At some stage when you’re on Barcelona’s beaches you will catch sight of the quirkily named ‘chiringuitos’ – open-air beach bars serving food and drinks that are a haven for anyone wanting to sit back and enjoy the relaxing waterfront location. Music, mojitos and morsels of tapas mean that these bars are popular day and night, all summer long.
What’s in a name?
Yes, it is indeed a strange word. The name ‘chiringuito’ comes from South America. Farmers used to blend coffee and sugar cane before pressing the mixture and immersing it in boiling water. The substance that emerged was called chiringo, and people working the land would drink this during breaks. The stalls selling the drink eventually took on the name ‘chiringuitos’.
Today chiringuitos are a traditional and important feature of beach resorts all over Spain. Popular among locals and visitors alike, it was the success of the first chiringuito, opened in Sitges in 1913, which sparked the trend. The original structures were pretty spit and sawdust, made of cane roofing with sand from the beach as a floor. They tended to serve fish grilled by fishmongers’ wives inside a wrecked boat with a wood fire burning in the centre. Over the years chiringuitos have developed into the beach bars they are today, but they do still have a basic and rustic feel, complimenting their surroundings.
Typical chiringuito fare
Given their seaside location, chiringuitos naturally specialise in seafood. Most places have branched out though so you won’t be limited to a fishy menu – snacks like sandwiches and salads are common, but each chiringuito will have its own flavour. The drinks menu is usually varied as well, with both soft drinks and alcohol available. Look out for orxata, a sweet drink that looks a bit like milk but is actually made from tiger nuts. You’ll either love it or hate it, but if it goes down well it’s the perfect refreshment on a hot day.
Be aware that the prices in chiringuitos are often higher than other places further away from the beach, but then again, you’re paying for the atmosphere.
From dusk till…dusk
It’s when the sun goes down that chiringuitos really come to life. Groups of friends gather to enjoy a drink, a snack and lend an ear to the visiting DJs. The chilled and cheery mood is the perfect way to unwind at the end of the day or get geared up into party mood for the rest of the night. Although they’re not all open every night, during the summer most chiringuitos tend to stay open till 2am at weekends, and many also have parties on throughout the week.
Names to look out for
This lively chiringuito has a prime spot on the bustling Barceloneta beach. The menu here is varied and you can get typical Spanish dishes as well as some international cuisine. It’s a great place to have a few cocktails by the sea while chilling out to the background music. Princesa 23 is also a favourite late-evening haunt for party-goers headed to Port Olympic’s nightclubs.
Chiringuito del Sol/ Chiringuito del Mar
This duo is also located on Barceloneta beach. They offer similar menus of simple, tasty food, ranging from salads, pizzas and quesadillas to hot dogs. There’s also a choice of soft drinks, coffee, wines, spirits and cocktails. Get out to the beach first thing and catch the morning sun by having breakfast here on the large terrace from 10am. Alternatively stay late into the night, when the chill-out music played throughout the day starts to build up tempo.
Known as the epitome of cool, these two chiringuitos have the same owners and sit on the two adjacent beaches, Mar Bella and Nova Mar Bella. Although it is further away from the party-central atmosphere of Barceloneta beach and Port Olímpic, this is nonetheless a good place to go during the hot summer nights. From June to November these chiringuitos host a free beach party every Sunday. The food on offer is mostly Mexican, but there are also other options such as salads or tapas.
On Bogatell beach you can find this chilled-out little venue. Throughout the day you can choose from a variety of dishes such as tapas, sandwiches and toasties, washed down by a cocktail. When day becomes night, the candles come out, giving the bar and surrounding area a very romantic feel.
This chiringuito is located on the Nova Icaria beach and is famous for reggae music, particularly Ragamuffin. The combination of Jamaican sounds and beach surroundings creates a laid-back and cheerful atmosphere. Whether you’re just relaxing or attending one of the many beach parties hosted here, you’re sure to have a good time. Grab one of their famous mojitos and enjoy.
If you want a place you can really kick back and relax, head to this chiringuito on Nova Icaria beach. During the day it’s known for its peaceful setting on the seafront. By night, though, DJs and live music take over and the place is transformed. The food menu consists mainly of salads, sandwiches, pizzas and tapas and at just three euros for the house beer, it ticks all the boxes.
This beach bar is located on the relaxed Bogatell beach and with its focus on soft ambient music, it fits in well with the surrounding atmosphere. Lie back in a hammock with a natural fruit juice or, for something stronger, opt for a cocktail. If you fancy a bite to eat, choose from their Mediterranean style menu. This is a cool place to go if you are after a quiet evening with live music and the occasional performance.