Text & Photographs: Marcella van Alphen & Claire Lessiau
In 2016, about 30 million tourists visited Barcelona, a city of 1.6 million inhabitants. The vibrant capital of Catalonya is victim of its own success: the once atmospheric Las Ramblas have turned into a main tourist drag, La Boqueria market into a trap to be avoided, the narrow medieval streets of El Born have been invaded by a crowd armed with selfie sticks and walking on colourful sneakers, skyrocketing prices of hotel rooms and flat rentals have driven locals out of the city, even the paella has turned yellow (with cheap turmeric thrown on a hardly cooked rice replacing the expensive saffron evenly spread on a slowly caramelized rice)! It matters all the more to know where to go to enjoy oneself and encourage sustainable initiatives. The places featured here are all locally owned and share this love for local traditions from the classic vermuteria to the modern one and the trendy speakeasy bar. All in a different district of town. All with a different vibe. All where you can go eyes closed for a great experience!
Do as locals do & enjoy vermouth & tapas at a traditional bodega a stone’s throw away from Casa Batllo: Lo Pinyol
Entering the bodega Lo Pinyol feels like stepping back in time. From an olive oil and ham store starting in 1919, the space has evolved into a family-run bodega since 1940. Today, the old barrels decorating the small space in which a mixed crowd of patrons discusses lively are a reminder of this history, and of the specialty of the house.
Vermouth is a reinforced wine aromatized with herbs (Martini & Rossi and Cinzano are the most famous brands). Here, the traditional vermouth is carefully selected, and then prepared with a few drops of Angostura, a quarter of a slice of orange and a green olive. Sit at the small and cute bar or choose for the reading room, and order a few exquisite tapas to go along your drink and you will feel like you have always belonged here!
These traditional bodegas become rare to find, and just a short distance from La Pedrera, La Casa Batlló or La Sagrada Familia, it is the ideal spot in El Eixample to relax at the end of the day and soak into the local atmosphere.
Discover the local favorite mixed in modern cocktails in the up & coming Poble Nou neighbourhood: Balius Bar
The once “new village” of Poble Nou was the beating heart of industrial Barcelona during the 19th century industrial revolution. Abandoned factories have become trendy lofts, modern office spaces or hip bars and coffee shops. Balius bar with its antique floor-tiles and fashionably lit wall of bottles fits perfectly in this up and coming neighbourhood: the traditional vermouth is the star of ingenious cocktails best appreciated with the home-made delicious and original food from sustainable sources.
The cocktail list is not limited to its excellent vermouth-based cocktails, but Balius Bar is one of the only places where vermouth is used in mixed drinks. Actually, the Balius Bar bartenders help develop cocktail recipes in collaboration with the world-renowned vermouth producer: within only a few years, Balius Bar made it to the world class embassy group of a selected 50 in Spain. From the Vermouth Sour or Lolita where the fruitiness and freshness dominate the vermouth to the Italian-inspired coffee bean infused Negroni Ristretto, whether discovering this aperitif or being used to it, you will be charmed! The excellent bartenders are excellent guides in exploring this new palette enjoyed by a cosmopolitan crowd who settled in the area and favours quality in a low-key atmosphere.
The impeccable food presentation and originality complement the drink list: revisited patatas bravas from a purple Andean variety sourced in France, tapas of codfish, cured tuna served over an original gazpacho, and delicious desserts.
The cosmopolitan and up and coming vibes of Poble Nou are extended to the food and drinks: everything fits and it simply makes it the perfect spot for drinks, and dinner, and more drinks…
Indulge yourself with a signature cocktail in a world’s top 100 bars in El Born: El Paradiso
“Are you sure it’s here? It looks like a pastrami sandwich shop”, I wonder looking at the counter behind which the waiter looks at me with a grin. A few minutes later, he opens the fridge door for us, and behind a velvet curtain, a new world opens up! Classily decorated and dimly lit, a long marble bar is the main feature of this speakeasy club in the heart of the touristic medieval district of El Born. Smiling and smartly dressed barmen welcome us.
The drink menu is of the most interesting and there is a good reason why El Paradiso has just been ranked among world’s top 100 bars after being open for hardly a year and a half. I have a hard time focusing on it though as watching these artists mix their drinks is a real show.
A cloud of vanilla tobacco has just filled the glass pipe in which my Solera Presidente signature cocktail is being prepared. The barman is adding the final touch: a cloud of cotton candy. Literally dragging a sip of this rum-based drink, the dark chocolate in which the mouth piece has been dipped into mixes perfectly with the elegant and refined aromas.
The award-winning Mediterranean Treasure is definitely one. The barman opens the treasure chest from which rosemary and thyme flavours announce the Mediterranean vibes of this delicate vodka-based creamy drink served in a seashell.
El Paradiso caters to an international public and as the local owners are setting a new trend in Barcelona, curious locals come and check out the mysterious El Paradiso. The secret of its success may very well be the great attention to details, from a very original drink list with unexpected ingredients served each in the perfect container to a polished decor, smart playlist and some of world’s best cocktail bartenders. Everything fits. Even in the hidden bar, hidden into the hidden bar that is behind the fridge door… Will you pierce the mystery and find out?
- The places listed above are shown on the interactive map below. Here are the specific addresses:
- Click on the link for some great tips about where to stay in Barcelona?
- Slightly nervous about going out at night in the big city? Read the 12 genius tips of how to travel save in big cities.
- Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area!
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