Spanish Drinking Culture

August 12, 2010 7:28 pm

A friend of mine from study abroad recently pointed me toward a Time article about Barcelona’s battle against drunk tourists. The “sensitivity campaign” the city launched includes posters with the universally understood stick figure instructing tourists how not to act, as well as a happy hour ban. It’s an admirable effort to get tourists to respect the city and send the message that Gaudi’s playground is no Cancun.



Mind your business along Las Ramblas! Photo by Albert Gea for Reuters


While studying abroad in Barcelona, my friends and I were quick to pick up on how Spaniards vs. visitors acted when out and about. The surest way to stand out as a tourist? Be visibly drunk. We never saw Spaniards stumbling around the streets or throwing back shot after shot at the bars, and even those in a state they might’ve considered “drunk” were in way better condition than “drunk” by American, frat house standards.

As our study abroad adviser explained to us in class one day — complete with a hand-drawn graph on the board — when Spanish people drink, it’s always socially, and they imbibe only to reach and then maintain their “point,” as he called it. From what I understood, that “point” is a tipsy state: feeling good about life but still fully functioning. (Fun fact: Tapas in Spain are prepared with generous amounts of olive oil because it slows the absorption of alcohol.)

Since the “sensitivity campaign” doesn’t seem to include any “point” drinking lessons to tourists entering the city, if you’re headed to Barcelona in the near future you might encounter the drunken bachelor party or two, especially on and around Las Ramblas. Instead of focusing on perhaps where to avoid, I’m using the Time article as excuse to share a handful of my favorite bars and clubs in the city based on what you’re looking for from your night.

Get a more extensive look at Barcelona nightlife on the TKGO City Guides, Barcelona page.

For a club packed with Spaniards: Sutton

For a relaxed bar scene: Ambar

For the best views of the city: Mirablau and Mirabe

For a historic, charmingly gritty bar (and absinthe): Marsella

-Karina for TKGO

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