Drink at Barcelona’s “secret” bars

Barcelona is a nightlife-lover’s paradise. Between the city’s thriving music scene, liberal drinking laws and the generally hedonistic social attitudes of many Spaniards, you’re almost assured a good time when you go out. I have spent many a night wandering the narrow streets of the Barrio Gotico neighborhood, hopping from one tiny bar to the next while enjoying a few mojitos with friends.

If that’s not convincing enough, an article in today’s Guardian points out that nightlife-lovers have yet another reason to visit Barcelona – a growing trend of “hidden” bars. In recent years an estimated 40-some-odd illegal drinking establishments have sprung up, thanks largely to the okupas, Spanish squatters who occupy the city’s many empty buildings.

Spiraling housing costs have put buying or renting apartments out of reach for many Spaniards, who have taken to occupying empty buildings as a last resort. Some of the more enterprising squatters have created bars with their space, earning themselves some extra cash. A few spots to check out include:

  • El Mariachi – a favorite hangout for the city’s musicians, this quirky spot is nothing more than a few mismatched pieces of furniture. The real highlight is the cocktails, which include the Hydro-Miel, the house specialty mixed with honey. (Corner of Carrer dels Codols and Carrer d’en Rull, Barrio Gotico)
  • El Armario – another tiny spot in the El Raval neighborhood. The name in Spanish means “wardrobe,” which is accurate: you literally walk past the owner’s clothing collection to get inside. (Carrer de la Riereta, El Raval)
  • The Front Room – this bar, which does not seem to have an “official” name, occupies a small front room behind a tiny metal door on the Carrer d’en Carabassa. (Metal door opposite 5 Carrer d’en Carabassa, Barrio Gotico)

If you want to visit these places, be prepared and be patient. Most don’t have signs or set hours of operation, usually opening after 2am when Barcelona’s other bars are shutting down. Furthermore, their illegal status makes them targets for closure by police. In other words, have some back-up drinking options. But if you’re headed out with an open mind and little bit of persistence, Barcelona’s hidden bars look ready to offer a uniquely Spanish “night on the town.”