Barcelona has a vibrant gay and lesbian scene, with a fine array of restaurants, bars and clubs in the district known as the ‘Gaixample’, an area of L'Eixample about five to six blocks southwest of Passeig de Gràcia around Carrer del Consell de Cent.
Despite fierce opposition from the Catholic Church, Spain legalised same-sex marriage in 2005. It became the fourth country in the world to do so. A poll just prior to the legislation passing found that over 60% of Spaniards favoured the legalisation of same-sex marriage. Gay and lesbian married couples can also adopt children.
As a rule, Barcelona is pretty tolerant and the sight of gay or lesbian couples arm in arm is generally unlikely to raise eyebrows. Transgenderism, too, is increasingly accepted.
Befitting a diverse city of its size, the bar scene in Barcelona offers plenty of variety, with stylish cocktail bars, leather bars, bear bars, easy-going pubs and theme bars (with drag shows and other events) all part of the mix.
As with all clubs in town, things don't get going until well into the early morning (around 2am). The bigger and better-known clubs, like Metro, one of Barcelona's pioneers in the LGBTI club scene, host top-notch DJs, multiple bars, a dark room, drag shows and other amusements. Keep in mind that most of the clubs open only from Thursday to Saturday nights.
The Lesbian Scene
The lesbian bar scene is a little sparse compared to the gay scene, with more places catering to a mixed gay-lesbian crowd (and a few straights thrown in) than an exclusively lesbian clientele. The one place that's proudly lesbian is Aire, which should be a requisite stop for every nightlife-loving lesbian visiting the city. Some nominally straight bars and clubs host periodic lesbian parties. Keep an eye out for party flyers in shops and bars in the Gaixample for the latest.
The gay and lesbian community from Barcelona and beyond takes centre stage during the annual Pride Barcelona. The weeklong event takes place in late June and features concerts, campy drag shows, film screenings, art shows and open-air dance parties – complete with lots and lots of foam. It culminates with a festive parade along Carrer de Sepúlveda and ends at the Plaça d'Espanya, where the big events are held.
Also of note is the LGBTI film festival, Fire! (www.cinemalambda.com), hosted by the Casal Lambda in June. Film lovers might also be able to catch a bit of the Sitges Film Festival (sitgesfilmfestival.com), which happens in early October.
Sitges: Catalonia's LGBT Capital
Barcelona has a busy gay scene, but Spain's LGBTI capital is the saucily hedonistic Sitges, 35km southwest of Barcelona, a major destination on the international party circuit. The LGBTI community there takes a leading role in the wild Carnaval celebrations in February/March.
Need to Know
Casal Lambda A gay and lesbian social, cultural and information centre in La Ribera.
Patroc (www.patroc.com) A European gay guide, the Barcelona section of which has a useful selection of hotels, clubs and so on. Particularly good on upcoming events.
Tillate (www.tillate.es) Discover upcoming parties in this nightlife guide to regions around Spain, including Catalonia.
Travel Gay (www.travelgay.com) This global site has a Barcelona section with frequently updated listings.
GaySitges (www.gaysitges.com) A specific site dedicated to this LGBTI-friendly coastal town.