Barcelona’s bustling nightlife attracts a huge international crowd each year. The sheer diversity of the bars and clubs here arguably makes it one of Europe’s top partying destinations. But although Barcelona is generally an awesome night out, there are two sides to the story. To put it bluntly, many bars and clubs during the high season are simply overcrowded, overpriced and, in some cases, rather pretentious tourist traps. It’s fair to say that these types of establishments really don’t do the city justice, and anyone who’s familiar with Barcelona knows there is much, much more on offer – you just have to look in the right places.
To feel the true rhythm and vibe of Barcelona’s nightlife, no other district can compare to the charismatic El Gótico, which is considered by many as the heartbeat of the city. By ducking into this labyrinth of narrow, shady streets you’ll find hidden gems around almost every corner – trendy bars, hip clubs and cosy tapas joints that create an effervescent atmosphere that teems with life. For me, El Gótico encapsulates the very essence of Barcelona – a lively, cool and down-to-earth place. This is reflected in Plaça de George Orwell; a small, tucked-away square located bang in the middle of the district. So if you’re looking for a chilled out, interesting spot where you can perch undisturbed and enjoy a few beers with friends, then this is it.
Interestingly, the square is probably better known for the history that surrounds it, and the rather ironic connotations that stem from this, than anything else. Allow me to give you the run down. In 1996 the square was named after Orwell, not because of his outstanding literary achievements, but instead to pay homage to his contribution to the Spanish Civil War, where he fought on the Republican side. Now, here comes the strange part. The author of ‘1984’, the satirical novel about a society ruled by the all-seeing eye of Big Brother, may have been slightly surprised to discover that just a few years later (2002), a security camera was installed in the very plaça that bears his name, keeping strict, 24-hour watch over anything and everything that happens there. Talk about ironic…
The truth is that Plaça de George Orwell, dubbed “Plaça Tripi” by locals, hasn’t always been the, erm, cleanest of areas. In the past it was known to attract an, let’s say, alternative crowd made up largely of tramps and marijuana users, as well as pesky pickpockets. The extra surveillance was merely a measure installed to counteract the activities that occurred in this somewhat run-down square and, in general, this didn’t go down too well among the locals. For them, these added security cameras infringe civil rights and represent an unnecessary governmental effort to improve Barcelona safety, which has stripped the square of its character, privacy and authenticity.
So, why would I want to go to a place like this, I hear you ask? Well, it must be said that since the introduction of these measures, “Plaça Tripi” has cleared up its act and the stereotypes attached to it have largely disappeared. Granted, you might still occasionally come across the odd dodgy character, but a lot of its original spirit and soul remains. With the recent renovation of the square, where a playground for children was constructed just last year, the plaça nowadays is still a popular hangout for locals – full of typical bars and cheap eateries, including tasty Greek food and takeaway kebabs.
Even the plaça’s neighbouring streets offer up delights. One such example would be El Mariachi bar (found on the corner of Carrer dels Codols and Carrer d’en Rull). If you manage to find it, this bright and colourful, albeit tiny, hangout is owned by musician Manu Chao and boasts a stylish, yet nonchalant and unfussy atmosphere. Again, it’s ideal for unwinding with good friends and you’ll feel like you’ve really stumbled upon a secret.
These are exactly the type of places that make Barcelona, Barcelona. Wrapped up in history, character and vibrancy, they just ooze cool. Plaça de George Orwell might not be the perfect place to take the family (or maybe it is, what with its new playground?), and some locals may argue that this is yet another urban area subject to government repression. But if you’re looking to escape the crowds and experience the authentic side of the city, it’s well worth a visit.
This post was a guest post written by Tom Lukjaniec- from Oh Barcelona.com
Photos by Lauren Manning