If you’re new in town, planning a visit or just passing through, you’ll probably want to make the most of your time in Granada, Spain’s Moorish jewel of the south. This will of course include seeing the sights, eating the eats and – one would assume – sampling a taste of the city’s buoyant night life, with a little of what the locals like to call ‘Grana’ino tyle’.
Like it or not, Granada is very much a student city; there are approximately 85,000 of them currently attending the University (Source: Wikipedia) and around 2-3,000 of these are enrolled in the Erasmus ‘study abroad’ programme (‘study’ used in its loosest sense here), so finding somewhere to party isn’t exactly difficult.
However, if – like me – your University years are behind you, then shuffling your way in and out of student-saturated bars all evening might not be your idea of fun. But there’s no need for concern; in Granada, there’s something for everyone, though finding exactly what and where that something is can be rather galling at times – both for tourists and locals.
After two years as a proud ‘guiri’ in Granada, I’m going to stick my neck out and say that I’ve just about seen it all, even though I will, inevitably, at some point stumble upon somewhere brilliant that neither I nor my fellow guiri countrymen have ever heard of.
Before we begin, a disclaimer: as can be seen from the very elaborate map above, Granada is divided up into eight barrios: La Chana; Norte; Beiro; Albaicín; Centro; Genil; Zaidín and Ronda, but in the interest of keeping this article brief, we’ll focus on where the bulk of Granada’s best pubs and clubs can be found: El Centro, El Albaicín and El Realejo (a smaller barrio east of the centre), with a few honourable mentions at the end. Also, as is the case throughout the rest of Spain, Granada’s nightlife doesn’t really get going until about midnight, and tends not to wind down until about 6am, so it would be wise to pace yourself no matter where you’re going. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt since coming here, it’s that the Spanish are kings when it comes to partying.
The beaten track, as it were, more or less makes up the centre of Granada. The long, cobbled and Moorish themed Calle Elvira, for instance, is continuously swamped with punters lurching from one buzzing tapa bar to the next, and when the kitchens call it quits for the night, there is a profusion of late night bars lying in wait for the half drunken overspill. One such enterprise is El Son (C/ Juaquin Costa 13). This joint, functioning as a bar upstairs and disco on its ground floor, fills up around 3am and stays open until the early hours. It is a fantastic example of how people in Granada will dance to just about anything; frankly, music has never been so random. Being blind drunk before entering isn’t an essential requirement, but it helps.
Things tend to be a little quieter down the other end of Elvira, but tucked down an otherwise derelict side road you’ll find Miniclub and Pata Palo catering to regularly teeming crowds, the latter especially. On a Friday night, you will doubtless spend a good twenty minutes shoving your way through the scrum before you are served, but the vibe inside both bars is as about as Spanish as it gets: we’re talking mass, screaming sing-alongs to wild, never-heard-of-before Spanish songs, some rather risky-looking table dancing and an unfathomable amount of chupitos.
Over the other side of Gran Vía de Colón – Granada’s main intersection – there’s plenty more fun to be had. Entresuelo (Plaza San Augustin 2) blares out hours of reggae and dancehall at the weekend and boasts one of the best atmospheres in town. Then there’s Plantabaja (C/ Horno de Abad 11), a very cool bar whose basement – la planta baja – regularly plays host to some of Spain’s best, underground musical talents and tribute acts who are often almost as good as the real thing.
Further westward are Booga Club (C/ Santa Barbara 8), a blues, dub and reggae stronghold also renowned for its excellent provision of live music, and Afrodisia (C/ de Almona del Boquerón 10), a swinging sixties sort of place and Booga’s unofficial warm-up bar. At €3 a cerveza, Booga is pricey compared with its rivals, but that’s ok because there’s a Chino across the road so people just get hammered on the steps outside instead.
For the busiest, cheapest and wildest time in town, head to the ever-frenetic Pedro Antonio de Alarcon, a long, straight, one-way street, which at its far end becomes inundated with busy bars, crowded kebab houses and chockfull chupiterías. Ergo, this is definitely the place to come if you do like student-saturated bars. Take La Marisma for example. Here, large beers, or jarras are sold for €1.60, hence the unyielding glut of bodies in the room. Each beer – conveniently – is served with a small plastic cup of salty pipas, the shells of which are promptly bitten off and tossed to the ground, creating a swathe of crunchy carpet that has to be seen to be believed. But that isn’t actually possible until closing time when everybody leaves.
Double back and you’ll encounter a much louder side of Granada nightlife: the grunge bars. Soma, El Transistor and El Peaton blast out the rock, indie and heavy metal – some of it refreshingly nostalgic, some of it deafeningly uncompromising – all night, every night after 10pm.
Pedro’s adjoining side streets have also become smeared with the same tawdry brush – Calle Socrates, home of student-favourite shot bar Chupitería 69, being a fine example. Here, a menu focused solely on inebriating its indulgers draws sizeable hordes most nights. All shots, whether ‘suave’, ‘medio’ or ‘fuerte’ (el agua bendita is particularly objectionable) cost €1, and are accompanied by vouchers that can be accumulated in order to win one of the bar’s esteemed rewards for loyalty. Lighter anyone? Maybe a T-shirt that proclaims you as Chupitería 69’s number one fan? Or just go the distance and trade all those hard earned vouchers in for the legendary thong? Even with the rewards, there are no winners here, just a lot of very, very wobbly people with incredibly sticky fingers.
El Albaicín, Granada’s oldest, largest and most iconic barrio, rises high above the rest of the city to face the grand Alhambra Palace. Properties battle for every last inch of room here, and anybody who has successfully completed the grueling climb up to El Mirador de San Nicolas – the city’s most famous viewpoint – deserves a pat on the back. By day, the narrow alleyways are swarming with tourists, but at night most descend into the city in favour of some less physically exerting tapa hopping.
However, there are several bars well worth visiting. Café Bar Higuera (C/ Horno de Hoyo 17), for instance, is full of beans on a Friday night, especially when things warm up in late spring. The intimate and festooned beer garden out back makes for an excellent spot to chow down a tapa and clap along to bands of hippies strumming/blowing wood-fashioned instruments with no clear purpose. Other draws include Rincon de Pepe (Puerta Nueva), where delicious wine and home-cooked tapas can be enjoyed for a fair price and Casa Torquato (C/ Pagés 31) for something quintessentially Andaluz.
Ten minutes’ walking distance from El Albaicín – or Paseo de los Tristes if arriving from Plaza Nueva – is perhaps Granada’s most popular club of all: El Camborio. The venue has established itself as a firm student favourite, and often reaches maximum capacity on any given night of the week. If pop and Spanish chart music is your thing, you can’t go wrong here.
Dubbed ‘la zona de los guiris’ by some of the locals, the nightlife in El Realejo – the old Jewish quarter of Granada – is geared slightly more toward an international crowd. There are enough Spanish owned tapas bars around to ensure a traditional quality is preserved – Campo Principe, for example, is loaded with classic Spanish style bars – but an assortment of English and Irish run pubs and eateries give the barrio a distinctly foreign or – as is the case for us guiris – pleasantly familiar feel. The cozy Casa Lopez Correa (C/ Molinos 5) does excellent food, wine and beer and often hosts intercambios in the evenings, and down the road, Paddy’s Pub (C/ Santa Escolastica 15) is the perfect place to reconvene after the night before for a proper pint, some friendly banter and a dose of live sport with English commentary! Everyone needs their home comforts from time to time, and Paddy goes that extra mile to make sure all of his customers are being looked after. The TV sets have even been positioned so that one can view four games at once, and if the game you want to watch isn’t showing, no problem; Paddy will stream it illegally from one of the laptops propped on the bar. Now that’s service.
After hours, El Realejo doesn’t have much to offer, but for those hellbent on going all night long, gratification in the form of pounding, pounding gabba or techno can be sought out from Quilombo (Carril de San Cecilo 21) – if you’re willing to stumble uphill to get there.
I couldn’t pen a guide on Granada’s nightlife without mentioning my favourite Granadino club of all now could I? La Sala El Tren (Carretera de Málaga 136) boasts an imposing sound system, unmatched elsewhere in Granada. Getting there is a bit problematic – either €8 by taxi from the centre or a very long walk) – but the quality of its live gigs and international DJ sets makes the journey well worth the effort. The entrance fee typically sets you back around €10 with either a copa (spirit and mixer) or a couple of beers thrown in, but the general custom is to drink copiously in the street beforehand. Events label Substation regularly feature major UK reggae, jungle and DnB names on their rosta – The Skatalites, Congo Natty, Serial Killaz, and Shy FX the latest among them.
The only other Granadino club to attract the big names in the field of electronica is Industrial Copera (C/ Paz 7), a huge, double-floored discotheque with some seriously impressive pyrotechnics. For me, it’s not quite up to Tren’s standards in terms of character and atmosphere, but it’s still considerably better than the likes of Granada 10 and Mae West – two glorified and unbelievably pretentious student haunts, far more concerned with glitz and glamour than actually playing some decent music. That’s just me though – if anybody begs to differ then please do say so in the comments section below!
Have you experienced Granada’s nightlife? Where did you go and where would you recommend?