Carrer de Providència, 91, Vila de Gràcia, Gràcia
Don’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t judge this bar by its exterior. The Coca Cola sign reading “Bodega Casas” makes it look like a hole-in-the-wall dollar store selling questionable goods, but a walk through the front doors reveals a tavern-like wine shop and bar. The store at the front has wine bottles lining the walls until it reaches the bar. There’s room to sit in the annex near the bar, but the real heart of Bodega Casas is in the back. Here you can sit with a group of friends and munch on huge, well-priced raciones (full servings) of good meats and cheese while enjoying cold, cheap beer off of the tap. Simple pleasures in life, and all that.
Carrer de Torrijos, 54, Vila de Grácia, Grácia
Seventies disco meets cozy French corner café in this quaint Gràcia bar. Colorful, mod, geometric squares, painted windows, stone-tiled tables, and zebra chairs with pillows make this bar a hodgepodge of décor styles that somehow works. A TV featuring a flickering fireplace with mod lighting adds a romantic flair. On an overcast day, cheap mixed drinks and cocktails at Châlet could definitely lighten your mood.
Cafè del Teatre
Carrer de Torrijos, 41, Vila de Gràcia, Gràcia
On the opposite corner of Châlet you can visit a decidedly different bar. Cafè del Teatre has a theatrical edge with its cowboy-meets-seaside décor. The fading furniture, cow skulls, and wide windows for people watching give the bar a rustic feel while candles create a romantic atmosphere. Order some drinks and tapas here, and cozy up to your date.
Comte de Urgell, 32, Sant Antoni, l’Eixample
When in Sant Antoni, drink vermouth. When in Rekons, try a little bit of everything. This casual restaurant specializes in Argentinean empanadas; each flaky pastry looks like baked gold. And its monster salads are just plain sexy. The whole place smells like melted cheese and buttery pastries, so even though Rekons offers takeout, I dare you to try to leave this place. Rekons’ red vermouth is heavily infused with spices and is very citrusy; these strong flavors pair amazingly with salty olives. And on a sunny day, you can’t beat its corner patio in the quiet neighborhood of Sant Antoni.
Fàbrica Moritz Barcelona
Ronda de Sant Antoni, 39-41, El Raval, Ciutat Vella
Yes, it’s a bit of a tourist spot, but it’s worth the visit to enjoy a cold, overpriced glass of Moritz beer in the old factory where it all began. Just take a look inside and walk down the stairs to the bathroom to see the old brewing rooms. Seriously cool.
Carrer de l’Escorial, 3, Vila de Gràcia, Gràcia
When Gràcia gets a little too full of itself, places like Vermuteria Loú take it back to its roots. An unpretentious attitude and a homey ambiance make this bar a neighborhood favorite. Despite being right next to the metro and at the gateway to Gràcia, Loú isn’t overcrowded with tourists… probably because the locals get there first! Its vermouth is spiced and fruity, and its tapas are generous. A glass of wine, vermouth, and some sizzling patatas bravas only come out to seven euros, which can be hard to come by in Gràcia. The interior is rustic but bursting with local pride, and the outdoor covered terrace is almost always full.
Panela de Barro
Carrer de Sant Lluís, 58, Vila de Gràcia, Gràcia
Self-described by the owners as a “Brazilian bar with international music,” Panela de Barro has a way of pulling people in off the street and keeping them there. The owners, Arthur and Cristina, are probably the nicest people you’ll ever meet; in a city as big as Barcelona, it’s pretty special when someone remembers your face. They fix up a mean gin tonic flavored with tea and serve up Brazilian-inspired tapas. And let’s talk about their playlist: David Bowie, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, The Pixies, Jimi Hendrix, The Kings, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and The Who. Rock on, Panela de Barro, rock on.
Carrer d’en Robador, 23, El Raval, Ciutat Vella
Getting here is for the brave at heart—El Raval is not always the friendliest or best-lit part of town at night. With friends, I walked down the grungy street—once again reminded of the strange, piss-like odor in this neighborhood—and finally found the door, a red iron gate built into the wall. Literally a hole in the wall. But upon walking inside, we knew that our trek was worth it. Robadors 23 has a long, narrow hall with a bar stretching through most of the front. In the back is a music corner where live music plays every night. The exposed stone walls and ceiling beams made the bar feel like a speak-easy, and it is certainly a well-kept secret. Arrive early to get a seat near the musicians because this little bar fills up quickly!
Carrer de Joaquín Costa, 43, El Raval, Ciutat Vella
Not far from the Universitat de Barcelona, this second-hand bookshop with a café makes my book-loving heart skip a beat. The u-shaped construction allows you to enter in through a comfy and artistic bar and then loop around to a quiet café whose walls are lined with second-hand books. Local art is displayed on the walls in the bar, and there is no shortage of pillows, couches, and armchairs so that you have a nook to enjoy a drink and a book. If you are lucky, you’ll catch some live music to supply a soundtrack to your reading material, and a black and white film silently plays on the back wall. The lofted ceiling in the bar entrance with tall windows looking out to a bustling Raval street make Cafè Llibreria feel like a small intellectual oasis in this otherwise rough neighborhood.
Carrer del Torrent de les Flors 46, Vila de Gràcia, Gràcia
The first time I went here, I walked right past it, heard the sound of music floating in the air, and had to turn around. It was a case of well-laid plans going pleasantly awry. Old instruments lined the walls. Dim lighting with a projector and an extra hall in the back make El Col·leccionista a great music bar. I got to enjoy the last of a musician’s set while sipping on a delightfully minty mojito. After the musician got his last round of applause from locals and friends, swinging old school rock music came on. El Col·leccionista has a classy, antique charm in the hip and modern neighborhood of Gràcia.
Carrer de Providència, 3, Vila de Gràcia, Gràcia
Cozy, cute, and romantic, this little bar is great for couples and small groups of friends. The rustic Western décor with a rough, wooden bar and old clocks is sure to charm. On Mondays it offers its famous mojitos for only three euros because going back to work is rough. On Tuesdays you get a free tapa with each drink (a once common practice in Spain now unfortunately scarce in Barcelona), and on Wednesdays it offers a cheese tapa with every glass of wine. Sign me up!
Carrer d’en Rauric, 21, El Gòtic, Ciutat Vella
Just down the street from the punk bar “Nevermind” (popular with the tourists), little Sub Rosa couldn’t be any more different. Old photos, red lights, mirrors, and well-dressed bartenders create a swanky yet subversive atmosphere where electronic music blasts and the cocktails flow generously. There is something a little sinister about this bar, a bit like a strong drink covered with sweet syrup—you won’t know what hit you.
Chulapio Bar a Crepes
Carrer de Ample 12, El Gòtic, Ciutat Vella
Closing at 3 am on the weekends, Chulapio is the last bar of the night you want to get to before you hit the clubs. This bar looks like it should be right on the beach, and its drinks fit the bill! The cocktails are cool, refreshing, and tropical, exactly what you want on a night at the end of the summer. The bar completely opens to the street, inviting wanderers in. Doowop, jazz, and 60s rock music with black and white photos complete the picture. And don’t get me started on the crepes!
El Gato Negro Espit Chupitos
Carrer del Consell de Cent, 268, l’Antiga Esquerra de l’Eixample, l’Eixample
If you are looking for creative shots and cheap tapas, look no further than this tavern in l’Eixample. Its central location to numerous night clubs makes El Gato Negro Espit Chupitos a great place to start off your night. During my year abroad I went to the more raucous Espit Chupitos Aribau, but the El Gato bar offered a more casual atmosphere with the bonus of some cheap tapas. Don’t miss out on the Boy Scout shot, during which you get to roast a marshmallow over your flaming shot!
Carrer del Parlament, 39, Sant Antoni, l’Eixample
This beautiful bar whose front wall opens to the street is the epitome of the casual grace of the neighborhood Sant Antoni. Equal parts fresh, airy, rustic, minimalistic, and elegant, there is no place I would rather be on a sunny spring day in Barcelona. There is a cute upstairs eating area with windows spanning the building’s corner lot, so you can take cover even on a rainy day. It’s a perfect place to stop for coffee or some refreshing vermouth and watch the city go by. If I was a cat, I would curl up on one of the cushions facing the street and linger all day.
Carrer Torrent de les Flors, 36, Vila de Gràcia, Gràcia
Cara B was recommended to me by a fellow beer aficionado. His love for music equally endeared the bar to his heart, as the bar partnered with the Barcelona Cultural Institute to deliver high-quality live music. However, people come as much for the good music as they do for the artisanal beer. There is a great selection on tap to appease all tastes. And if you don’t find something that peaks your fancy, head to the back of the bar, where you will find a few refrigerators featuring a wide assortment of beers. Cara B is a small, intimate, and very musical space, with walls lined with vinyl records, cassette tapes, and CDs. The bar is like a musical timeline, featuring bits of famous artists from every era both on the walls and its playlist.
Carrer del Parlament, 27, Sant Antoni, l’Eixample
If I had to chose a favorite bar in Barcelona, this would be it. I know, that’s saying something, especially considering how long these lists of reviews have been getting. The bar opens entirely to the street, and the place is always so full that people are spilling out of it. It’s busy, but never overcrowded, and Vinito has some of the cheapest and best wine in the city. If you want an authentic evening of Spanish wine and tapas, this is the place to go. The bar technically functions as a wine shop, so unfortunately is closes a lot earlier than most bars in the neighborhood—such a shame, considering its delightful atmosphere. On the right are shelves lined with bottles for sale. Their choosiest bottles on the top shelf are slightly dusty, but if you aren’t into wine there are some good bottles of Belgian beer for sale too. On the left the walls are lined with barrels where your wine is dispensed. I made a mistake of thinking that the prices on the barrels were for a glass, but they are actually for a liter! This means that most glasses of any drink are under two euros, which you can’t beat in any part of the city. Take a look at the dozen or so offerings before making your order at the cashier. You can keep a tab open and order drinks and tapas as the night goes on.
Absenta del Raval
Plaça del Pes de Palla, 5, El Raval, Ciutat Vella
I am not a fan of absinthe myself, but watching the pros in this bar is quite the experience! Your absinthe is served with a lump of sugar, a spoon, a lighter, and some water. Patrons start by balancing their spoon topped with sugar over their glass and then slowly pour in a small amount of absinthe over the sugar cube so that it starts to dissolve. Once the sugar starts disintegrating and the cube is thoroughly soaked in absinthe, the sugar cube is lit on fire. Eventually, the sugar will start to caramelize and drip into the absinthe below. After the fire is almost out, water is slowly poured over the sugar cube to put out the flame and dissolve the remaining sugar. As the remaining caramelized sugar incorporates into the absinthe, the drink turns from a translucent green to a pale almond color. This absinthe is made for sipping, and with a great outdoor terrace, Absenta del Raval is made for wild summer nights.