Whether you’re here hoping to catch some Stravinsky, wearing pink fluffy bunny ears as part of a hen party or perfecting your emo hair and pout, Barcelona has somewhere that’ll brighten up your night.
Space is tight in the city and you’ll struggle to find anything qualifying as a megaclub (though Razzmatazz, below, comes close), but Barcelona teems with small, quirky clubs and bars, and the size of these places is a definite boon when it comes to live music. While stadium bands – U2, the Stones – continue to play stadiums, you’ll find groups from Sonic Youth to Florence & the Machine playing surprisingly intimate venues.
Here are my suggestions for a good night out.
Barcelona Pipa Club
(Plaça Reial 3, Barri Gòtic; + 34 93 302 47 32; www.bpipaclub.com)
For late late beers head to this well-known bar with a paradoxically clandestine feel (you’ll need to ring the bell and your chances of getting in are greatly improved if you get a female in your party to do the talking). It rocks a deceptively old-codger look, with pipes and smoking memorabilia hanging from the walls and reproduction furniture, but don’t be fooled – this is the domain of the young and up-for-it.
(Rambla Catalunya 2-4, Eixample; + 34 93 317 21 77; www.grupo-ottozutz.com)
Smack in the centre of town, just above Plaça Catalunya, City Hall is the safe and obvious choice for anyone falling out of a bar and fancying a dance before bed. The crowd is mixed and unpretentious and the music (house, techno, electro) stays just the right side of hardcore.
(C/Josep Anselm Clavé 19, Barri Gòtic; + 34 93 342 6422)
Arrive early for any chance of a table (or better yet, a sofa) at the least pretentious of Barcelona’s handful of lounge bars. By about 10pm the place is rammed, and yet a small handful of people will still find a space to cut some rug in front of the DJs' decks. The décor is a blend of Eastern promise and cartoon projections.
(C/Nou de Sant Francesc 5, Barri Gòtic; + 34 93 317 54 36; www.macarenaclub.com)
A tiny techno/electro club, just off the Plaça Reial, that attracts some surprisingly big names. Opening hours are pretty flexible but it’s a fair bet that if you show up any time before about 6am, the joint will still be jumping.
(C/Escudellers 49, Barri Gòtic; + 34 93 318 76 90; www.marulacafe.com)
A hugely popular new addition to Barcelona’s clubbing scene, with a relatively grown-up crowd more interested in the music than eyeing each other up. This isn’t to say that a party atmosphere doesn’t reign – it does – but that the musical selection is never less than cool, and centres on funk, soul and rare groove.
(C/Almogàvers 122, Poblenou; +34 93 320 82 00; www.salarazzmatazz.com)
The nearest thing Barcelona has to a megaclub is actually five spaces in one, vast building. The styles in each club range from rock to techno, but you can try each one out on the same entrance fee to find one that you like. Razzmatazz is also the city’s major venue for big-name concerts, but its main room is still a manageable size, and the sound system is great.
(C/Nou de la Rambla 111-113, Poble Sec; + 34 93 441 40 01; www.sala-apolo.com)
This lovely old dancehall hosts some great concerts early in the evening and then becomes a club around midnight. Check the website for DJs, but normally Wednesdays are world music nights, Thursdays are funk (look out for the Powder Room nights with Keb Darge) and hip hop and weekends are more techno-inclined.
(Poble Espanyol, Avda Marquès de Comillas, Montjuïc; + 34 93 272 49 80; www.laterrrazza.com)
On a hot summer’s night there is nowhere better to be than this al fresco club up in the eerie environs of the Poble Espanyol (a fake Spanish village on Montjuïc). The music is house, pure and simple, and the crowd is young and dressed up.
(See also Razzmatazz.)
(C/Lepant 150, Poblenou; + 34 93 247 93 00; www.auditori.cat)
A thoroughly modern, architect-designed concert hall with excellent acoustics. It’s home to the city’s orchestra, but the programming is wide-ranging and includes jazz cycles, contemporary music and concerts for children.
(Avda Diagonal 547, Les Corts; + 34 93 322 08 00; www.bikinibcn.com)
A cherished live-music venue with compact rooms and excellent sound systems. The selection of bands varies wildly, but often includes some of the best playing in Barcelona in any given month (recent acts include the Ting Tings, Richard Hawley and Cornershop). Stick around for the club nights after the show.
Gran Teatre del Liceu
(La Rambla 51-59, Barri Gòtic; + 34 93 485 99 13; www.liceubarcelona.cat)
In time-honoured opera house style, the splendid Liceu has twice been razed to the ground (and was once bombed by anarchists). Each time it emerges more technically proficient and these days has subtitles, in various languages, on screens on the back of the seats, but the look remains the same, with plenty of red velvet and gold leaf.
Harlem Jazz Club
(C/Comtessa de Sobradiel 8, Barri Gòtic; + 34 93 310 07 55)
The name is a little misleading, and you’re as likely to find funk, soul or world rhythms at this postage-stamp sized club just off the C/Avinyó. The crowd is a friendly mix of young foreigners and friends of the band.
(Plaça Reial 17, Barri Gòtic; + 34 93 319 17 89; www.masimas.com)
Jamboree is really two-in-one clubs; the space downstairs is a happy, creative mish-mash of Latin and jazz, while Los Tarantos upstairs hosts performances by up-and-coming flamenco singers and dancers.
Palau de la Música Catalana
(C/Sant Francesc de Paula 2, Sant Pere; + 34 93 295 72 00; www.palaumusica.org)
This spectacular Modernista (Catalan art nouveau) concert hall is worth a visit just to see the façade, but to see the dazzling interior, your choices are either to take a guided tour, or (infinitely more preferable) to see a concert. The emphasis is on classical music, but there are also flamenco, rock and pop gigs, and the Palau is one of the main venues for Barcelona’s various jazz festivals.
(Plaça Margarida Xirgú 1, Poble Sec; + 34 93 289 27 70; www.teatrelliure.com)
Part of the ‘Theatre City’ complex (comprising three performance spaces), the Lliure is the main venue for Barcelona’s bigger theatre and dance shows. Some works have English surtitles on Thursdays and Sundays.
Teatre Nacional de Catalunya (TNC)
(Plaça de les Arts 1, Poblenou; + 34 93 306 57 00; www.tnc.cat)
An impressive neo-classical theatre with two auditoriums. It’s just across the road from L’Auditori; both were built in an attempt to turn the area around the Plaça de les Glòries into a centre of culture. It hasn’t quite happened that way, but has left the neighbourhood with some cracking performance spaces.