Behind The Shop: Barlife In Granada

bars in granada, the spain scoop

Generalife, in Granada with the Sierra Mountains.

There are billions of bars in Spain.  Community. Sense of belonging to neighborhood. Gossip. Chat of the day. When I go out with friends in Spain, we go to a bar first, movie or activity second, and back to the bar.  People in Spain love to hang out.  Throw away your watch when you come to Spain.  Robin Graham, our guest writer and expert from Southern Spain, takes you into an ordinary bar.  Not a slick, trendy bar, this is the real thing.  And, Granada is known for their excellent tapas.

By Robin Graham

You know when you’ve reached Bar La Trastienda because it says “Bar La Trastienda” over the door, but everything else is telling you to turn around. It’s quiet and you’re facing an antique and slender double door of plain sheet metal. The upper section of each half is a paned glass panel, covered with net curtains which fail to obscure the interior scene.


bars in granada

Street in Granada.

The light inside is fluorescent and there are two women in white coats, which makes quite an impression. They aren’t alone, surrounded by what you take to be their neighbours. They are all of a certain age and their chatter, when you timidly push one of the doors open, puts an end to the quiet. Over their heads and – now that you’ve stepped down and in off the street – over yours, hangs an inverted forest of embutidos; salchichones, morcillas, chorizos.


Pool at the Partal Palace at the Alhambra in Granada

Apart from the neighbours, sausages and dark wood counter, all is white and brightly lit. It’s the kind of tiny shop you still remember from your boyhood, and family visits in the mountains of Galicia. The oily scent of cured meats spiced with pimentón; inexplicable lace doilies draped over any available surface; Jesus and/or Mary everywhere you look.

This isn’t Galicia, though; it’s Granada, and this isn’t meant to be a shop. According to The Guardian, it’s supposed to be a bar. You’re frozen at the door, unsure of how to proceed and on the point of retreating when one of the white-coats gestures to the right, to a big old antique till. As wrong as it seems, you comply and squeeze behind it and through a little doorway.

You find yourself trastienda (behind the shop). Benches line little recesses along a wall tiled in green, yellow and black – the archetypical Moorish patterns of Granada and its Alhambra palaces. The tables and stools are low to the ground and the room is dimly lit by little table-top lamps. Surprisingly chic, there is no piped music – just the hum of chat from a few patrons.

Relieved and delighted, you take a seat and order a caña, and because you’re in Granada you sit back to wait for your free tapa, which as it turns out is no surprise; a nice bit of salchichon from the ladies out front.

Plaza de Cuchilleros 1, Granada.

What has been your experiences in bars in Spain?

Related Spain Scoop:   Blogs from Spain we love.   See our interview with Robin Graham.  Christine Medina has The Scoop on tapas in Andalucia.

 Robin Graham, writer extroidnaire lives  in Tarifa.  He writes about places and experiences in Spain, some as he says,  “made up,”  perfect for his site name:   His writing is well crafted and at times,  when I plan to spend three minutes on his blog, I read and read and read.




©Robin Graham 2012







16 Responses

  1. inka says:

    Sounds very chic indeed. As always, you have to look closely to find the little wonders of this world.

  2. robin says:

    Very true, Inka. Sometimes the best places advertise the least.

  3. Gladys says:

    i haven’t been to spain, but i so envy your photos. love the photo of that partal palace :)

  4. nancy todd says:

    the detours in the road while traveling often take us to the little places that are unforgettable.

  5. Sometimes the best place you go while traveling, is the place that makes you reminiscent..

  6. robin says:

    Thanks all, for the comments. Yes , the best journeys throw up unexpected highlights.

  7. nancy todd says:

    Robin’s writing reminds me to be still. To observe, listen, and feel the vibes around me. To be in the present. And, that is all we have.

  8. Unfortunately, I don’t have any experience in bars in Spain, but eager to have them. Bar La Trastienda would be a good place to start, I think.

  9. I love the bars in Spain, especially the little tucked-away ones like this. :)

  10. Andrea says:

    I love hidden gem spots like this!

  11. I’m sure the drink and tapas were good – but it’s the mystery of it’s location that makes it sound so appealing.

  12. Christopher says:

    I’m always so timid at the doors of these places.

  13. admin says:

    Me too, but in the end it’s worth it for the food!

  14. I have never been to Spain…yet. But I will be sure to keep my eyes open for gems like this bar you described!

  15. Joe W says:

    As tourists we usually relate visiting Spain,at least i do,to cities like Madrid,Barcelona,Sevilla, or even Ibiza, but after knowing about cities like Granada i wonder if its better to start with those kind of small cities in order to get to know the culture better. Great epics and great post.

  16. Paddy Waller says:

    Great story.Reminds me of a bar I went to once in a village in the north of Navarra where you walked in to a house which we were told was a bar only to find yourself in the sitting room,with one or two blokes sitting around quietly drinking.They ,of course all looked up at us when we(friend and self) walked in
    The bar was a wooden plank across the kitchen doorway through which they served home made pacharan and everyone spoke in Basque. A tense moment ordering in Spanish until they realised we were foreigners not Spaniards!

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