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 Travel Article Travel Article Archive  
February 2010 Email this to a friend

Architectural charms and vibrant gay life await

By Staff reports

La Base, Barcelona
At La Base

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NOTE: This is an archive article. For an updated and expanded Barcelona article click DailyXtraTravel

Capital of Catalonia, Spain's second-largest city draws commerce and tourism from not only the continent but the entire world

Be aware when you arrive in Barcelona, that you're not just in Spain, but also the distinct region of Catalonia. Catalonia's centuries of history, with connections to many different parts of the Mediterranean, have bestowed a unique culture. Though now part of Spain, the Catalan people retain their distinct language and sense of their own nationality. Catalan and Castilian Spanish are both used here so you're as welcome with bienvenidos as with benvinguts. French, English and other European languages are commonly understood as well, particularly in the gay community.

Remains of the old city walls date back to Roman times, and Barcelona has one of the largest extant medieval sections in Europe. El Gotica (or the Gothic Quarter) is just to the east of the throngs congregating in Placa Catalunya day and night, or roaming the length of La Rambla. This whole area is full of restaurants, ranging from chain sandwich shop fare to haute cuisine, bars and clubs, plus an abundance of shops and vendors' stands.

To the west of here, the El Raval district was a neighborhood of varied immigrants. Though gentrified, it remains culturally mixed, with interesting restaurants and stores.

Newer areas of Barcelona, dating from the 19th century, feature broad tree-lined boulevards and architecture that astounds in detailed exuberance and sophistication, equal to any great capital of the world.


Barcelona has many gay or gay-friendly hotels. Axel Hotel Barcelona (Aribau 33; +34-93-323-2570) is a premium gay hotel that's "hetero friendly." With beautiful rooms, an in-house gym, a rooftop pool and bar, a restaurant and lounge, and a perfect location between La Rambla and the gay district, Axel has many advantages for travelers. Not the least expensive option in town, they sometimes have special online rates.

A comfortable hostal with two locations, one on each side of the gay district, Absolut Centro Hostal (Casanova 72; +34-64-955-0238) offers both convenience and affordability in "El Quadrat d'Or" surrounded by bars, shopping, restaurants and the sights. Rates for their one-, two-, three-, or four-person bedrooms (with bathrooms), range between 35 and 85 euros. Free wi-fi internet is available here for those with laptops, and Jorge and staff are charmingly helpful with tips about the city.

In the Gothic Quarter ("El Bario Gotica") Hotel California (Rauric 14; +34-93-308-1164), near La Rambla, has single rooms starting at 49 euros, breakfast included. Their 31 rooms all have satellite TV, phone, full bath, and air conditioning. In the same district, Hotel Regencia Colon (Sagristan 13-17; +34-93-318-98-58) is right off Cathedral Square, with 50 non-smoking rooms, doubles and triples, wide flat-screen TVs, marble baths, and breakfast buffet.

All rooms at the well-situated Barcelona City Centre Hostal (Balmes 60; +34-65-390-0039) have private bathrooms, free satellite TV, and are soundproofed. They also have rooms in a fourth-floor walk up at Barcelona City Ramblas (La Rambla 133; +34-65-390-0039) that are even less expensive. Hostal Baires (Avinyo 37; +34-93-319-7774), also in Bario Gotica, is between La Rambla and the wharf, and just a 15 minute walk to the beach.

Eos Guest House (Gran Via 575; +34-93-451-8772) is a gay and lesbian guesthouse at gay central, with 10 rooms, internet connection, and a buffet breakfast until 1 p.m. Their inexpensive prices cause them to fill quickly, so book well ahead.

Other hotels include: Fashion House (Bruc 13; +34-637-90-4044), with 12 rooms -- five with bath, wi-fi, and terrace; Barcelona Rooms (Comte D'Urgell 63; +34-629-159-759), featuring 12 brightly colored rooms in midtown, on two floors with four shared bathrooms, and fully equipped kitchen; Agua Alegre Hostal (Roger De Lluria 47; +34-93-487-8032), with a solarium and garden terrace, internet connection, and simple but comfortable rooms at moderate prices; Central Town Accomodations (Ronda Sant Pau 51; +34-93-442-7057), offering exclusively gay rooms with balconies and apartments.

For a romantic getaway by the sea, Beauty and the Beach Bed & Breakfast (Paseo de Taulat 136; +34-93-266-0562) is heaven-sent. Hosts Jose Maria and Matthew will make your stay a delight. They're opposite Barcelona's only nude beach, La Mar Bella, yet not far by metro from anywhere else in the city.

For something a little kinkier, Boxer Apartments (Diputacio 167) has a Fetish Apartment from 90 euros/night, and another dozen regular apartments in the Eixample and Ramblas area, from budget at 60 euros, to luxury at 200.

Bars and clubs
The gay district, or Gayxample, has many bars and restaurants within short distances of one another. The streets here are filled with men and their friends, late into the night.

Punto BCN (Muntaner 63) is one of Barcelona's most established fixtures in gay social life. Open earlier than most at 6pm, they mix a broad cross-section of men from among the many subsets of the community, along with tourists who put it first on their list of places to check out. Next door, La Chapelle (Muntaner 67) has a long and narrow bar that's abuzz with conversations from early evenings. Quieter tables and chairs can be found both in the back and on the front sidewalk. A wall here might captivate you with its antique church icons and relics.

There are two more relaxed cocktail bars nearby, Kodigo G (Muntaner, 24) with Gaudi inspired decor, and Moet (Muntaner 11), playing good music 6pm to 3am.

Dietrich Bar (Consell de Cent 255) is a large two-level bar, going strong for nine years. Hang out, make new friends, or check out the nightly drag shows. A sense of humor is demonstrated by their portrait of "la Dietrich." Its sibling bar Atame (Calle Consell de Cent 257) is right next door, and sometimes the shows move over here from Dietrich's.

At Dacksy (Consell de Cent 247) you'll hear many languages mixing and switching comfortably back and forth, reflecting gay Barcelona's international flavor. Twenty- and thirty-something guys who know one another set the tone here, but they're quick to include newcomers as well.

Plata (Consell de Cent 233), at the next corner, is thrown open to the night air, exuding stylish comfort with table and couch seating, a warm decor, soft lighting, and giant video displays overlooking all. An urbane clientele here can see and be seen by all who walk by.

El Cangrejo (Villaroel 86) is the club with the magic of the moment, overflowing with the freshest energy of gay Barcelona; men and women, old and young -- everyone seems linked and in constant motion. The crowd is predominantly Iberian, but also includes a zesty dash of Latin American flavors.

People Lounge (Villarroel 71) is gentlemen-only, for drinks while Broadway show tunes play in the background. Gracious hosts Jose and Martin, cute bartenders, overstuffed sofas, and attractive surroundings make this a pleasant and relaxing place to visit and they have wi-fi here too. Gays Abroad meets here every Thursday at 10pm. Members socialize, network and share information on how to do things in Spain. They're a a handy resource for newcomers, and a good opportunity for Spanish speakers to practice English.

Directly opposite, Mandarina (Diputacio 157) is small, open to the street, and draws a young and offbeat crowd. El Berro (Diputacio 180) is another small restaurant, wine and cocktail lounge on this street.

Castro Restaurant (Casanova 85) is a restaurant in the heart of the gay district that will more than satisfy the most demanding gourmet with fine Mediterranean cuisine; it's very gay sociable too.

Lust (Casanova 75), formerly Sweet is another favorite lounge, with loyal regulars, more spacious than many other area bars, perfect for early drinks to start the night. In the same building, Zelta's (Casanova 75) has muted lighting and understated panache that attracts an explosion of beautiful people at midnight. Some of the hottest locals in town come to mingle and dance on their small dance floor, but the DJ manages not to overwhelm conversations.

Bim Bam Bum (Casanova, 48) is a new cocktail and music bar with DJs and small dance floor.

Other more mixed places include:
Aire (Valencia 236) thronged with energetic young folk, mostly women in groups who bring guy friends for retro music favorites recorded before most were born;
Burdel (Carme 74), a small gem at the edge of El Ravel district that's popular with tourists and expats; and
Museum (Sepulveda 178), decorated in Louis XV Baroque style, with early evening cafe and video bar later until 3am.

Lorenzo's Gay Beach Bar (Ronda del Litoral Salida 23) is the Chiringo gay bar and cafe at Platya Mar Bella, open 10am to midnight daily. Get an all-over tan here if you like; there are no restrictions on nudity at this beach, and they attract a wide range of all kinds of people. From the L4 metro Poble Nou station hike to the water, or take bus number 41.

Bars and clubs for men

Bacon Bear Bar (Casanova 64), as with bear bars most everywhere, is one of the friendliest in town. The no-attitude pub ambience includes music that won't drown out your conversation. Join them for snacks on Thursdays, and don't forget to check out their back room, if you're craving some of those special (bear) hugs.

Fetish Mens Bar (Diputacio 161) cafe and bar for fetish men, has underwear parties and leather/rubber/uniform nights on the schedule.

Other strictly men's bars are a bit apart from the Gayxample. La Base (Casanova 201), a men's sex bar eight blocks to the north, began Barcelona's first naked nights. Their website announces each night's events, and they have darkroom, leather, and underwear parties.

To the southwest, Berlin Dark (Passatge Prunera 18) is a sex club where most people are naked, and some are in military briefs or leather thongs. It's friendly and conversational around the bar, from which you can move into their play areas. Here they feature wrestling nights, fetish events, piss parties, slave/master sessions... you get the idea.

New Chaps (Diagonal 365) is a leather bar that's open daily, from 9pm, with a wide range of ages, a downstairs darkroom, and hot porno. Owner Jordi takes a special interest in making all feel welcome.

Open Mind (Aragon 130), a dress-code only fetish club, has designated spaces for SM, bondage, fisting, and water sports, along with cabins and glory holes.

Dance clubs
Big dance clubs in Barcelona do very elaborate weekend "sessions" with constantly changing concepts, technologies old and new, top DJs, talented performers, erotic displays, and extravagant costumes -- all vying with one another to provide some of the most exiting and transcendent nights-out, anywhere in the world, all night and then well into the daylight hours.

Arena is a complex of late night dance venues, one of Barcelona's most venerable institutions. Arena Madre (Balmes 32) draws a huge crowd of young gay, alternative, and mixed genders to their weekend dances. Open nightly they bring people in on weekdays with the likes of Mondays strippers and Wednesdays comedy shows. Around the corner Arena Classic (Diputacio 233) has a slightly older crowd. The nearby Arena VIP Dance Club and in the same building, Arena Dandy Dance Club (Gran Via 593) are other weekend dance events from the same folks, but with a more straight mix.

Metro Disco (Sepulveda 185) is open every night, with drag and cabaret shows (Sundays and Mondays) and strippers on Tuesdays. House, Spanish, and 80s music plays on two floors with different atmospheres in each of their four bars on weekends.

Butch Bear BCN (Diputacio 206) DJ dance club opened in 2009 to stake out Saturday nights for men, with specials such as underwear parties, fetish nights, and retro fests.

With DBoy (Ronda Sant Pere 19-21), the big Saturday night gay dance spectacular, the Matinee Group continues to set a high standard in gay clubbing with quality music, lights and shows.
After-hours Sundays here are called La Madame (Ronda Sant Pere 19-21)
For those who want to continue dancing after 6:30am on Saturday and Sunday mornings, Souvenir (Noi del Sucre 75, Viladecans) is an after-hours club from the same outfit, where they party well into the new day, with shows, performances, and top DJs. Located southwest of Barcelona. See their website for directions and info on all the Matinee events.

Discoteque (Tarragona 141-7) is a big weekend straight and gay mixed high-energy dance party, known last year as Space.

Martin's Disco (Paseig de Gracia 130) is a popular men-only dance party that takes place each first Saturday.

Kiut (Consell de Cent, 280) is an 18+ dance club free for women and ten euros for men -- so, as intended, it's mostly women.

DClub (Autovia de Castelldefels C31, Km 186.1) is a new Matinee Group Saturday dance event south of Barcelona near Viladecans Station (train from Sants or free bus from Placa Espanya); two rooms, new sound and lights, brand new session concepts.

Shops and services

Antinous (Josep Anselm Clave 6) gay bookstore and cafe has a large selection of gay literature, photo books, poetry, movies, calendars, comics, erotica and more. Libreria Nosotras (Casanova 56) is another area gay bookshop.

Arenas Gay Cinema (Tarragona 7, enter at side De La Diplotacio alley) screens gay porn films.

Boyberry (Calle Calabria 96) is so much more than your typical sex shop. They carry all the usual X-rated videos, plus the largest gay-themed library of films to rent or purchase in all of Spain. In the back, the 14 cabins and darkroom maze area are ideal for cruising. LCD flat-screen TVs play the hottest movies, or perhaps one of their several glory holes might distract you. An all-day admission pass is six euros, half that if you're under 27, including in/out privileges. Get in for free if under 22. You get full, unlimited access to the internet, either from their machines or your own, and there's a lounge with inexpensive beers and other refreshments. Also find free passes to bars, local guides, maps, and magazines here. The staff is really friendly and helpful, and they provide bike racks and lockers, too.

Boxer (Diputacio 167) retail store stocks leather and fetish clothing, accessories, sex toys, rubber gear, and even sex furniture. They sell online, and also rent a fetish apartment from 90 euros/night, plus other regular apartments, from budget to luxury.

D'Arness (Casanova 63) is a sex and leather store with internet, toys, clothing, and lubricants.

Other Barcelona sex shops with dvds, magazines, and cinemas; some with cabins, and dark rooms include: Blue Star (Numancia 69); Nostromo Gay Sex-shop (Diputacio 208); Sestienda (Rauric 11); Skorpius (Gran Via 384); and Zeus (Riera Alta 20).

Need something new to wear? There are plenty of options in this neighborhood. ES4U (Casanova 56) is a gay fashion boutique, with chic underwear as their specialty. Ovlas (Via Layetana 33) has sexy clothing of many kinds: beach wear, underwear, and cutting-edge dance wear to keep you fashionable during all these opportunities in Barcelona to doff outer garments.

Other fashion stores hereabouts include: Celestino Munoz (Gran Via 588); DGM (Casanova 74); ES Collection (Conseil de Cent 218); M69 (Muntaner 64); Ritual (Muntaner 58); Spike (Hospital 46); and Testimoni (Galeries Malda 38A, Placa del Pi, 4).

Punto BCN (Muntaner 63) has souvenir tees, caps, posters, CDs and other odds and ends illustrated with logos from their clubs around town.

Vibes (Bruc 24) is a local gay-favorite gym with personal trainers, and a dance studio too.

Saunas and escorts

Grupo Pases has five saunas in Barcelona and three more in Valencia and Seville. Check out their website for exact locations and directions. These places are well maintained with amenities such as swimming pools, dry saunas, steambaths, and jacuzzis, as well as darkrooms, labyrinths, cruising areas, and private rooms. All locations offer snacks; some have bars and cafes.

The preeminent location, if you had to choose among them, is Sauna Barcelona (Tuset 1). This is "el bombon del Grupo Pases," the best and most modern of their facilities, and also offers massage, aromatherapy, chocolate bath, light treatment, and follicle massage. A huge 12 by 36 foot jacuzzi, private cabins (some with hot tubs), along with amenities common to all their bathhouses, make this a place to vacation from your vacation!

The other Pases Barcelona locations are: Casanova (Casanova 57); Condal (Espolsasacs 1); Corinto (Pelai 62); and Thermas (Diputacio 46).

Sauna Bruc (Bruc, 65) is a long-time local favorite of over 25 years, for a mix of young to old, bears and regular guys with special rates to beat the crisis.

Sauna Buenos Aires (Urgell 114), a new face on the sauna block, is open 24 hours with cabins, jacuzzi, steam and dry sauna, dark rooms, xxx video, bar, and they offer massage until 11pm.

Sauna Galilea (Calabria 59) is another local tubs on four levels, with Happy Sex Hours before 4pm, or after 9pm Monday through Thursday.

For the company of escorts there are two services, each with websites to help you make a selection: American Boys (Ronda Universidad 23) is near Placa Catalunya and offers massages, too; and Neron (Consejo de Ciento 185). Both have rooms, and Neron has a jacuzzi.

Events and resources

Bearcelona, is a big event April 1-5, 2010 for bears and their admirers; and this summer they'll have cruises to Italy and France, May 30 to June 6, 2010.

Pride Barcelona, June 20-28 2010, is one of the city's biggest festivals, with a huge parade from Placa Universitat to Placa d´┐ŻEspanya on Sunday June 27th; plus many events of music, parties, costumes, fireworks and throughout the week. See their website for details.

Those into film can check out two big gay cinema events: the Mostra Lambda Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, July 1-8, 2010, highlighting the most pressing homosexual issues of today, with discussions afterwards; and the Barcelona Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, October 15-24 2010, one of the highlights of the Catalan queer calendar with everything from gay feature films to shorts and also porn screenings.

Circuit Festival, August 1-9, 2010, will bring thousands of gay visitors from around the world for eight days of circuit parties, a gay day at the waterpark, and a dance night on the beach in nearby Sitges.

Other annual events for everyone include: Carnival, with celebrations just before Lent, bringing out the whole city with costumes, parade floats, all-night parties, and fireworks as they only know how in Spain; and La Merce, the occasion for a week of festivities each September to honor Barcelona's patron saint with bonfires, fireworks, parades, and music.

For local news and updates on local gay social life, Nois Magazine is a great resource and they have the best, most up to date map too. Gaybarcelona.net, and Pink Point has a booth at Calabria 96 (near Metro Rocafort), open afternoons and evenings until midnight, with maps and tips on most everything to do with gay Barcelona. They also have online information.

Also see articles on Gran Canaria, Madrid, Sitges, and Valencia, and listings for Benidorm, Ibiza and Seville.

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