Friday, April 10, 2009

English Pubs

Tell someone you're going to the English or Irish pubs in Barcelona, and expect a look of disapproval.  But, you're in Spain! They'll cry.  And, in many ways, they're right - In a city as rich as this one, you're doing yourself a real disservice if you spend all your days and nights hidden away in the numerous dark themed pubs found throughout the city. Still, there's a reason that over the last few years Barcelona has seen an explosion in such places.  Part of it is the tourism, but a large part also has to do with the growing numbers of Europeans living here who find foreign bars more lively and hospitable than the Spanish ones, so with that in mind, here are a few more of my favorite places like the George and Dragon, and the ones you're better off avoiding.

The George Payne (Plaza Urquinaona).   Six years ago it was a porn theater, now it's the largest Irish bar in Barcelona. Run by a young, international staff, it has quickly become popular with students and locals alike, thanks to the weekday drink and event specials - the most famous of which are Sunday karaoke and Monday open-mic night.  A full menu with a kitchen open until 11.00, it has large smoke-free area that's perfect to escape the more cloudy bars of the city, while checking out football, rugby, or the NFL on one of the many TV screens.

The Shamrock (El Raval).  A friend said that it reminded him of the bar from Star Wars because of the  interesting characters it attracts.  Owned by a Madrileño who speaks English with a slight Gordie accent and popular with expat and Catalan locals, it's a good place to rest after strolling the music shops of Carrer Tallers or to catch a match.

The Black Horse (EL Borne).  One of the few English pubs with a terrace, you can sit outside and watch the entertaining street life unfold before your eyes along a lively street that's often dotted with small stands or busy with community performances.  Inside, the many rooms all have televisions, and the Sunday pub quiz is a hit with the locals. There's no food, but plenty of pizza joints nearby if you need to take a break from drinking and eat.

Sugar (El Gotico).  Not a theme bar in the traditional sense as you can't watch sports or drink Guiness; it's still a cool little spot off Plaza Real with an English speaking staff and a great place to grab a drink before hitting the clubs. It's small and crowds quickly so get there early if you want to see Aragorn taking a break from saving Middle Earth to make a mojito.

Along Calle Ferran there's Molly's and the Temple Bar, which are famous for their Stag and Hen parties, and drink prices that make the other themed bars seem reasonable. Personally, I've never been to either and avoid them, but if meat markets are your thing - they're your spots.

Finally, remember that by going to a themed pub, you're paying more than you would at a Spanish bar, so don't complain, and think of it as the price of going out and speaking English.

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