Literary Barcelona: 10 Bars for Lovers of Books and Booze

If roaming about in search of inspiration, take the nearest turn and head straight to Barcelona. Even if you are familiar with its harmonious architecture and silent museums, the Catalan capital will still find a way to surprise you. Take a seat at the first taparia, study the map and mark these 10 spots – in the city that enjoys fine dining as much as it cherishes art, there’s never a dearth of booze and books, nor a shortage of literary clubs to provide you with both. Here’s our selection.

1. Cafè Salambó

Cafè Salambó

If looking for an empty table wide enough to spread your papers on and lay a cup of black coffee on the side, the merry dilettantes of Cafè Salambó will be more than happy to scooch over and make you a spot. Don’t try shushing them in return – the sleekest of Barcelona’s literary bars is packed with talkative scribbles and proud of its improvised literary discussions. It’s a place charged with spontaneous inspiration and sudden strikes of boastful creativity, all of which attracts and captivates lecturers and students alike. And, once the scholarly clutter turns silent, Cafè Salambó offers jazz, billiards and more liquor.

Links: Facebook & Website

Directions: Google Map

2. Laie

Laie

In comparison to Cafè Salambó’s booming discourse, Laie seems like an eternal rest for aspiring scholars. It’s not only library-like, but a bonafide and one of the last independent libraries as well, perfect for long hours of contemplation and daydreaming. A fuel for thoughts is being poured in an upstairs cafe and it’s always fresh and strong, with the rest of the visitors being just as hungry-minded as yourself. Keep your phone on silent mode and treat your books with respect – Laie welcomes an austere crowd of soul-searchers and it keeps its ambience silenced enough for uninterrupted and smooth reading sessions.

Links: Facebook & Website

Directions: Google Map

3. Els Quatre Gats

Els Quatre Gats

If modernisme was a cocktail, the right place to drink it in would be Els Quatre Gats. First opened in 1897, to be replaced with its modern version almost a hundred years later, this bar is considered a birthplace of Catalan modernist movement. Miquel Utrillo, Ramon Casas and Santiago Rusiñol were its regulars back in the day, but the name Els Quatre Gats has been associated with the most is their frisky teenage friend, Pablo Picasso.

It’s quite possible that one of the greatest artists of all time had sipped his first glass of alcohol in this bohemian joint – be that as it may, this fusion of Paris bistros and Barri Gotic eateries hosted the earliest solo exhibition in Picasso’s career, which is why Els Quatre Gats is the spot you should definitely include in your artistic pilgrimage.

Links: Facebook & Website

Directions: Google Map

4. Milano Cocktail Bar

Milano Cocktail Bar

There’s a reason why Milano’s dimly lit cocktail bar is hidden from plain sight. In the very heart of Barcelona, and deeply beneath a tourist throng, this decadent establishment revokes Chicago speakeasies and long, drunken recitals. It’s a place of silent, but important talks with a cocktail menu long enough to sustain even the loudest of imaginations.

Follow the basement stairs until you emerge from the darkness and feed your inner artist with a drop of Campari. If lucky, you’ll spot a fellow lone ranger to share a drink, thought or sorrow with. In Milano Cocktail Bar, Prohibition decadence and profound quietude are considered a special offer.

Links: Website

Directions: Google Map

5. L’Horiginal

L'Horiginal

Unlike the first two, L’Horiginal offers a verse of comfort for everyone who seek it. For years, this literate, yet salt of the earth bar has been a seclusion of those impatient to express their words of joy, love and solitude and grab a warm bite in between. Wednesdays are reserved for poetry readings, which doesn’t mean that the rest of the week is less charged with artistic reflection. Pick a book from the bar’s wall, feel the bread crumbing beneath your fingers and exhale a smoke at the L’Horiginal’s terrace. The museum is right across the road, and the people are gentle and eager to hear your stories.

Links: Facebook & Website

Directions: Google Map

6. Bar l’Astrolabi

Bar l'Astrolabi

Thanks to its founder, Jordi Cantavella, Bar l’Astrolabi is where poetry meets punk. It’s one of the few venues in the world where contemporary literature is discussed over a pint of beer, and definitely the only bar in Barcelona that serves Stella Artois on draft. As a man of many words himself, Cantavella encourages aspiring artists, among whom unpublished writers and singer-songwriters are in the majority, to voice their opinions in front of a crowd. As such, Bar l’Astrolabi is unique in its approach to the city’ bar scene and fresh in its literary method.

Links: Facebook

Directions: Google Map

7. Heliogàbal

Heliogàbal

Devoted to its anti-establishment roots, Heliogàbal was opened as a “space for spreading culture” and it remains one of the busiest and quirkiest joints in Barcelona. It’s small and cramped, but irresistibly lively and diverse in return. The post avant-garde is alive and well here, and offered in generous portions – apart from being one of the best poetry reading spots, Heliogàbal is particularly keen on preserving its experimental spirit through multimedia performances and other similar state of the art forms. Arrive early to embrace the idiosyncrasy from the first row.  

Links: Facebook & Website

Directions: Google Map

8. Cafè del Centre

Cafè del Centre

If this modernist establishment hasn’t been linked with a certain comic-book hero and a feminist novelist for years, the high ceilings of Cafè del Centre alone would be just enough to convince you that this Eixample bar is one of the most artistic hideaways from the Barcelona’s crowded streets. Opened in 1873, it’s one of the oldest literary bars in the city, and certainly one with the richest poetry traditions. The cultural customs of this place are still intact, and if not for them, you should definitely visit it for a home-cooked and wholesome Catalan cuisine, served every evening by the current owner’s mom.

Links: Facebook & Website

Directions: Google Map

9. Bauma

Bauma

Architecture is nowhere more poetic than in the City of Gaudi, and nowhere more enjoyable than from Bauma’s terrace. Be sure to order you coffee in the early afternoon when Gaudi-made Casa de les Punxes is clearly visible from your table, and if the time is on your side, stick around until the evening – the café’s regulars will tell you a story or two about the time their grandfathers sat here in the fine company of Joan de Sagarra and his artistic friends. Bauma goes way back to the 1940s, and remains as a peaceful witness to Franco’s regime and a part of Barcelona’s bar culture that outlasted these less opportune times.

LinksTripAdvisor

Directions: Google Map

10. Lletraferit

Lletraferit

Lletraferit is simply everything a book aficionado needs – a cup of comforting tea for breakfast, a voluminous anthology of essays for lunch and a glass of invigorating whisky for dinner. It’s the last remnant of a literary culture as it once was, run by those who understand the concept the best and devoted to those who cherish it the most.

Links: Facebook

Directions: Google Map

Alexandre Diego Gary, the son of great Romain Gary and delightful Jean Seberg, has taken the best of the both worlds, merging, along the way, academic intellect with pop decadence in what is now considered to be the most pleasing fusion of French, Catalan, Spanish and English literature and eclectic cocktails. As if that wasn’t enough, he named his tour de force “a lover of literature”.

After a lesson on Picasso at Els Quatre Gats, a tipsy polemic in Cafè Salambó and a breathless whisper at Lletraferit, your trunk of inspiration will be just full enough to last you until you return.

Jelena Cekic
zvezdanodrvo@gmail.com

Jelena Cekic is a creative writer and blogger at MyCity Web with a Master’s degree in Serbian Language and Literature from the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Novi Sad. She is passionate about topics like lifestyle, art, child development, travel and gastronomy. Her latest writing attempts include works of fiction. Apart from being a movie aficionado, Jelena enjoys magic realism, black tea, red currant berries, cats, and declares herself as a Whovian.

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