No pictures of prostitutes today, this picture of Barcelona at night will have to do for this article.
What is Barcelona’s biggest tourist trap during the day, turns into a seedier trap of sorts at night. Later in the night around 9pm, certain parts of the city begin to awaken. Barcelona as a city operates very differently from what I’m used to. In New York everything is open 24/7, here things function a bit differently. The whole city isn’t open at the same time. Different types of businesses hold different hours depending on their trade and clientele, not to mention that everything shuts down for the afternoon siesta. Its really not joke here. As stores and government offices begin to close other places begin to open. Restaurants and bars open their roll-top garage doors to reveal hanging legs of ham and glowing interiors beckoning drinkers and diners. Its almost like only a certain amount of doors can be open at a time. As soon as the clothing stores, shoe shops and boutiques close their doors, the bars open theirs. It’s a very interesting feeling as one door closes another opens.
This type of transformation is a bit more intense in the Barri Gothic especially centering around La Rambla. Street performers and restaurant hawkers give way to drug peddlers and hookers galore. It takes people watching to the next level. I’ve never encountered such brazen drug sales as I have in Barcelona. As you wind through the busy night crowds, shady looking men mutter their wares hoping to catch any interested party looking to do so. Marijuana, hash, cocaine, ketamine, molly; they mutter over and over again in a chant as you walk by. We passed up the drugs for some street beers instead. The migrant salesmen that aren’t selling drugs are selling cans of beer instead. Due to local laws, stores cannot sell alcohol later at night. This has created a market for roving beer salesmen. We didn’t mind at all and took advantage of these aluminum entrepreneurs. Just make sure you haggle first. The beers start at 4-5 euros a piece but after a bit of haggling, it drops to 1-2 euros depending. After making a few deals we found ourselves out of the cosy backstreets of the Gothic Quarter and were spit out onto the seedy Rambla.
There were hookers galore. I couldn’t believe how brazen the whole business was. In Amsterdam the red light district is a bit of a spectacle and everyone knows what to expect. Here, there are no glass windows protecting you from the sometimes aggressive ladies of the night. When you step back and think of it, the individual situations are very sad but I am no activist and we are mere travelers observing and moving on. It was very entertaining watching the myriad of people wander up and down the avenue taking in the sights as we were, some negotiating for services and disappearing down dark alleys. Further south and west we wandered into the Raval area, often described as the “edgy” and “hip” part of town with the “cool bars”. I do find it very interesting what is described as edgy or up-and-coming in each city cause it can vary widely. Frankfurt’s definition of edgy actually refers to the needles and knives flashing around the Bahnhofsviertel neighborhood. No thanks.
Overall one of Barcelona’s best qualities is her warm and buzzing nightlife. The streets are full of energy that most other cities just don’t have. It’s a very contagious feeling you get from just walking around with all the other people. It must be the siesta that energizes everyone later in the night, either that or cocaine.