If you like art, history, or just want to visit somewhere that’s painfully stylish, then make time in your tour of Barcelona to visit Els Quatre Gats Cafe. The name translates to ‘the four cats’ which comes from an expression meaning a small group, or a group of oddballs. If you look into the history of its famous patrons and characteristic owner, Pere Romeu, it’s easy to see why.
Meet the Artists
Modelling his vision on the Parisian establishment Le Chat Noir, Romeu created a bohemian paradise of drinking, cabaret and art. Though they may not have known the successes they would enjoy, the future artistic elite often sipped coffee together. The poet Rubén Darío could be found rubbing shoulders with composer Isaac Albéniz. At age 17 the cafe’s (perhaps) most famous patron Pablo Picasso exhibited his work there for the first time.
If you visit today, there are examples of the art inspired by Els Quatre Gats and Barcelona on every wall. The artist Ramon Casas painted himself and Pere Romeu on a tandem bicycle especially for display there. A print of the work still hangs there today.
To everyone’s shock, the cafe closed in 1903 due to financial difficulty. With artists not being the richest clientele, and the owner being a kindhearted idealist, debts mounted up. Eventually, keeping Els Quatre Gats open was no longer an option. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that Spanish politics and economy made it possible to restore and re-open the cafe. In the interests of preserving Barcelona’s cultural heritage, the project began. In 1991 the doors reopened.
The cafe is flourishing, even in a new century. It has featured in several modern films, such as ‘Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona.’ If you’re a book fan, the cafe is also visited by Daniel and Fermin in the book ‘The Shadow of the Wind’.
If you’re serious about visiting Els Quatre Gats while in Barcelona, then you should absolutely book in advance to avoid disappointment.
– Pictures of “Ramon Casas and Pere Romeu on a Tandem” and the cafe entrance by Ralf Roletschek – Own work, Public Domain