Guest author Duncan Rhodes shares five of his favourite Barcelona nightclubs…
Barcelona’s nightlife contributes much to its allure as one of Europe’s top destinations… this is the city where girls and boys come to combine hedonism and beach life, with just a small side helping of culture, and there are certainly no shortage of venues promising nocturnal adventures to young thrillseekers. Despite my advancing years I’ve spent much of the last four years ‘researching’ the city’s nightspots, either as a freelance journalist or for my own website (see my author profile below) or – more frequently – as just an ordinary alcoholic. It’s high time the info that I’ve amassed during these ill-spent hours hit the blogosphere, so without further ado allow me to present to you my current Top 5 Nightclubs in Barcelona.
This nightlife behemoth is located in a former factory in the one time industrial zone of Poblenou and is one of the most popular clubs in BCN, especially with the city’s student population. Its five rooms each have a different atmosphere and in fact The Loft, on the top floor, can almost be considered a club unto itself as chemically enhanced hipsters make shapes to leading acts in the world of dance like MSTRKRFT and Steve Aoki. This is in stark contrast to the main room, Razz, which is a discotheque-wreck of teenagers drinking beers from plastic glasses and footstomping to indie pop. My favourite spot is the small rooftop terrace, where you can chill out and engage in surprisingly intelligent conversation with some of the cooler kids who find their way here from foreign climes.
For my dinero the coolest club in the Gothic District, Marula is a good place to escape the drunkards on Placa Reial and party like it’s 1979 to the sounds of soul and funk. And whilst it rarely whips the crowd into a frenzy the soundtrack is a nice change from the 120BPM electro and student rock that dominates most of the dancefloors in the Catalan capital. Meanwhile the crowd is good looking and a bit more mature than the usual punters… so if you’re the wrong side of thirty here is a place you can fit in. They even have civilised toilets (almost unheard of in Barcelona!). The downside? The only beer they serve is Carlsberg… probably the worst lager in the world.
This Ibiza-style club is annoyingly located out of town, putting off all but the most dedicated clubber. But it’s well worth making the journey if hedonism is your game – and you like to play hard. DJs such as Richie Hawtin, Laurent Garnier, 2ManyDJs, Vitalic and Tiga are regulars on the decks whilst a retractable roof turns El Row into a full-on terrace club when the weather is behaving. In 2013 they are organising a series of parties at Poble Espanyol, which is far more accessible travel wise.
A bit of a curve ball, but the under-appreciated Sala BeCool is definitely one of my top five Barcelona clubs. Not so much for the music, which seems to be the same usually bland tech-house that has assaulted my ears on way too many occasions, but the crowd are the best I’ve found. Friendly, fun and unpretentious you can get chatting here to some cool people with hardly a self-congratulatory skateboarder in sight. A second floor upstairs injects a gleefully random element to the night… and you might dance to Metallica, Prince or Catalan pop.
I’ll review Opium but honestly I could be talking about Shoko, Catwalk, Sotovento and pretty much any other venue on Barcelona’s Port Olimpic strip, which are all identikit models of one another. Despite being about exclusive as your average Late Night London pub these lounge bar/clubs fancy themselves something rotten and you’ll find prices and an attitude (esp. from the bouncers) to match. Opium is the most famous and probably the best, if only because it’s one of the only ones that has a late license until 6am (the others finish at 3am, making them lightweight by Spanish standards). The music tends towards the handbag house variety designed to get the senoritas shaking their stuff and if you go with medium expectations you can certainly have plenty of fun on a night out here. None of these are quite my cup of Earl Grey but for a touch of glamour on the beach dedicated nightowls should look to spend at least one night on the Port Olimpic.
Right that’s about it. I should probably give honourable mentions to Sala Apolo (host of backpacker favourites Nasty Mondays and Crappy Tuesdays) and Mac Arena Mar (cool beach club just past Parc del Fòrum, which will hopefully reopen soon for the 2013 season!), both of which have provided me with a few very good nights out. But before I sign off I should also point out that the nightlife in Barcelona is much more than the sum of its venues… be sure to check out the street parties that happen in each and every district during summer (the most famous being the Festa Major de Gracia and La Mercè), whilst full moon parties, bar crawls, botellons and fantastic events like Primavera Sound, Sónar and Piknic Electronik (now every Sunday on Montjuïc mountain) add plenty of flavour to the mix.
Duncan Rhodes is the editor of Barcelona-life.com, where you’ll find lots more advice about nightclubs and parties in the Catalan capital. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+, and most likely in one of the aforementioned venues on any given Saturday night.