Whittling down the best bars in Barcelona is a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. Culture Trip picks the best drinking spots in Spain’s second-largest city, featuring everything from London-style speakeasy joints and contemporary rooftop lounges to grungy dive bars. Not to mention a 19th-century absinthe bar where Hemingway plied his trade (not writing, the other one).
The only thing Ernest Hemingway loved more than writing, it seems, was a cheeky tipple. Rumour has it this 1820 absinthe-bar-turned-time-capsule was one of his regular haunts (Picasso too). And it appears little has changed since. Paint peels from the ceiling, cobwebs grow from every chandelier, and liquor bottles – packed in decaying cabinets – are preserved by dirt. But don’t let the shabby decor or lingering smell of liquorice put you off, this place is a Barcelona relic.
Like some of the best speakeasy bars in the world, The Punch Room is tough to find. Head to the Barcelona Edition Hotel and go up the swirling white Art Deco staircase and take a right. After a brief surprise, you’ll be met by a suave, dimly lit cocktail lounge equipped with a grand Castilian-style billiards table, green leather and velvet sofas, and a black granite fireplace. The go-to tipple here is rum punch served in a fancy silver bowl, but drinks aren’t cheap.
Order a bottle of crisp cava and get change from a €10 note at this dinky cava bar located between Barceloneta and the Gothic Quarter. La Xampanyeria has been running for over 50 years and is a popular spot, so it’s not unusual to see queues of locals and tourists flooding out of the door. But it’s well worth the wait. Glasses of white or rosé cava go well with the signature sausages at this cash-only bar.
Established in 1969, this small bar offers a traditional Spanish experience, complete with countless tributes to the famous jamón. It’s a long, thin, busy bar – don’t be scared to push through the crowds to find yourself a space. Guests can enjoy one of many delicious bocadillos or tapas, along with the house favourite, cava rosé, to wash the food down.
Upcycled quarter pipe chairs, fluorescent graffitied walls and heavily tattooed folk are all part of Nevermind’s vibe. It’s loud, dark and dingy (as all good dive bars should be), the beer is cheap and salted popcorn is free. A playlist of rock, metal and indie music (think Nirvana, Black Sabbath, and The Clash) plays throughout the night in this no-frills bar just off Plaça Reial. And if you’re a fan, why not check out Nevermind’s sister bar of the same name in El Raval?
When you’re in Barcelona, forget other Spanish beers like Cruzcampo and Estrella del Sur, because Moritz is the city’s best brew. And what better place to drink it than at Fábrica Moritz, the brewery in Sant Antoni. Fábrica Moritz is a bar with an industrial feel and social vibe. It’s popular with the city’s hip crowd and serves up hoppy unpasteurised beer straight from a barrel in the cellar below.
Let’s face it, English-themed bars abroad are usually not very good, but Bar Manchester in the Gothic Quarter has got the underground Britpop thing right. It’s a proper indie bar packed with vinyl records and music posters. The music (Bowie, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Kate Bush) is loud, the drinks affordable, and the decor a little shabby. It’s the kind of place where your feet stick to the floor, so don’t go expecting something fancy.
Olimpic is a chilled out bar on El Raval’s lively hipster street of Carrer de Joaquin Costa. It’s the kind of place that you walk in for a quick drink and end up staying until last orders. The slightly kitsch bar has something of a Wes Anderson vibe about it and the Moritz is so cheap they might as well be giving it away. If you want to make friends with roving fashionable locals, this is the place to go.
This place is technically not on the beach but is close enough and better than any of the overpriced chiringuitos (bar shacks) that line Barceloneta. Makamaka, which means intimate friend in Hawaiian, has been serving up happy, outdoor, surfer-summer vibes and fruity cocktails since 2012. It’s popular with the cool crowd and serves up big, sloppy burgers that are ideal for a post-beach meal.
This budget-friendly bar near Universitat metro station serves up decent mojitos for only a couple of euros. You shouldn’t need any more reasons to visit, but if you do, there’s also communal seating (so it’s easy to meet people), pink flamingo wallpaper, and an eclectic playlist. The hot dogs, burgers and nachos here aren’t going to blow you away, but are fine for lining your stomach. This place packs out at the weekend, so queueing is inevitable.
Bar, Hotel Restaurant, Spanish, Cocktails, Wine, Beer
The famed Skybar at the Grand Hotel Central only opens to non hotel guests after 8pm. A cover charge applies, but includes one stiff drink. Once you’re in, however, you’ll soon forget about stumping up the entrance fee because the bar area is plush and comes with an infinity pool, contemporary seating and panoramic views across Barcelona.
This iconic little bar, located at the top of Joaquin Costa, has a bohemian vibe and is popular with both international folk and hip locals. It’s where you go for chilled-out vibes, good tunes (indie rock, Motown etc) and a social atmosphere – you rarely leave without making new friends. The burgers and cocktails are top-notch, as are the do-anything-for-you staff.
No prizes for guessing what to order in this legendary cocktail bar founded in 1978. They used to exclusively sell only – you guessed it – Martinis but now you can get all kinds of quality cocktails, from classics to modern inventions. It’s all kind of classy, old-world elegance inside – think lashings of brass, wood and leather accompanied with a mollifying jazz soundtrack. Perfect for a sophisticated tipple.
Tucked away on a quiet street in the Gothic Quarter is Harlem Jazz – a shadowy, intimate live venue that opened back in 1987. Almost every day of the week, you can listen to the sweet sounds of jazz, blues, Latin and funk. It’s often a ticketed affair, but don’t let that put you off — both local and international acts performing here are worthy of a small investment.
Ocaña, named after the late painter and LGBT activist José Pérez Ocaña, is a labyrinth of bars and restaurants set in an old 19th-century building in the tourist-packed but unmistakably pretty Plaça Reial. Here you can order a beer and sit outside in the square or watch an underground live music session with a piña colada depending on your mood. It’s a fun, sprawling space that’s open to all.
33/45, one of the trendiest places in the neighbourhood, is a bar that serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, and drinks. It is a perfect place to have brunch and relax on the couches or to meet up with friends to enjoy good music and good company. Don’t miss the delicious cakes or the famous cocktails.
Bar, Tapas, Spanish, Beer, Wine, Cocktails, Pub Grub, $$$
Courtesy of Boadas
Just off Las Ramblas, you’ll find a classic Catalan cocteleria going by the name of Boadas. You wouldn’t think it from the tacky sign outside, but it claims to be the oldest cocktail bar in Barcelona. And judging by the decor, little has changed since it was founded in 1933. Walls are scattered in ageing photos while a long, arched bar, lit by Art Deco lamps, is backed by suave-looking mixologists donning bow ties, who are always keen to show off their pour skills.
If you’re in the market for a swanky Art Deco-style bar to enjoy a well-made cocktail, then you can’t argue with Paradiso. This bar has something of an Alice in Wonderland meets Great Gatsby feel. The show starts after you’ve passed through a fake fridge door in a pastrami shop where mixologists get to work on foamy, smoky and fiery cocktail masterpieces served up in everything from wooden horses to octopus-like martini glasses.
This bar has been kicking around since 1860 and still retains its 19th century charm in the shape of a solid marble bar top and dark wooden furnishings. The bar is split into two and while not much has changed in one part, the other was revamped in the 1970s. For a taste of Catalan Art Nouveau style and a glass of absinthe (the house special), you won’t find a better place to wet your lips than at Casa Almirall.
Fancy a boogie? Then head down to Plaça Reial to bust some moves in Jamboree, a former 1960 jazz cellar turned late-night bar/club. This grungy two-storey is all sticky dancefloors, exposed brick walls and technicolour lighting, and is famed for its lively party atmosphere. Upstairs plays indie, Motown and chart hits while downstairs there’s usually R&B and Hip Hop. Jamboree also hosts live DJ and jazz performances and is open 365 days a year.
This tiny corner bar in the Gracia neighbourhood is where you go for a couple of fair-priced cocktails in an intimate setting. Walls here are clad in prints, modern art and colourful patterns, the vibe is laidback and the staff are super friendly. If you’re on your own, just pull up a vintage chair and people-watch until your heart’s content.
Imagine a science laboratory with bubbling beakers and jars full of mysterious pickled objects and you’ll have a good idea of Dr. Stravinsky. While many mixologists could be considered innovative these days, this bar takes experimental a step further with evaporation and oxidisation techniques, invented shaker machines, unusual attempts like pine or broccoli garnishes, and a sort of atomic, chemistry looking menu that will help you select the perfect pairing for your tastebuds. Expect a bustling and trendy atmosphere at this bar that has quickly gained popularity since its 2017 opening.