Continuing my 5-part 10 item list of things that tourists should do if they get the chance to spend a few days in Barcelona. The first part can be found here.
“Vamos a la playa”
The great thing about Barcelona is that it’s a beach city. It features not one, not two but at least nine beaches and I’m not talking about the beaches that are outside the city such as in Sitges or Castelldefels. Better yet, all these beaches have sweet names that just make you want to dive in: Sant Sebastia, Sant Miquel, Barceloneta, Somorrostro, Nova Icaria, Bogatell, Mar Bella, Nova Mar Bella, Llevant.
At any time of the year – although I would recommend the warmer months – the beach is a great place to just chill. You could go by the standard approach which is to lay a towel on the first stretch of sand you find, but what kind of person would I be if I didn’t give you better advice than that? To best maximize your beach enjoyment, I have to give you a little geography lesson. The beaches I named earlier are in order from South to North. Avoid Sant Sebastia and Barceloneta like the plague because you will run into tourists and all their trash in the water. I don’t even walk barefoot on those beaches. Actually, as rule of thumb the further you go north, the better the beaches get.
The good thing about Barceloneta is that is a very long beach and there are plenty of delicious (but overpriced) restaurants. If you keep walking North, you will hit Somorrostro, which I call the clubbing beach. There you will find nightclubs like Opium, Shoko, CDLC as well as the Casino. In other words, don’t bother going there during the day, you’ll get more out of it at night-time. In order to get to Nova Icaria you have to get your feet out of the sand and walk on some concrete to cross the Port Olimpic, which I will later refer to as “The Bronx” (see #4 about Clubs). Suffering through that small stretch is well worth arriving at Nova Icaria beach. I have personally renamed it the volley-ball beach in honour of the very attractive self-less volley-ball aficionados (male and female) who play there all the time. You could say that it is the most visually interesting beach, just be careful not to drool ;-). At this point you’ll notice that the sand and water are much cleaner, you hear more Spanish and Catalan. If you go one more beach over to Bogatell, you will see a bunch of snack shacks on the beach and you’ll know you’ve hit the jackpot. Going past Bogatell into Mar Bella, means hitting the nudist beach, and although there are certainly fewer people after that, you really do not need to go that far to enjoy your Barcelona Beach Experience.
A few bits of advice: beware of pickpockets. If you thought the one’s on the streets of Barcelona were good, wait until you experience the one’s on the beach. Hopefully, you won’t have to. Always keep a good visual of your belongings, while keeping them relatively hidden and at close proximity to you
Saving the best for last: As annoying as they will get, embrace the presence of the “cerveza-beer » guys. You might not understand what I am talking about now, but you will recognize them immediately once on the beach. They walk around all day selling 1€ beers and water – they also sell other things if you ask. Having to hear them and ask them to go away all the time is a small price to pay for 1€ beers on the beach. Some goes for the Asian masseuses. It’s part of the Barcelona beach culture. Embrace it!
- Go Clubbing
I couldn’t possibly write a guide about Barcelona without mentioning its world-renowned night scene. The great thing about Barcelona’s nightlife is that there is something for everyone. Unfortunately, I will not cover bars in this post because there are too many bars that I haven’t tried, and I couldn’t do them all justice.
The first thing you should know is that Barcelonians party late (very late by North American standards). There is no point in showing up at 1 A.M. Because the club will barely have opened by then. The only times when I tried to go early was to avoid a line and be guaranteed entry when an artist I particularly enjoyed, or someone really famous, was expected to play. On a regular night, if you aim for 2 or 2:30 things begin to fill up and get interesting. In any case, expect to be out clubbing until at least 5 or 5:30. Even if you are only planning on getting a few cervezas in bar-club, you most likely won’t be in bed until the sun rises.
In terms of recommendations, most tourists and Erasmus students flock to the many clubs that are on the beach, especially in summer. If you get off at the Ciutadella-Vila Olimpica metro station, you will have access to Shôko, CDLC, the IceBar and – the most famous – Opium, which has featured the likes of David Guetta, Avicii, Afrojack, The Black Eyed Peas, Steve Aoki and Fedde Le Grand. I would only recommend going there if you like very commercial music and you want a stereotypical clubbing experience.
However, if you continue walking along the beach to Port Olimpic, and down a few steps, you’ll reach what my roommate and I have baptised “the Bronx”. It’s a dark stretch of bar-clubs filled with promoters trying to lure you in with free shots. In terms of music, you can find anything from hip-hop to bachata and reggaeton. It might seem like a sketchy area but you are guaranteed to have fun if you’re into that kind of music and scene.
If you decide to walk to the complete opposite end of the beach, you will reach the W Hotel, nicknamed “La Vela” (The Sail in Spanish) by locals because the building is supposedly in the shape of a sail. Located on the 26th floor of the hotel, this club is pretty high-end. You might line-up for a while and/or have to be willing to spend a lot of cash to get in. But, the view is amazing. The club takes over an entire floor of the hotel and exterior walls are all made of glass. You get a full view on all of Barcelona’s beaches… even in the washroom. The big spenders amongst you will definitely want to stop there.
If you are afraid of water, the beach isn’t your scene or you hate getting sand in your shoes, you might consider going clubbing on Barcelona’s Calle Tuset. It feels like there are only clubs on this street. It tends to be a bit exclusive, but like any “exclusive” place, you can easily go in by either becoming friends with the bouncer, dressing well, looking good or acting like you have money. I would suggest going to Bling Bling, Boujis or Sutton. All these clubs have hosted international celebrities in their VIP sections. Even if you go on an off night, you’ll probably see or meet a famous footballer or important businessmen. But I must warn you, expect to see a lot of entitled rich kids, girls who think they are untouchable goddesses, as well as the type of music that attracts those people. The good thing about the Sutton however, is that you can always escape that crowd by going into their reggaeton room or chatting up the model-bartenders.
Personally, my favourite club is the Apolo… but only on Mondays when they host Nasty Mondays (or Nastys for short). It is the only place to go on a Monday night. The concept is so popular that they exported it to New York! Unlike all the other clubs I have mentioned so far, the scene and the people are much more casual. You don’t need to worry about the dress code. The music is also much less commercial; it is a bit more electro at times and at a certain point of the night it gets very rock’n’roll, but don’t worry, they only play classic hits that we all love to dance to. I’ve never regretted going out to Nasty Mondays, even if I had important things to do the next day,
Last but not least: Razzmatazz. Opinions diverge on this club. It is very different depending on the night you choose, and it has changed a lot in the past few years. Prices have gone up, the crowd has changed and there are more tourists, which leaves many to wonder if Razzmatazz still is the best club in the city. But there is one thing that everyone can agree on, Razzmatazz is by far Barcelona’s biggest club. With its five rooms, you are sure to find music that you’ll like. Just make sure not to lose your friends. The smoke room is actually a the rooftop terrace and is a great place for socializing without being intoxicated by the smoke. People might not have a clear consensus on this place but one thing is for sure, if you are only in Barcelona for one night and you want to go clubbing and get a typical Barcelona experience that you can brag about to your friends, you should definitely consider going to Razzmatazz.
Of course, a city like Barcelona has many more clubs you could go to. There is something for everyone’s liking in every neighbourhood of the city. I don’t mention bars or smaller clubs because the only real way to find the best hidden gems is by following the locals, no guide will ever reveal the places off the beaten path. It might be because some places are best kept secret, or simply because the one writing the guide has no memory whatsoever of what those places were called and where they were located.