Barcelona is as vibrant by night as it is by day. To get into the rhythm of the city, enjoy an early evening promenade along Les Rambles, and a stop in a tapas bar or two, followed by a late dinner. If you don't want to dine in a nearly deserted restaurant—or among other tourists only—plan to arrive in your chosen restaurant sometime after 9pm. Most nights, that will probably be all the entertainment you need.
But Barcelona also has a rich cultural scene, and the landmark venues of Palau de la Música Catalana and Gran Teatre del Liceu come alive when performers take the stage. As the name suggests, the Palau de la Musica specializes in musical performances which present no language barriers. Although the Liceu is known for its opera and theatrical productions, it also schedules an interesting mix of dance and music.
There are also several notable theater venues on Montjuïc, including Teatre Grec (Passeig de Santa Madrona, 36; tel. 93-316-10-00; www.bcn.cat/grec; Metro: Espanya), an atmospheric open-air amphitheater on the site of a former quarry; and Mercat de Les Flors (Carrer Lleida, 59; tel. 93-426-18-75; www.mercatflors; Metro: Espanya or Poble Sec), which occupies a building from the 1929 International Exposition and is known for championing innovative drama, dance, and music. These two venues, along with Teatre Lliure (Passeig Santa Madrona, 40–46; tel. 93-289-27-70; www.teatrelliure.com; Metro: Espanya), host Barcelona's acclaimed Grec Festival in July—an extravaganza of dance, theater, music, and even circus arts.
During the summer, one of the best places to enjoy jazz is on the rooftop of La Pedrera. Otherwise, check out the schedule of jazz, blues, and world music at Sala Jamboree in the Barri Gòtic (Plaça Reial, 17; tel. 93-319-17-89; www.masimas.com/jamboree; Metro: Liceu), which features both up-and-coming and established artists. Santa María del Pi also has a summer concert series in the church's “Secret Garden.”
The concentration of bars at the Maremagnum shopping complex is very popular with the college crowd and, surprisingly, the somewhat old-fashioned Poble Espanyol has a number of popular venues, including the open-air disco La Terrazza (tel. 93-272-49-80; www.laterrazza.com) with its great city views, and The One (www.poble-espanyol.com/en/night), a trendy club with a lively DJ scene.Barcelona is not in the forefront of the flamenco revival, but several venues present colorful and enjoyable performances with dancers, singers, and musicians. Flamenco Tablao Cordobes (Les Rambles, 35; tel. 93-317-57-11; www.tablaocordobes.com; 42€; Metro: Liceu) occupies a lovely Moorish-style performance space with tilework and arched ceilings. Flamenco Tablao Patio Andaluz (Carrer Aribau, 242; tel. 93-209-35-24; www.jesuscortes.net; 33€; Metro: Gràcia) features dancer Jesús Cortés, a member of an accomplished family of flamenco artists. At Poble Espanyol, El Tablao de Carmen (tel. 93-325-68-95; www.tablaodecarmen.com; 39€) is named for the Barcelona-born dance legend Carmen Amaya. Note that prices quoted here are for the performance and one drink. Most clubs offer dinner as well, but you are better off eating elsewhere.
Wherever you begin, end your evening with a glass of cava, as Catalunya's sparkling wine is called, at one of the city's classic xampanyerias, such as El Xampanyet or Xampu Xampany.
Joining in Barcelona Nightlife
Nightlife begins for many Barcelonese with a paseo (promenade) from about 8 to 9pm. Then things quiet down a bit until a second surge of energy brings out the post-dinner crowds from 11pm to midnight. Serious drinking in the city's pubs and bars usually begins by midnight. For the most fashionable places, Barcelonese will delay their entrances until at least 1am -- meeting friends for the first drink of the evening after midnight certainly takes some getting used to. If you want to go on to a club, be prepared to delay things even longer -- most clubs don't open until around 2am, and they will be mostly empty for the first half-hour or so until the bars close at 3am. Many clubs stay open as late as 6am. Most of them will have free entrance or discount flyers available in bars or given out on the streets, saving you between 5€ and 12€, which is the normal club entrance price. This will largely depend on the night, the DJ, and what the doorman thinks you look like. The price of a mixed drink (such as a cuba libre, rum and coke) hovers between 6€ and 14€ This may seem pricey, but drinks in Barcelona come strong. If you are charged an admission fee, ask if it's amb consumició (drink included). If so, take your ticket to the bar to get the first drink free.
Barcelona is a fast-moving city and the clubbing scene is notoriously fickle. New venues come up and others disappear. Although I've recommended places that have been around for a while, don't be too surprised if names and styles have changed when you roll up.
The Village People -- During the day it's dedicated to small artisan shops, market stalls, and street theater, but at night Poble Espanyol, Avinguda Marquès de Comillas s/n (tel. 93-508-63-00; www.poble-espanyol.com; Metro: Espanya), turns into a party town. Built as a "typical" Spanish village for the Universal Exhibition in 1929, it may look old, but the whole place -- right down to the huge fortified towers that dominate the entrance -- is fake. At night, it makes the perfect location to party, as no one actually lives inside and the gates are strictly guarded. You have a couple of options. One is to buy a 3€ ticket and enter the village to pass the night in three or four small bars which offer drinks, Spanish pop music, and outside tables to watch the partygoers pass by. The other, more expensive option is to pay for a ticket (20€-24€) outside to one of the clubs that lie inside the walls (entrance to the village is included in your ticket price). The main, and by far the best, venue is La Terrrazza (www.laterrrazza.com), rated by many as the liveliest summertime nightspot in Barcelona. It's an outdoor-only club that's open from May to October -- again, trendy dance music and a great place to dance the night away until the sun comes up (but not so much when it's raining). If you stay the distance (until 6am on a weekend), look for fliers, and sometimes even buses, to take you to "after parties," situated a little out of town and open until noon.
Keep It Down
Although Spain is one of the last countries on earth you'd think of as being intolerant of noise, mumblings are growing over the decibels surging from the pleasure spots of city centers where many people still live. Placards and banners pleading for more consideration hang across the narrow lanes and squares of Barcelona's Ciutat Vella, with disconcerting signs like Estem farts (which means "we're fed up" in Catalan). One result has been a tentative crackdown on culprits making the loudest sounds, from top disco La Terrrazza in the Poble Espanyol to the veteran Bar Pastis in Poble Sec. La Terrrazza was closed for just over a year, so the gesture has been made and steps apparently taken to diffuse the din in both these establishments, as well as in other spots where similar problematic situations have arisen. Whether or not the noise has abated sufficiently for locals to get a decent night's sleep in those offending areas is, however, debatable.
After a long night out, the one thing you need is food -- and the greasier the better. If you're out of the center, you might come across a traveling churros stand, selling fresh potato chips, long strips of greasy fried donut dough, and sometimes cups of hot chocolate to dip them into. Some tapas bars are open late or very early, such as El Reloj (Vía Laietana 47). If it's any early morning but Sunday, the markets usually have bars open too -- the local favorite is Bar Pinotxo (tel. 93-317-17-31) in the Boqueria Market on La Rambla. Also open very early is the real local secret: The croissant factory hidden on the small Carrer Lancaster on the Raval side of La Rambla near the corner of Nou de la Rambla. It opens at about 5am and, for 2.80€, you can buy a box of greasy, chocolate cream-filled doughy croissants that you'll be hard-pressed to finish.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.