As Freddie Mercury famously sang, Barcelona is a “jewel in the sun.” We couldn’t agree more. It’s a relatively compact city with cute, vibrant neighborhoods and a fun gay scene that boils into the hedonistic soup that is the Matinee Circuit Festival every August.
Obviously summer is great for the beach and the bigger outdoor parties, but it’s a fun city to visit at any time of the year due to the huge amount of culture, museums, stunning architecture and cute guys. Did we mention there were cute guys?
Check out some of the best places to eat, drink, dance and party in some of the city’s most gay-friendly and popular neighborhoods.
One of the more polished areas of the city is the Exchemple, or Gaychemple as it’s fondly known due to it having the highest concentration of gay bars, gay clubs and general gayness.
Head to the rooftop bar at the Axel Hotel on Fridays for cocktails on warm city nights. For some local flavor head around the corner to the hugely popular El Cangrejo Eixample (88 Carrer Villarroel). There are golden crabs on the walls of this dimly lit, boisterous gay venue, with Catalan pop hits interspersed with Spice Girls, Vengaboys and all kinds of dancey camp music to shake your butt to.
If you fancy something a bit more overtly sexual, there’s the colossal Casanova Sauna. There’s a swimming pool, jacuzzis and two bars — sometimes with DJs. Going to the sauna here can be as social as it is sexual. You can’t go wrong, really (unless you overstay and have the shame of getting your locker number/wristband repeatedly read over the PA).
For more sex, but in leather or rubber, Open Mind is a friendly fetish and sex club with plenty of play spaces, dark corners and a friendly bar. It’s a bit like Cheers, but in chaps. Highly recommended, at least once. Make sure you take ID.
For what could be politely described as “up and coming,” Raval sure has some dingy parts. But if you’re lucky you’ll come across experimental performance art and fabulously fun nights like Pluma, run by Jono Kitchens (Sink the Pink). The Barceló Raval hotel on Rambla de Raval has great cocktails and a stunning 360 degree viewing platform on the top floor. There’s a bar there, so grab a drink and watch the sun set.
La Rouge is right across the street from the hotel. It’s a great spot for live music and yet another classy cocktail. While you’re in the neighborhood, head to Madame Jasmine’s for kitschier than kitsch decor, hipster vibes and a fun menu.
The Paral-lel area, on the border of Raval used to be a buzzing theatre district 100 years ago. It’s home of Apolo, a well-loved party venue that’s had some epic events — check what’s on there while you’re in town. La Federica is fabulous too with the tapas highly recommended.
This is a gorgeous neighborhood, centered around the epic cathedral of Santa Maria Del Mar. Sure, Sagrada Familia is unique and famous, but the proportions, scale and magic of Santa Maria Del Mar will leave you awestruck.
Barcelona’s beach isn’t one of the most beautiful ones in Spain, but it’s probably the beach where you’ll have the most fun. Mar Bella is the gay area, a few blocks away from the Poble Nou metro station, or a 10 euro taxi away from the city center.
The Cheringay (beach hut bar) has wifi, generously poured drinks and is a great place to watch the boys on the sand in front.
If you’re in Barcelona, don’t forget about Sitges, 30 minutes away by train. It’s one of the gayest seaside towns you’re likely to come across anywhere in Europe. With gay beaches and a huge variety of bars and discos, it’s worth factoring in a couple of days here to your itinerary. Day trips are totally doable (and worthwhile), with regular trains leaving from the Santa and Gracia stations.
Outside of Matinee Circuit Festival, there are awesome parties on most holidays, often at the giant superclub, Razzmatazz. Also look out for Pop Air (especially their “Funny Beards & Furry Party”) and Churros Con Chocolate for new and local DJ and performer talents.
If Sunday’s the night for letting your hair down, The Black Room at the City Hall nightclub off Placa Catalunya has a surprisingly good array of DJs who may just have you dancing harder than you have all weekend.