Sydney V Barcelona in the Nightlife Premier League

It’s a tired headline, but nonetheless true. Sydney has lost its nightlife, bar and club culture after the lockout laws and strict law imposers aimed their hindquarters at the once appealing party precinct. Police officers pound the pavement; now, the supreme rulers of the street as fewer and fewer people venture out at night.

Youth were once drawn to night culture as a means to explore the unknown, to strengthen the bonds with their friends and meet new ones, to wear a new outfit. Nights out are key to fostering a creative culture. I am originally from Barcelona, and although I am grateful for the way Sydney has treated me, there are certain aspects of the night culture that I wish to discuss…

Oxford street, FIB chats, Global culture, Sydney city, Barcelona night
Oxford Street. Image credit: Concrete Playground

The first thing that shocked me was the drinking schedule. Here in Australia you guys start way earlier than us. Normally, in Spain, we would start to drink at midnight and the party could go all the way until 6am. Meanwhile, here you guys start drinking at 8-9ish and finish the night at three. I honestly believe Australian party timings make more sense; since you get to enjoy the next day, be active and not (just) have a hangover day upon waking at 3pm to a big family lunch. What a waste of a Sunday! (Although that’s the norm in my country).

The so-called ‘freedom of the night’ in Sydney is strictly tied to the 1:30am lockout rule. Due to this rule, nights out are not exciting. Instead, they are carefully planned like a work schedule or a day in school. Time at night should not be a constraint but something that you can chop and change spontaneously to your full enjoyment and fulfilment.

One of the things that this time constraint leads to is last-minute chugging: no talk, just drink and get as smashed as possible before heading out. That, honestly, is something I will never get used to. The culture of getting as drunk as possible, in the shortest amount of time is not that big in Spain, especially once you are 18.

The act of drinking is a social activity. People take longer, and actually enjoy their beverages! In turn, people talk and get to know each other; getting drunk is just a byproduct of the social element.

Street meeting, Barcelona, FIB CHATS, Sydney city, Global culture
Plaça del Sol (Square of the sun) Located in the Gràcia District, known for street drinking.  Image credit: Photographer of Dreams

I’ve heard rumours that Sydney’s nightlife used to be characterised by how different each neighbourhood was, but now that diversity is getting lost. I believe this is a result of the tight lockout regulations. For example, the District of Gràcia (the Hippie district) in Barcelona is fully dedicated to small bars where you can either get a coffee to go to work at 8am, get some beers with friends once your workday is done, or even get some last mixers as late as 3am.

At the same time, I must not forget that Sydney has a bigger underground bar culture! Just the other day, I was mesmerised by this bar called the Baxter Inn with its classic 1920’s American look, the groovy drinks and awesome R&B and Jazz music. I personally love that vibe, and am always looking out for cool bars. Sydney has its downfalls, but this is something that is missing in other cities.

Underground Bar, Sydney, Baxter Inn, Night Life, Global culture, Ozzie Night
The Baxter Inn. Image Credit: DK and G

Night variety is the key to having a good night: one day you might feel like dressing up and going to Opium (a posh club) next to the beach, and the next day you might want to get a beer in your casual wear at a cool bar in Las Ramblas (Centric Neighbourhood)… and then see where the night takes you! Of all the places I have lived and travelled, that’s what makes a city’s night culture so rich and diverse.

The NSW Government should work to maintain the special traits of iconic places such as Kings Cross or the flamboyant Oxford Street because diversity in nightlife means meeting new people, and new people bring new friendships, topics and conversations that can broaden your minds. At this rate, Sydney could end up turning into Singapore where nights out are either Clarke Quay or Holland Village – and it gets old real fast, trust me.

Where is your favourite party precinct in the world, and do you think that Sydney compares? We want to hear from you.