Nightlife and Performing Arts Planner
Evening concerts, plays, and dance performances in Barcelona usually start around 9 pm. On weekends, drinks are enjoyed with light bites and often extend past dinnertime, which is at a stomach-churning 10 pm. Then, sometime after 1 or 2 am, the real nightlife kicks in.
Tickets for performances are available either at the theater (ticket offices generally open only in the evenings) or online: Ticketea (www.ticketea.com) and Ticketmaster (www.ticketmaster.es)—both have English-language options. After ordering your seats and giving credit-card information, pick up tickets at the door of the venue or print them out in advance. Ticketmaster uses the ATMs of local bank La Caixa, which print the tickets for you. If you want to do things the old-fashioned way, FNAC on Plaça de Catalunya has an office on the ground floor that sells tickets to many pop and rock performances.
Top Five Nightlife Experiences
Musical performances at stunning venues; Palau de la Música Catalana and Liceu, among others
Wednesday eve jazz sessions at the chichi Banker's Bar at the Mandarin Oriental
Sunday night indie film viewing at CinesVerdi (or nearby annex Verdi Park) in bohemian Gràcia
Dancing till the wee hours at the upscale seaside clubs of Port Olímpic
Witnessing sensational beachfront views at the Eclipse Bar on the 26th floor of the ultraluxe W Barcelona
What to Wear
The dress code in Barcelona is eclectic but casual. Although there are rarely hard-and-fast rules at elegant restaurants or concert venues, tourists in shorts, tank tops, and baseball caps will feel out of place. Discos are a different story: uptown or at the seaside venues, autocratic bouncers may inspect aspiring clients carefully—the better you dress, the higher your chance of getting in. The Liceu Opera House often has black-tie evening galas; the Palau de la Música Catalana and the Auditori are less formal than the Liceu, but upscale dress is still expected.
Where to Get Information
To find out what's on (in Spanish or Catalan), check "Ocio y cultura" listings in Barcelona's leading daily newspapers online versions: La Vanguardia, www.lavanguardia.com) and El Periódico (www.elperiodico.com) or the English-language edition of TimeOut, (www.timeout.com/barcelona). Le Cool (barcelona.lecool.com) offers a curated list of events and activities online (available in English). Barcelona Metropolitan magazine updates their online "what’s on" section regularly, and features a monthly print version, available for free in English-language bookstores and hotel lobbies (www.barcelona-metropolitan.com). Barcelona city hall’s culture website (barcelonacultura.bcn.cat) also publishes an English edition of listings and highlights. A nose and ear to the ground is the best way to find out about rock and pop gigs—look out for posters and flyers as you explore the city.
Barcelona Acció Musical (BAM). Held over a week toward late September, this musical celebration forms part of the lively La Mercé festival, an annual event honoring Our Lady of Mercy, Barcelona's patron saint. BAM showcases emerging talent (both national and international) in dance, rock, pop, and electronic genres; acts perform in parks, squares, and venues around the city. 010; www.barcelona.cat/bam.
Ciutat Flamenco. Held annually in May, this lively festival, co-organized by the Taller de Músics (Musicians' Workshop) and the Mercat de les Flors, offers visitors a chance to experience authentic flamenco instrumental, song, and dance performances by both local and international artists. Mercat de les Flors, Carrer de Lleida 59, Poble Sec, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08004. 93/443-4346; 93/256–2600; ciutatflamenco.com.
Festival del Grec. Barcelona's monthlong summer arts festival in July features acts from the world of dance, performance art, music, and theater. Performances take place in such historic venues as Mercat de les Flors and the Teatre Grec on Montjuïc—an open-air theater built for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition, which gives the festival its name and serves as the main venue. Barcelona, Catalonia. 93/316–1000; lameva.barcelona.cat/grec.
Guitar Bcn. Held between mid-February and late July, this annual festival features concerts in the Palau de la Música Catalana and other venues by master guitarists of all musical genres and styles. Folk, jazz, classical, and flamenco are all well represented. 93/481–7040; www.guitarbcn.com.
International Jazz Festival. One of Europe's oldest jazz festivals, this festive gathering takes place from late September to early December, with concerts all around the city in illustrious venues like the Palau de la Musica, L'Auditori, and smoky side-street bars such as the Harlem Jazz Club. Highlights include vocal and instrumental jazz renditions from around the globe. 93/481–7040; www.barcelonajazzfestival.com.
Primavera Sound. From its modest beginnings at the architectural miniature museum Poble Espanyol, this event has evolved into one of the biggest and most exciting music festivals in Spain, attracting more than 200,000 visitors each year. Concerts are organized in small venues around the city during the weeks leading up to the event, but the main stint takes place over four days in late May or early June at the Parc del Fòrum. Everybody who's anybody, from Nine Inch Nails to The National, has played here, and you can rest assured that whoever is doing the big summer festival circuit will pass through Primavera. Festival tickets can be bought online. Parc del Fòrum, Poblenou, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08019. www.primaverasound.com.
Sónar. For more than a decade, Sónar has grown from a niche festival for electronic and dance music fans to one of Barcelona's largest and most celebrated happenings. Over three days in summer (sometimes mid-June, sometimes mid-July), thousands descend upon the city, turning Plaça Espanya—the site of the festival's principal venues—into a huge rave. The celebration is divided into "Day" and "Night" activities. Sónar by Day sees sets by international DJs, record fairs, and digital art exhibits at the Fira Montjuïc. Sónar by Night takes place in the Fira Gran Via Hospitalet for acts on the forefront of the dance-music scene like Skrillex, Die Antwoord, and The Chemical Brothers. It's best to purchase tickets early via the festival website. www.sonar.es.