Catalonians party all year-round, but some of those parties are bigger and better than the others.
The streets of Barcelona come alive throughout the year with each neighbourhood hosting a range of festivals. Keep your eyes open for castellers, the human towers that are a standard feature at all kinds of festivals across Catalonia.
Throughout Catalonia a great deal of emphasis is placed on the Summer Solstice. As a public holiday, the day of Sant Joan is celebrated with great gusto. The shortest night of the year at the height of summer is marked with firecrackers lighting up the sky, and plenty of beer and jugs of sangria consumed back on the ground. The city’s very own patron saint day, Festes de la Merce, is marked by one of Europe’s biggest street parties in the early autumn.
5 Jan: Despite being ignored by most of the modern world, Epiphany is celebrated in a big way in Catalonia, and in the rest of Spain. Gifts are exchanged to mark the arrival of the three wise men and a large parade known as the Calvacada del Reis sets off through the streets of Barcelona. The colourful floats of acrobats, clowns and elves are especially popular with kids due to the amount of sweets being handed out!
1-14 Apr 2018: Barcelona’s answer to Rio’s famous carnival. While not as epic as its Brazilian cousin, the Catalan version of Carnival is nevertheless a vibrant affair that grows in popularity with every year. Banned by Franco from 1936 to 1980, the Carnival is the last chance for local Catholics to party before the beginning of Lent. Many locals head to Sitges for the parades, shows and parties of the LGBT-focused Sitges Carnival held in early February.
Dia de Sant Jordi
23 Apr: Known in England as St. George, Sant Jordi serves dual purpose as patron saint of Catalonia. The festival in his name is known for the colourful displays of flowers painstakingly put together along the entire length of La Rambla, Barcelona’s most famous street. Tradition dictates that men should buy a rose for their loved one, while women buy their husbands a book.
F1 Spanish Grand Prix
10-13 May 2018: Formula One roars into Barcelona in May each year as the world’s motorsport fanatics descend on the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo for the Spanish Grand Prix. Located just 15 miles north-east of the city, the circuit hosts three days of warm-ups, qualifying and the race itself, with all he glitz and glamour that follows international motorsport wherever it goes. The race is one of the longest running in the world and celebrated its centenary in 2013. It has been held here every year since 1991, when it relocated from the relatively remote track at Jerez.
30 May – 3 Jun 2018: The well-known alternative rock and dance festival is held at the waterside Parc del Forum venue just north of central Barcelona. Expect a glamorous international crowd and some of the biggest names in music. The 2017 line-up includes Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, Frank Ocean, The XX, Aphex Twin, Grace Jones, Slayer, Solange, and Van Morrison. Don’t miss the line-up of additional concerts and events held throughout the city during the week, some of which are free. Interested? Here’s what to expect.
14-16 June 2018: If you prefer your music more experimental and/or electronic, then Sonar is the place to be. The three-day event is essentially one of Europe’s biggest raves with headline names such as the Chemical Brothers, Kraftwerk, Björk and the Pet Shop Boys performing alongside a whole host of more obscure acts from around the world. The festival is divided into two parts: Sónar by Day and Sónar by Night. A three-day congress dedicated to creativity, technology and business, Sónar+D has run concurrently since 2013.
13-14 July: Billed as Barcelona’s summer festival, Cruïlla has broad appeal with a wide range of musical styles presented over the two-day event. The 2017 event featured Jamiroquai, the Pet Shops Boys, the Prodigy and Two Door Cinema Club. As with Primavera Sound, the action takes place at the Parc del Forum, an easy accessible waterside venue just to the north of Barcelona’s beaches.
23 June 2018: Despite all the events on this list, the eve of Sant Joan trumps them all for a one-off party. The midsummer night’s celebration is known for its incredible amount of fireworks, firecrackers, and anything else that makes noise. The day after is a public holiday, so the party goes on long into the night. You can join in the festivities anywhere in the city, although the beach is probably the best place to be.
Festa Major de Gracia
15-21 Aug 2017: The best known of the city’s neighbourhood festivals, the upscale district of Gracia fills its streets with colourful papier mache statues, woodwork ornaments and decorative lanterns. Every one of the neighbourhood’s squares turns into a concert value.