It’s not uncommon for a bar or restaurant to be judged by how popular it is – the more people waiting at the door, the better – but sometimes the best places are the ones that no one else really knows about. Originating from Prohibition era USA – back when selling alcohol was illegal – speakeasies have been providing a hidden drinking space for punters for decades. We reveal our guide to Barcelona’s best kept secrets.
If the speakeasy concept is hot in Barcelona at the moment it’s all thanks to this recent newcomer that has got everyone talking. A trendy cocktail bar with a drinks list designed by award-winning barman Giacomo Giannotti , El Paradiso is accessed via an unassuming sandwich place. Known as the Pastrami Bar, the food joint is located just across from the Estació de Francia in El Born and is the latest project of Barcelona based foodie, the Rooftop Smokehouse, famous for their mouthwateringly delicious smoked meats. Ask kindly behind the counter and you’ll get a nod when you can get in the back.
Not quite what you expect, the Speakeasy is in fact a speakeasy….restaurant. Located in the backroom of the classic cocktail bar Dry Martini – one of the Barcelona’s very finest – the mysterious locale started off as an unofficial canteen for guests at the bar who were in need of a reviving snack. Today, gone are the days of needing a password to get in, and guests can call up in advance to request a table. But the venue manages to maintain all its original charm and feeling of mystery, as guests are lead through the back doors to their table.
Not quite a speakeasy bar, Antic Theatre is just the kind of place that doesn’t bother advertising itself because it doesn’t really want anyone else knowing it’s there. Content with the full-house it racks up every weekend and most evenings, the venue is a theater as well as a bar with an open air courtyard located just by the Palau de la Música. You could easily walk past it as there’s no sign on the street telling you where it is and the stairs at the entrance occult the beautiful outdoors space nestled between old stone houses. Attracting a young, indie crowd, this is an endlessly laid-back hang-out which doesn’t need to try hard to be cool.
Located in the mysterious backstreets of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, Bar Mariatchi has been on the run in the city for years, and was one of the first clandestine bars to open in the city when squatters would occupy buildings which owners could no longer afford to run and transform them into underground drinking dens. The Mariatchi – whose tagline is ‘bad parties, worse hangovers’ – made a name for itself thanks to the crowd of local musicians which it attracted, including the famous singer Manu Chao. Today the bar has more of a permanent feel to it and you’re unlikely to find yourself at the heart of a police raid while you’re there – but the free spirit of the venue lives on and musicians still regularly pop in for an impromptu jam session.
One of Barcelona’s most well-established private smokers clubs, the Pipa Club was originally located in the heart of the city, on one of the floors of the buildings on Plaça Reial. However, ever-increasing rent prices forced the venue to relocate from the city center and find a new home in Gracià. The club has long been at the forefront of the live jazz music scene in Barcelona, with live acts on every weekend ranging from swing to jazz manouche and more. While the new venue may not have the olden day charm of the original building, the spirit of the club remains unchanged and it’s still one of the best places to end a Saturday night in town.
Perhaps the quirkiest of Barcelona’s secret bars, El Armario, simply meaning ‘the wardrobe’, is an less-than-official watering hole which is accessed via – you’ve got it – a wardrobe located in the owner’s front room. Not the kind of place to have fixed opening hours, let alone a website, this is one of Barcelona’s original clandestine drinking spots and remains true to its origins even today. Your best bet if you want to get in is to turn up around 3am and casually knock on the door without causing too much of a stir. If the owner is in the right mood they’ll let you in but otherwise be prepared to come back another day.