Barcelona has been a sweatbox of a city for months on end now, with the trusty old trope of “¡Es la humedad!” trotted out by way of resigned explanation in offices, on street corners and under awnings alike. Whether you’re a flagging guiri or a non-fazed local, a beer garden setting in which to sequester from the city haze has taken on an almost primeval appeal.
Discover these nine foliage-fringed hideaways across the Catalan capital that meet the two killer criteria: soil-secured shrubs and beer.
L’Antic Teatre (barrio: Born) – Barcelona’s most boho beer garden
If the sturdy centenarian fig tree rooted into the open-air terrace of L’Antic Teatre could talk, it would no doubt relate a rollicking tale or two. The roof garden bar of a lively Barcelona cultural and social centre, this flora-flecked patio is one of the city’s worst kept secrets. Climb the steps that lead up from one of the Born’s narrow alleyways and you’ll likely find yourself rubbing shoulders with a hardy mix of hipsters, clued-up tourists and thespian sorts, all here for the beer and atmosphere.
The vibe is free-spirited and the beer free-flowing (and as a bonus, cheap). Sit back, sip a San Miguel and the chances are you’ll still be here by the time the Chinese lanterns start to glow, the conversation has turned to performance art and politics and the neighbours’ knickers hanging overhead have all but dried.
Carrer de Verdaguer i Callís 12, anticteatre.com/ Open Mon-Fri 10am – 11.30pm, Sat-Sun 4pm – 11.30pm
Biergarten (barrio: Les Corts) – so Teutonic all that’s missing is a Munich maypole
The undisputed title-holder of the most ‘authentic’ German beer garden in Barcelona, Biergarten is an adjunct to the 5-star Princesa Sofía hotel on Diagonal Avenue. Blue-and-white checked tablecloths festoon the tables and long wooden benches, while a combination of trees and marquees provide plenty of shade from the Barcelona sun. There are even forbearing waitresses decked out in full-blown dirndls (which gets a bit disconcerting when you hear them privately natter in colloquial Catalan), not to mention German pop hits playing (not far enough) in the background. Close your eyes and you could be in Bavaria.
Germany’s Erdinger wheat beer brewery is most heavily represented on Biergarten’s menu, with the brand’s white and dark Weißbiers (wheat beers) available both bottled and on tap. The classic sweet pilsner Gaffel Kölsch also features, or recreate memories of Munich with the bottled lager Augustiner. If shandy’s more your thing, sample a refreshing Radler – draught Erdinger and 7UP.
German pub grub gets a substantial look-in, too, with old stalwarts like Weisswurst and Bratwurst sausages kept company by traditional potato salads, pretzels and even an apple strudel. Roll up your lederhosen, raise an outsized stein and tuck in.
Plaça Pius XII, 4 (next to Hotel Princesa Sofia), ONLY OPEN DURING SUMMER MONTHS
El Jardí (barrio: Raval) – immure yourself in medieval ambience
There are those who rhapsodise about the Raval, and those (admittedly fewer) like me who are more circumspect in savouring its at times decidedly unsavoury character. El Jardí, buried a few alleyways back from the Boquería market in the Gothic gardens of the former Hospital de la Santa Creu, is one nifty nook I’m always happy to induct friends into. The blackboard outside blandishes “tapas, cocktails, salads, sun and a kick-ass atmosphere”, and, cloistered into a corner of the 15th-century courtyard, the setting is arguably the best thing on the menu.
El Jardí is not famed for its generosity when it comes to promoting artisanal local beers, nor is it flush with international names. Bottled beers include Estrella, Clara, Voll-Damm, Free Damm and, intriguingly, Zurito (the Basque term for a small glass of beer). There’s also Estrella on tap. If you’re bypassing beer altogether, opt for the decent selection of wines or the particularly moreish strawberry mojito.
Live music in the evening under the shady colonnades and twinkling tree lights makes El Jardí the perfect pitstop before you move on to some of the Raval’s more rambunctious nightspots later on.
Carrer de L’Hospital 56, eljardibarcelona.es/ Open Mon-Sun 10.30am – midnight
Bar Jardí (barrio: Gothic Quarter) – a surrealist quest for a summer cerveza
Not to be confused (which it often is) with its namesake El Jardí, the Gothic Quarter’s ‘garden bar’ is a clandestine corner if ever there was one. A totemic white camel stands sentinel over the official entrance, on Portaferrissa Street itself, and assuming you remember the password ‘random’ you’ll be granted passage through a disorientatingly lurid accessories boutique before you reach a narrow staircase at the end.
Hang in there, and you’ll be rewarded with the sight of around 20 tables amid a tangle of trees, with a fully stocked bar that includes a not unbefitting bottle of absinthe alongside a range of Spanish and imported draught and bottled beers.
Carrer de la Portaferrissa 17, facebook.com/Barjardielmercadillodelcamello, Open Mon-Sun 11am – 9pm
Cafe d’Estiu (barrio: Gothic Quarter) – a calm little corner hidden from the old-town hordes
The ‘summer cafe’ is set in the courtyard of an imposing Gothic edifice – the erstwhile palace of the Counts of Barcelona – which today houses a museum in homage to the Catalan collector and sculptor Frederic Marès. Tourists don’t tend to stumble upon it, but persevere past the Cathedral, through medieval doorways, under archways, beyond the orange tree and past the fish pond, and a surprisingly serene little spot awaits you.
From the cask there’s Filipino export San Miguel, with Estrella Damm, Voll-Damm, Moritz, Coronita and alcohol-free beer all from the bottle. Other tipples include Bacardi, Baileys, Cava and wine, plus a commendable stab at an Irish coffee. Despite its size, the Cafe d’Estiu boasts a well-stocked kitchen, with bar snacks like olives, crisps and hummus bolstered by wraps, salads and sandwiches to take the edge off if you’re already a few rounds in.
Plaça Sant Iu 5, cafedestiu.com, Open 1 April – 18 October 2015 Tue-Sun 10am – 10pm
Fragments Cafe (barrio: Les Corts) – a cute, cosy spot for a languorous afternoon
A favourite haunt of Les Corts’ natives (the neighbourhood that’s home to Barça’s stomping ground, the Nou Camp), Fragments occupies the corner spot on a lively local square. Venture past the terrace tables outside and straight on through the indoor seating to reach the glass-roofed garden patio at the back, where, if you’re in luck, you’ll be able to bag a table. The Havana-style fan thrums obligingly overhead, the fairy lights hugging the tree trunks twinkle and classic jazz can just be heard over intimate conversations in Catalan and Spanish.
Fragments is renowned for its tapas (its patatas bravas rank among the best in Barcelona), and also offers an extensive wine list. Suds-wise, your options are La Rosita (a honey-coloured, twice-fermented ale from Tarragona), the premium Alhambra Reserva 1925 in its snazzy jade bottle, or Voll Damm, your standard pale lager. Even better, do as the barrio’s knowing bartender recommends and make straight for the Mahou on tap.
Plaça de la Concórdia 12, fragmentscafe.com/ Open Tue-Wed 10.30pm – 1am, Thu-Fri 12.30pm – 2.30am, Sat 11.30am – 2.30am, Sun 11.30am – 1am
Belvedere (barrio: Dreta de L’Eixample) – a top-class, topiary-clad terrace
One block back from the classy Rambla de Catalunya, on a discreet L’Eixample passageway, cocktail bar Belvedere is a chic retreat for discerning diners and cocktail aficionados alike. Inside is a 40s-style carpeted cocktail lounge, complete with velveteen settees and low-key lighting. Out front, climbers and vines conceal the garden terrace’s six white curlicued tables from passers-by on the street outside.
The surroundings are sophisticated, but don’t worry that this place is pretentious – the thoughtful hospitality of veteran bartender and owner Gines will soon put you at ease. In fact, with the congenial Gines you’re in the hands of an expert bartender. With 20 years at the helm, his cocktail credentials are celebrated throughout the city and he’s even about to have a book published on the craft.
But what of the beer, you cry! Bottled brews on the menu include Heineken, Moritz, Alhambra Reserva 1925, la Coronita, Voll Damm, Pilsner Urquell and Guinness, while the wine list includes several good whites from the Penedes region and stand-out reds from la Rioja and Ribera de Duero. Frankly, though, I’d forego beer on this occasion and ask Gines to concoct you up a signature cocktail instead.
Passatge de Mercader 3, Open Mon-Fri 1.30pm – 2.30am (note: shut at weekends)
Torre Rosa (barrio: Sant Andreu) – colonial cool for balmy Barcelona nights
The pink-turreted vision of this seigneurial century-old mansion, squarely set on a humdrum street in Barcelona’s Sant Andreu barrio, is enough to make you double check you haven’t mistakenly disembarked the metro somewhere south of Quito. This colonial villa owes its construction to a so-called Catalan ‘indio’ (locals who left to make their fortune in the Americas before returning home to flaunt their wealth). For the past almost 30 years, Torre Rosa has been run by the Reig family as a 2-storey and internationally acclaimed cocktail palace.
Clued-up barceloneses make the pilgrimage every Sunday to sample vermouths on the palm and pine-clad terrace, but there’s no need to wait all week if the clam’s got you craving a chilled, casual place to down a few drinks in a unique al fresco setting. Beers come bottled (Moritz, Heineken, Chimay, Franziskaner Hefe-Weißbier Naturtrüb, Voll Damm and Coronita), on tap (Estrella Damm) and craft (Glops beer from a micro-brewery in Hospitalet, Barcelona) or choose a favourite from the boundless list of branded gins.
Carrer de Francesc Tàrrega 22, torrerosa.com/ Open Mon-Thu 7pm – 2.30am, Fri 7pm – 3am, Sat 12pm – 3am, Sun 12pm – 2.30am
La Caseta del Migdia (barrio: Sants-Montjuïc) – a woodland chiringuito on the edge of Montjuïc
Whether you’ve nipped up on the 150 bus or caught a cable car to the castle before traipsing the cacti-ridden cliff-top path, reaching La Caseta del Migdia is always a heart-warming moment. The beer is basic (the local Moritz is your only option) and the grub unsophisticated (barbequed chicken, sausages, salad and corn-on-the-cob) but hell, who cares, when you can take your pick of deck chairs, hammocks and a clutch of sea-view tables under a canopy of shady pines.
But it’s into the gloaming when La Caseta really gets going, complete with candles, chill-out music and views of the Mediterranean sunset that have almost become a rite of passage for Barcelona locals.
Past Montjuic Castle on the edge of a cliff (follow signs for Mirador del Migdia after taking bus no. 150 from Av. Reina Maria Cristina), lacaseta.org/ Open summer from 23 June Thu-Fri 8pm – 1am, Sat 12pm till 7pm then 8pm till 1.30am, Sun 12pm till 7pm then 8pm till midnight, and Wednesdays 9pm – midnight with prior booking only