sol, with a tinnie. Illegal but half of Barcelona will be doing the same.
Drinking in Dry Town...
And, shhhh, keep it quiet, but these days the once unloved district of Poble Sec (Dry Town) is considered a pretty hip barrio, with the likes of Maumau Underground and Rouge Bar attracting a savvy set of drinkers. For general boozing and carousing Carrer Blai is the centre of the district and virtually every bar on this bustling pedestrian street has a terrace.
Going for Gold...
For a more upmarket experience put on your best glad rags and hail a cab for the Port Olimpic. Here a string of upmarket lounge bars, such as CDLC, Shoko and Sotavento attract a well-heeled cosmopolitan crowd to sip cocktails on their beach terraces before everyone moves indoors to get down and dirty on the dancefloor. Most of these places close at 3am unfortunately but Opium and Catwalk keep going until 6am. (To be sure of getting into any of these places check out our page on club guest lists in Barcelona). For a memorable way to kick off any night at the Port Olimpic we suggest you start by dropping by the Ice Bar, for a dip in their sub-zero chamber. Everything is frozen and even the glasses are made of ice. Finally, down from all the posh lounge clubs is the Moll Mestral, on the harbour itself. Sophisticated it ain't... a row of free entry bars and clubs belt out everything from salsa to techno... but amidst this unsalubrious strip there is at least one venue worth calling in on: Kennedy's Irish Bar has live music Thurs to Sunday and is open until 5am at weekends.
Get on the Boat!
The Olympic Port is also where the epic Barcelona boat party aka booze cruise leaves from several times a week during summer... a must if you're serious about having fun. DJs, BBQs, beers, babes in bikinis, jumping off the boat and lots more shenanigans. After the organisers sort you out with free club entry.
Life's a Beach
A couple of beaches down from the Port Olimpic and you'll find a jewel in isolation... El Boo is a haven for hipsters and high-rollers: a swish palace on the pier with rooftop cocktail bar and sun-kissed terrace, for sipping mojitos and mingling with Spanish celebs.
If sadly however your beat-up zapatos are unlikely to get past the door of such swanky spaces on the sea front then you might be lucky enough to find a beach party going on at one of the chiringuitos (beach bars) or if not maybe just join the layabouts (there's plenty of them in Barcelona!) strumming a guitar on the sand and smoking something not quite legal.
More Clubs...The Big Hitters!
Exhausted already? Well there’s plenty more nightlife to come! If you thought Port Olimpic was posh (and you loved it!) then get in with the real cool Catalan crowd at upmarket venues like Sutton Club around Diagonal where the girls dress like film stars and the boys look like catalogue cut outs. Slightly more democratic is Otto Zutz, another vast arena of nocturnal mischief. And if you're serious about your dance music then you might want to try Sala Becool (minimal/electro/tech-house), and of course the legendary open air nightclub in Poble Espanyol – La Terrrazza (Balearic house). Perhaps the best club for a guaranteed good time though is the mammoth Sala Razzmatazz with its five rooms playing everything from serious beeps and blips (The Loft) to cheesy rock and pop (the other four rooms!). Meanwhile a newcomer in the scene is KER Club (run by a very experienced team of electronic music aficionados who used to run the legendary ROW14 amongst other venues). KER is focused on high quality dance nights, presided over by the likes of Richie Hawtin and Seth Troxler... whilst the spirit of ROW14 still lives on during their legendary El Row Sunday afterparties.
Right, you can consider yourself officially informed on Barcelona's nightlife scene. For full listings of all the best bars and nightclubs in the city check out our drink section (or head straight to our A-Z directory of venues); and for places for dining out our eat section has some great restaurant recommendations to start the night. Just remember Barcelona parties all night, so go grab a siesta before you fiesta!
For more information on where exactly to be and when please consult our Barcelona weekly party calendar, with top suggestions on where to booze and boogie Mondays through to Sundays...
Tours & Crawls...
To book an incredible nightlife tour of Barcelona, which takes you to several hip hotspots before getting you VIP entry into the exclusive Opium Beach Club, then check out Barcelona Party Tour. An official partner of Barcelona Life, their team organise amazing parties every Friday and Saturday night during the long summer season. For just €37.95 you get transport, free drinks and VIP entry into Opium... just email us dates and number of people and we'll tell them to reserve you a space!
If all this dressing up, pouting and posing sounds a bit too posh for you then why not simply get the beers in during a raucous pub crawl of the Old Town, or sign up for the ultra-hip alternative Barcelona bar crawl. Both are a great way to meet people and, of course, get drinking.