The Other Side of Barcelona After Dark

By Tom DeFeo

Whoever dubbed New York the city that doesn’t sleep obviously hadn’t made it over to the Catalan capital of Barcelona. With less than a quarter of the population, Barcelona’s thriving nightlife can hold its own against New York’s or any other city’s on the planet. With most bars closing around 2, people often think nightclubs when they think late night Barcelona but what many don’t consider are the city’s late night bars and for some of those bars that’s the whole idea.

While most bars close up shop by 2 leaving locals and students alike liquored up and primed to dump cash and grind bodies at a beach club, some bars like The Lord Byron on Carrer de València don’t open their doors until 3 am and serve alcohol until 6 or 7 in the morning. While these specially licensed drinking establishments are all good and fun the real spirit of after-hours drinking can only be found in the few illegally-run bars scattered throughout the city. These “clandestine” bars have become quite trendy in some of the more liberal neighborhoods of the city like Barrio Gotico and El Raval where some 40 such establishments have popped up in the past couple of years alone. The driving force behind these establishments are the growing number of okupas, Spanish squatters, who have made some of the city’s abandoned buildings their permanent residences as well as their places of business serving drinks to locals and travelers alike straight through the break of dawn.

For many, the real novelty in these bars is the search, itself. For the most part they are unmarked and their whereabouts are only made known through word of mouth. With most not opening up until 3 am or later, searching for one can lead you to some of the sketchier parts of town well past the witching hour so be safe and don’t be discouraged if your search leads you to a few underground opium dens and whorehouses, all these types of hedonistic establishments tend to pop up in the same areas of town so chances are if you found one your close to the other.

So the next time you want to leave your high heels and hair gel at home and get a taste of the city’s underworld get a group of friends together and wander aimlessly through the city letting the muffled sounds of music and late night banter be your guiding light.

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