After General Franco’s death in 1975, Spain started to enjoy a new lease of life and the Fiesta (party) became an integral part of the Spanish way of life. The capital, Madrid, started the new wave of serious partying in the early 80´s and then from 1985, the Catalans really exploited the idea of organizing parties in the famous white Island Ibiza.
Other cities, generally in the south like Marbella and Benidorm followed suit, building huge apartment blocks and hotels to cater for the hoards of foreigners looking for 2 weeks of sun, sea, sangria and fiesta.
It seems Barcelona never really wanted to offer the cheap 2 week holiday and instead opted for the more reputable tourist. However this all changed after the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, and it is safe to say Barcelona is now one of the most visited European cities visited by tourists looking for some serious fiesta.
Barcelona’s streets system is very similar to New York’s street grid system, that is to say, every thing is constructed around a block system and the borders of each area within Barcelona are very well defined.
The same can be said for its nightlife. Different areas offer different styles of music and concepts. Poble Nou has bars and nightclubs which cater for rockers and heavy metal music is the popular vibe in this area. Having said that Razzmatazz, probably the biggest club in Barcelona and most forward thinking, is situated right in the middle of all the head banging.
The Port Olímpic area has 2 sections, divided by the famous Arts Hotel. To the left of the hotel (facing the sea) is a strip of bars and discos offering free shots hip hop, commercial dance and reggaeton to all the passers by. Its does resemble the more tacky cheap side of night clubbing and the odd bit of trouble is always a possibility.
However, to the right of the hotel one can find a more sophisticated clubbing experience with bars and clubs like Shoko, CDLC and Opium Mar offering designer clubbing at its best.
Las Ramblas is 100% geared up for the tourist with lots of Irish/English pubs dotted around plus a few nightclubs in Plaça Reial, Las Ramblas and Nou de la Rambla.
Apollo, on Nou de la Rambla, is the exception with various clubs nights playing reggae to techno on any given night.
The gay scene is alive and kicking in an area called Eixample (better known as Gayxample), with most of the bars and clubs located on Concejo de Ciento street.
As we move north of Diagonal, the clubbing experience radically changes. The streets north of Diagonal, such as Aribau, Tuset, Maria Cubi and Lincoln, theoretically have clubs for the middle/upper class Catalans. Clubs such as Sutton and Luz de Gas purposefully make entrance difficult and will use any excuse in the book to not let you in if they do not know you or do not like your style of dressing. Finally on Tibidabo Hill there are a few bars which have great views of the city and are generally frequented by couples or lovers.
When I arrived in Barcelona I was shocked to hear nightclubs don’t get going until 3.30 A.M. and close at 6 A.M. In general people eat dinner around 10 P.M. and hit the bars around mid-night. It’s not uncommon to meet up with friends at 1 A.M. to start the night. It does take a while to get use to especially if you are used to going out at 8 P.M. which is the case in many countries.
But it does make sense and is dictated by the weather. It’s simply too hot to eat a big meal at 7 P.M. and too hot to start drinking at 8 P.M. Prices do vary from bar to bar and club to club. In fact due to the tourist boom in Barcelona the prices have risen drastically over the last 10 years. In the more fashionable areas it’s hard to buy a beer under 6 euros or a long drink under 10 euros. In the more down to earth bars a beer can cost as little as 2.50 euros and a long drink 6 euros. It’s definitely worth while finding some cheap bars to start the night off.
Previously I mentioned in some areas the clubs are quite difficult to get into. The security staff in Barcelona in general does not have such a bad reputation. There might happen some isolated incidents but I rarely see trouble and if it does occur it is dealt with swiftly and fairly.
Also the government wisely introduced a new law in 2008 obliging all security staff to register with the town hall. All bouncers also have to take an exam and are not allowed continue working in the security game if they fail the exam.
I have to admit 10 years ago Barcelona’s clubbing scene was more innocent, less synthetic and freer. Numerous bars beside the famous statue of Christopher Columbus have closed down and 2 clubbing institutions La Paloma and Danzatoria have been forced to say last orders due to pressure from local residents.
Having said this new clubs have emerged and coupled with the international festivals such as Sonar and naturally Barcelona still remains one of the greatest European clubbing cities.