PHOTO BY DIEGO BARBOSA
Can Paixano, or La Champañeria as it is commonly known, may be one of the most surprising places in Barcelona. If you're a local then you know the place; if you’ve lived in the city, you will certainly have been there; and if you’re a tourist who likes to get insider advice before visiting somewhere, then this place is doubtless on your to-do-list. Go past Pia del Palau and walk down Carrer de la Reina Cristina (in the neighbourhood of Barceloneta)—nothing caught your eye yet? Wait until you accidentally bump into huge wooden entrance with no sign on it but crowds coming in and out, while many others stand by the door. Yes, you've reached what could be called the “paradise of the real cava experience”.
Founded in 1969 by cava-makers Can Paixano, the place offers its clients much more than just a glass of good cava. The place is tiny, usually very crowded and full of trash on the floors. There are no tables or chairs for sitting down. Ordering is almost impossible unless you push your way into the crowd and sometimes cava is spilled on you without notice. Sounds awful? Wrong. The adventure of eating and drinking here is a definite experience, to be repeated as many times as you can. I’m not a big fan of enclosed spaces and much less when there are so many people, but Can Paixano or La Champañeria is a must and well worth a visit (or two).
Once you manage to get to the bar and order, or yell, what you want, then you are set. The bocadillos (sandwiches) are all traditional ones and the greasier the better! They also have a variety of tapas and some more 'sophisticated' options, but don’t think about it too much and order the house sandwiches, that is, the first ones on the giant chalkboards hanging on top of the bar. The walls have signs that clearly state you must eat to get a glass of cava for free. What combo could be better? People stand on corners, talk amongst themselves, eat and drink and then do it again! Until yes, you leave the place feeling light-headed but totally satisfied. If you’re still able at this point, you will notice that there are all types of people here, from locals buying their stash of cava and olives for the month to tourists from around the world, businessmen and youngsters relaxing at the end of the day.
Can Paixano is not a party place. It is not a fine dining restaurant. It is neither a meeting place nor beautiful view not to be missed. It is however, the best way to experience Barcelona as a local and get to mix with people who may tell you all their secrets despite never having seen you before; to become best friends with a complete stranger; and to honestly be able to say that you have been in the 'true' Barcelona once and for all. I came in without expectations, I had been warned that the appearance could be disappointing and doubtful, but once in there all prejudice was left aside. I had the best bocadillo and glass of cava in all my time here. I was in great company and, most of all, I had the most diverse and entertaining afternoon watching all sorts of characters get fooled by the magic of this tiny, dirty but absolutely wonderful place.