Barcelona is very a cosmopolitan city and one of Europe’s major cultural capitals, reflected in its industrial and financial sectors, its offering of music, art and gourmet food, and in the massive amounts of tourists coming every year. Barcelona hosted 15 million tourists in 2012, making it the tenth most visited city in the world. They come here to eat, to drink, to dance, to study and to live.
In June, Barcelona becomes home to one of the largest electronic music festivals in the world: Sónar. Barcelona is one of the few parts of Spain with a live-music culture close to that of New York or Chicaco. Pop, jazz, salsa and rock lovers will all be at home here, with the city’s many bands playing nightly.
In each of Barcelona’s varied neighborhoods you’ll find different crowds, different foods and different music. Exploring neighborhoods here is a Barcelona expat’s daily joy:
- Passing through the winding streets and alleys of Barrio Gótico and Borne, you’ll find some of Barcelona’s most famous live indie and jazz venues and endless terraces for a coffee, beer or wine.
- The Puerto Olimpico is full of somehow always-packed open-air restaurants full of authentic Catalan food. Alongside the towers you’l find the Barcelona Casino.
- Eixample and Santalo fill every weekend with young Catalans in search of bars and discotecas, dancing well into the morning.
- Gracia has become the Williamsburg of Barcelona, full of odd bars and noisy streets that are always full of characters. This neighborhood’s main festival is in August, when it swells with people from all over the city.
- Raval is one of Barcelona’s most diverse neighborhoods. Here you’re more likely to find authentic Pakistani food than Catalan. It is full of bohemian bars, live music venues and street performers, and is easily one of Barcelona’s most interesting neighborhoods.
Bilbao, the largest city in the Basque Country, is famous for its architecture, museums and, most importantly, its food. The region has the most Michelin stars per capita out of anywhere in the world, and eating well is so ingrained in the culture that it’s common to find yourself planning one meal while eating another. It’s not just fancy restaurants either: the abundance of excellent and affordable ingredients here means that you can eat very well on a budget, too.
Bilbao, and the Basque Country as a whole, are the best places to go out for pintxo-pote. Pintxos are the Basque answer to Spanish tapas, small plates of food that are ordered separately and eaten with a pote, a small wine or beer. Pintxos and potes happen almost always in the street outside the bar, and not in the bar itself.
In June Bilbao hosts BBK Live, a international rock, indie and electronic festival, attracting some very big bands and fans from all over Europe.
Cuando cae el sol, el ambiente se sitúa principalmente en torno a dos zonas:
- The Casco Viejo is Bilbao’s old city. It has evolved over the last 700 years to be one of the major centers of Bilbao nightlife, with its lantern-lit streets full of people all weekend, eating, drinking or just strolling the labyrinthine neighborhood. Socializing here happens in the street, day or night, rain or shine: on an average Saturday night here, the streets will be packed and the bars empty.
- Bilbao La Vieja and San Francisco are Bilbao’s more alternative neighborhoods. These graffiti-filled streets are full of bars playing punk, metal and world music, and have long been home for Bilbao’s more political residents, as well as many of the city’s immigrants.
- Abando takes its name from Bilbao’s train station, and is a central neighborhood full of bars for pintxo-pote. The fare here is slightly more upscale then el Casco Viejo, and the crowd slightly older, with many filling the bars lining calle Lesama after work on weekdays.
- Licenciado Poza y García Rivero host most of Bilbao’s discotecas, and swell with people every weekend.
In August is Bilbao’s yearly festival, Aste Nagusia (the great week), where open-air bars built by different local social groups line the river, and the entire city stops to take it easy for a week. It’s not a week to miss.
Madrid never sleeps, and if you visit Madrid you’ll either always be missing out on something or you’ll just never sleep. We recommend the first option…
Madrid, aside from being the regular capital of Spain, is also the nightlife capital of Spain. Here you’ll find something to do on any day or night of the year, regardless of your schedule or interests.
- Barrio de las Letras has changed drastically since Cervantes and Lope de Vega called it home. Now calle Huertas and la Plaza Santa are hip hangouts for twenty-something’s on their way out for the night.
- Ever since Malasaña was the center of ‘la movida’, Spain’s post-dictatorship cultural revolution, it has been home to all things alternative in Madrid. The neighborhood, centering on plaza Dos de Mayo, is full of live music venues, chic galleries, packed bars and lively restaurants.
- Chueca is the center of Madrid’s gay culture, and aside from the excellent bars and restaurants, is home to one of the biggest and most lively pride parades in the world. Spain in general is a relatively easy place to be out, but Madrid and Chueca in particular are extremely open-minded.
- Moncloa and Arguelles are Madrid’s student neighborhoods
- Elegant and glamorous Salamanca is a slightly more posh neighborhood full of upscale restaurants and discotecas.
- Lavapies is Madrid’s up-and-coming artist neighborhood. It is full of galleries and is home to some of the city’s more lively flamenco venues, and many other types of live music.
Like many large cities, the only thing you can’t find in Madrid is someone from Madrid, it is full of expats, students and people from all over Spain and Europe.
*Information source: ‘Idescat’ and ‘Instituto de Estudios Turísticos’.