Thirsting for a proper pint? Discover Barcelona's best bars and pubs serving up 20 ounces and two fingers.
Of all the pubs that look like museums, safe houses for tourists who need their fix of giant drinking parties and leprechaun decorations, this is a step above the rest. The pub grub is surprisingly good (try the meatloaf!), they have Grolsch on tap, and a layout that takes advantage of the fantastic large windows and the open space outside. The small terrace is only recommended for those who like to be kept on their toes by their surroundings, and there's also a pool table.
For the Spanish, this bar is like going to Stockholm and finding a tapas bar dedicated to Hernán Cortés. Bar Obama sells itself as a pub dedicated to British Africa. The ambience evokes private clubs where the British went to drink after a nice colonial safari. Leather sofas, taxidermied animals everywhere, and wooden furniture make up a pub that supplements its lack of personality – blame colonialism, blame the corner of Gran Via-Rambla de Catalunya – with a perfectly developed concept. Peter O'Toole would be a fan.
The Irish pub par excellence in Barcelona: huge, warm, cosy and full of friendly Irish people as well as some lively locals. Stop in for the occasional live music show, to support your favourite team on the big-screen or to enjoy a roast dinner on Sundays. And of course, they pull a fabulous dark beer. Don't forget you're in a high tourist zone, just opposite the Sagrada Família, and you'll want to mind your belongings (we speak from experience).
Among the sunburns on Passeig de Joan Borbon you'll find this pub with maritime motifs. During the winter you can duck in and warm your hands on a filling pint. During the summer it's virtually the only spot on the promenade where you can settle in for a drink without someone forcing seafood down your gullet. It can get quite hot on the terrace, but the interior is nice. Some of the servers have serious problems with the local language, but their English is fantastic, so order away.
There's probably a Kitty O'Shea's in your hometown, so if you venture out of the centre of Barcelona, you'll feel at home here. They do food, both traditional Irish and international, and of course they do drink, including top-shelf Irish whiskeys, beers and coffee. The pub is near Camp Nou, making it a popular place to meet before or after a match, and if you can't make it to see a match live, you can watch via their satellite coverage.
Ages ago, a former friend took me to one of those Walkabout pubs in London. They're Australian places, as you might have imagined, known for their overindulgence. The experience was one of those that gives you character and venereal diseases. So when I first stepped into this Australian pub, a cold sweat ran down my spine. For better or worse, this is a conventional bar, full of tourists and an expat or two. I found no trace of panties in the sink or puke on the plant pots. Perfect for a mid-afternoon beer and an accelerated course in Aussie.
The Black Lion can rightfully claim to be the oldest English pub in Barcelona, having first opened its doors in 1959, well before the other English and Irish pubs that subsequently invaded La Rambla. It's got a good long history with the Catalans, as well, having hosted Nova Cançó meetings (a movement of artists that promoted Catalan music under Franco) as well as some of the movement's bigger singers and songwriters. These days they have craft beer on tap, good G&Ts, football on the telly and a lively crowd.
At first glance you see a pub that's a bit pricey and nothing in particular stands out about it. The menu is basically pizzas. What does make it interesting are the many green sofas at the back. During the day, the place is deserted: grab a cold pint and relax on leather cushions while you read the paper or a book by Evelyn Waugh or Kingsley Amis, while your there, for a near-mystical experience.
The Black Horse is one of the few spots in Barcelona that's more of your neighbourhood pub rather than a museum of what a pub should be, with its stone walls, arched ceilings, small bar, and plenty of social space with tables against the walls to promote communal drinking, which is the only way many of us are able to interact without a computer in front of our face. Being an English pub, not Irish, you won't have to put up with shamrock decorations, photos of Michael Collins, and nothing but U2 on the sound system. They've got a great terrace out front and occasionally organise live music. None other than TV Smith, leader of the punk band The Adverts, has played here.