Bar Crawling through Joaquín Costa, Barcelona

I’m not entirely sure whether this is a legitimate, full-blown bar crawling tour

I mean, I know for certain that it’s not your average ‘pay €15 for three pubs and a club’ bar crawling tour. But I may have also slightly embellished the legendary status of the street to my flatmates so I didn’t have to spend another Friday night staring into my own reflection at the bottom of a pint glass.
Nevertheless, we embarked upon the epic journey at the relatively early time of seven o’clock, perhaps with the expectation that we might return at a reasonable hour so as not to have to dismiss Saturday day as a complete write-off. As if that were ever a possibility.
Starting from the corner of Joaquin Costa and Del Carme, we headed north(ish) towards Universitat. The first block had my peers in doubt.
“Are you sure this place has got decent bars?” they queried, as we passed each mini-supermercat, my confidence beginning to wane slightly.

Right on cue, up steps the swanky establishment that is 33/45. Quite the appropriate place to start; nothing too crazy, a chilled back little hovel, nice place to relax and sip on a quiet beer or mojito. Instead, we ordered four glasses of Vermouth, slammed them down our gullets and exited before anybody realised that we probably shouldn’t be allowed in bars that nice.

Further along the road, is Casa Almirall, another fine institution, of Parisian décor and stocked to the teeth with all varieties of different liqueurs. Naturally, we ordered four pints and plonked ourselves down on an empty spot in the middle of the bar. Little did we know, we were soon to become the subject of a speed-painter, an artiste, huddled over a canvas swiping and sketching the scene before him in its entirety. We were left in a hue of uncertainty – do we leave our seats and allow the artist to finish his piece uninhibited? Or had we already become a part of the scenery? Do we need to halt our proceedings and commit to a night in at the Casa Almirall, all in the name of art?
It took us the length of time to polish off our pints before we all agreed it was on to the next one.

The next one happened to be Bar Olimpic, an old haunt with American diner stools, a haven of kitsch classics, and with beer prices to make your mouth water. A pleasant, spiced aroma hung about the place on this fateful Friday, yet sadly one of our cohort did not agree with the cinnamon scent assaulting his nostrils. His solution: four quick, violent shots of rum, and we were back out and about once more, moving and grooving the streets of El Raval.

Beirut 37 was next on the agenda. Best remembered for a large papier-maché statue of a woman with a fat slice of pizza slapped on her head. Really have no idea what the relevance of this is, but it seems like someone put a lot of effort into making such an intricate figurine. By this point, I have no recollection what we were drinking. Nevertheless, the punters and the personnel behind the bar were more than amicable, a really quite excellent atmosphere around the place.

We stumbled onto the next spot – not, in fact, a bar, but a fashion store and a gallery, Background. The thumping music from a live DJ had us intrigued, but it was the help-yourself fridge of cold beers that kept us around. Some exceptional street art and photography sweetened the deal, as we marvelled at stenciled graphics of Bill Murray and Malcolm X. We seemed to have picked the perfect night to stagger upon this space, Raval’s own art-fashion Mecca, a one-off event to celebrate the work of a young up and comer. After making ourselves acquainted with the free drinks, we discreetly exited, the doorman well aware that we certainly didn’t have the kind of money needed to purchase anything the store had to offer.

The night’s work was pretty hazy henceforth. Joaquín Costa will do that to you.
Upon returning to the street in the following days, the names La Parra Bar and Bar Los Angeles seemed vaguely familiar. When I poke my head in, the venues seem unrecognisable. A pal assured me that we were definitely in there.

Turns out there may have been a few spots I’ve missed on this list. Admittedly, we did head back home before taming the beast of El Raval, failing to complete the mythical bar crawl. The defeat left a bitter taste in the mouth the next day, or perhaps that’s just what happens when you mix too many different kinds of liquor.
Nevertheless, we were heartened by the fact that we weren’t completely hopeless. The top of Joaquín Costa is not so heavily populated by bars. In fact, there was only one we had failed to conquer. I don’t know if this made it better or worse.
Betty Ford Bar, hailed by locals and expats alike, was the thorn in the foot, the Judas of our Biblical task. But just as Jesus forgives Judas, I’d be willing to greet Betty Ford’s with open arms, if only to rekindle the campaign to continue our noble crusade.
We have unfinished business.
Joaquin Costa, you may have won the battle, but this is only the start of the war at the Barcelona Bar Crawling.

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