See how Barcelona comes alive every night

May 24, 2013
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Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 2.17.30 PMBarcelona rebirths at night.  During the day, the city is a bustling mixture of culture, history, architecture, and color.  After a mid-day siesta, the city comes alive again, offering various types of nightlife experiences for anyone’s wishes.

Sandra Garcia Nolan, a Barcelona local and tour director for EF Tours, gave suggestions for experiencing Barcelona nightlife.

Her first rule of advice?  Get on the Barcelona time schedule.

“When you come to Barcelona, you’ve got to change your brain,” Nolan said.

A typical Saturday afternoon in Barcelona, according to Nolan, includes going to the beach, park, or shops.  At 8:00 p.m., Barcelona locals go home and get prepared for the night to come.  Dinner doesn’t start until 9:30 or 10 p.m., so if you go out for dinner at five or six, the restaurants might be closed, or worse, you might be the only customer.

Wade Cotton studied in Barcelona for six months.  He said it was difficult at first to get adjusted, but going with the flow made it manageable.

“The pace never seems frantic,” Cotton said.

To begin your own nightlife tour, go somewhere tranquil, and quieter.  Find a bar that closes around 12, such as Bodega La Palma, Les Tapes, or Zona d’ Ombre, all in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona.

Barbara Valderas, the owner of Les Tapes, said she considers her bar, which has been around since 1982, a hole in the wall that is usually friendly and warm.  Valderas said that since it opened in 1982, the customers have been like family.

“We don’t really open very late,” Valderas said.  “But we always seem to have a buzz.”

Miguel Angel Cruz, owner of Zona d’ Ombre, said because of it’s location in the Gothic Quarter, it’s good place to start off a night. Zona d’ Ombre is a cozy wine cellar that offers a selection of food to complement the wine.

“It is a relaxed atmosphere where you can have a nice wine with good conversation,” Cruz said.

Dinner takes a few relaxed hours and doesn’t entail a meal with courses.  Usually, a group of friends will order tapas and share a bottle or two of wine.

Ordering different types of tapas is an excellent way to get a wide range of flavors while getting full at the same time.  Pan con tomate (crispy bread slices doused in olive oil and tomatoes), croquetas (small breadcrumb-fried rolls containing mashed potatoes and meat or vegetables), and Spanish omelets (thick with mashed potatoes and fried in olive oil), are all popular tapas.  Finish up dinner with a shot of ratafia – a licorice tasting liqueur that is sipped slowly and is supposed to help settle the stomach before a night of drinking.

No earlier than midnight, the bars start to fill up.  To find a bar, Nolan advised to take note of the floor.   A dirty floor means that the bar is popular and has a relaxed atmosphere, because patrons eating seafood will throw extra pieces on the floor.

Be sure to try a San Miguel, Estrella, or Moritz – the beer of Barcelona.

El Raval will be an eye-opening experience for a casual tourist, with its gritty and local atmosphere.  Bars there, such as 33/45, have couches that provide a chill vibe.

33/45 social media and events manager Vaness La Parra said that their bar is a multi-space place that holds art exhibitions, live music, djs, and crepes at dinner time.

“The Raval is a multicultural, rough and ready district – famed in the past for being Barcelona’s capital of cabaret, crime and prostitution,” said La Parra.  “You have a mix these days with cool, underground, hipster and grimy places.”

Cotton said that his advice to avoid touristy places is to look where people normally wouldn’t flock to.

“The best part of the town is getting to know the people there and finding all the nooks in the city that are still undiscovered,” Cotton said.