Solo in a strangely beautiful city: Stephen Wood contributes a few bars on where to get a drink

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The Independent Travel
YOU WILL need a lot to drink in Barcelona. It is a city that makes people thirsty: I once looked at Barcelona's Yellow Pages and found that bars accounted for 15 of them. There were 148 establishments where the proprietor was a Senor Garcia, another 92 in which Senor Sanchez served up the cerveza. So wherever Frank Barrett's itinerary (left) takes you, there is always a good bar somewhere nearby.

Take Las Ramblas, for example. Half-way down the street, you have the choice of turning right to Bar Pinocho, or left to Els Quatre Gats. The Pinocho is a working-man's coffee- stop in the Boqueria food market. In front of you, as you perch on one of the stools with a glass of milky coffee, is a glass case full of tortillas and aubergine fritters, while behind you the iron-and-glass arcade, built in 1836, is packed with stalls offering fabulous displays of fresh produce.

Els Quatre Gats, on the other hand, is a bourgeois cafe-bar with a tiled interior, dating from 1897, which inhabits the ground floor of a bizarre Gothic building on Carrer Montsio. 'For almost as long as Picasso remained in Barcelona,' writes John Richardson in his Life of Picasso, 'the Quatre Gats tavern was the focal point of his life.' He painted and drew its clients, hung his pictures on its walls, even designed its menu card.

Then, when you have been around the Picasso Museum and emerged on to Carrer Montcada, you are only a couple of minutes' walk away from Casa Estevet. Turn left towards the port and it is on the right-hand side - an old, tiny bar, packed at lunchtime, serving excellent snacks which bear no relationship to the sad, rancid products of London's tapas bar boom.

From Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, it is a healthier walk back towards the centre to Cafe del Centro, just across from the Girona metro station. Dating from 1885, this is thick with atmosphere in the way that Parisian cafes used to be: the ceiling was once the same cream colour as the walls, but tobacco smoke and no paint have taken it several steps towards brown. Not a place to attract crowds, the Centro generates a collective, reflective indolence. Only the most energetic clients read their newspapers.

The Torres de Avila, in Montjuic park's Spanish Village, is the exact opposite. The place that really put the 'Bar' in Barcelona, it was the culmination - in 1990 - of the city's fashion for 'designer bars'. Created by Javier Mariscal and Alfredo Arribas, it is a riot even when empty, with its unsettling mixture of science

fiction, medieval mysticism, strobe lights, suede curtains and steel walkways. Inserted into the Village's recreation of the Gothic gateway of the town of Avila, the bar bursts out to a turreted roof terrace via a glass-walled lift that emerges into the night air.

That is night air: the one problem with Torres de Avila - apart from the pounds 5 you pay for a bottle of beer - is that it only gets going after midnight, which makes slotting it into a tourist itinerary rather difficult. But not impossible: the last time I was there I emerged to find that the Spanish Village was still floodlit, and its tourist office still open, at 2am.

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