Bar Marsella is what they call an institution in Barcelona. Known as Barcelona’s first bar, it opened in 1820 in the beautifully salacious underbelly aka El Raval – and its bar has propped up the likes of Ernest Hemmingway and Pablo Picasso, plying them with absinthe whilst whores and harlots and opportunistic sleight of handers paraded outside in bustling C/Sant Pau, relieving oblivious folk of their pocketbooks and finery, and not that much has changed to this day.
Inside Bar Marsella El Raval’s bohemian population drink loudly and ecstatically, crowded around tiny tables fucked up by time, and fabulously decayed.
Bar Marsella is almost grubby it is so authentic. Chandeliers seem to dangle precariously from ceilings wearing more cobwebs than crystals. Dust gathers like dirty fur stoles around the shoulders of liquor bottles that may not have been uncorked since the establishment’s opening party in 1820.
Bar Marsella smacks of the kind of place Jack Brel might sing of. Back before the smoking ban ripped Spain of its freedom to happily die by cigarettes, clouds of carcinogenic smoke added to the atmosphere.
Adding to the authenticity of the place, the misanthropic owner refuses to play music here – giving it anotherworldly anachronistic feel. Only the mobile phones on tables and contemporary haircuts destroy the illusion of being in the 19th century.
With a seductively tawdry atmosphere that will make you feel like you’ve accidentally walked into another century, the appeal of Bar Marsella is demonstrating no signs of dwindling. A couple of green fairies (absinthe) and you won’t know or care in what century you happen to find yourself.
The opening hours are a bit vague, but don’t bother arriving until after midnight as it doesn’t get going until then. You’re in Spain remember and don’t need to be drunk and in bed by 1am. Walk down Sant Pau before Marsella’s doors have opened and you would have no idea it was even there.
Drinking green hallucinogenics in the 19th century is as organically bohemian as it gets. Make out like you are Oscar Wilde by staying up late with green things and flaming sugar cubes. That is so Barcelona.
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