Barcelona’s colorful art nouveau architecture, pretty sandy beaches, great restaurants and cool museums are known all around the world. But there are two other things the city excels at: its never-ending nightlife and world class cultural events. Indeed: there are Barcelona Festivals for just about everyone!
In fact, each neighborhood in Barcelona has its own unique character with distinctive bars/clubs and a lively annual local party. Thus, fun events happen all year round, so each month there is something to do. Though most were originally religious, nowadays they have evolved into large scale popular events.
Three Kings Day
Evening of January 5th
The Three Kings is an important holiday all around Spain and especially in Catalonia. Though the Three Kings Day falls on January 6th (Epiphany Day), the biggest event takes place the night before. According to legend, on that date Baltasar, Gaspar and Melchor arrived in Bethlehem bringing incense, myrrh and gold to welcome God’s son into the world.
In Barcelona, the Kings arrive on the evening of January 5th by boat. The Mayor greets them and hands them the key to the city for that one night. They march through the city on their carriages or camels, throwing candy to children (Ok, I’m not a kid, and I get candy too). Performers, such as musicians and dancers, surround them with their art. Kids approach the Kings with their written wishes (no, I don’t). The procession starts in Ciutadella Park and ends in Avinguda Maria Cristina, next to the Magic Fountain.
Celebrated on February 12, Santa Eulàlia is Barcelona’s second patron. She was the city’s patron until the 17th century. According to legend, in the 4th century, the Roman Emperor ordered the persecution of all Christians in the empire. Most of them escaped or were able to hide. However, a 13 year old girl called Eulalia went to the roman consul in Barcelona to protest against the order. Not a good idea, she was imprisoned and tortured to death. She was later declared a saint though.
It’s a much smaller and recent event, established for the first time in 1983. It is a festival of lights, with tones of installations through streets and squares. Though events happen all around town, the biggest ones take place in the Old Town.
February or March
Carnival dates back to Roman times. It takes place just before the 40 day Easter lent. Hence, it was the period to question social order and people could eat, drink and party like there was no tomorrow. Later on, during Early Christianity masked balls and wild celebrations were introduced.
In Barcelona, Carnival was first mentioned in 1333. Hilariously enough, the Town Council issued an order prohibiting orange throwing and regulating the use of masks. Fat Thursday marks the beginning, when the Carnival King arrives in Plaça Sant Jaume, in the middle of Barrio Gótico. From Fat Tuesday on and for one week, events and processions take place all around the city, most of them smaller neighborhood activities. At the same time clubs have carnival themed parties too, so if you are into dancing or clubbing you will have a blast. Don’t forget to wear a costume and of course, to drink, party, and be silly!
Sant Jordi or Saint George was a roman statesman who refused to persecute Christians and was thus punished and killed. Soon after his death Christians started celebrating him as a martyr, telling all sort of fantastic stories about him. Today he is celebrated all around Europe on April 23rd, the day he passed away.
Saint George is a Catalan patron, and his day is called Diada de Sant Jordi. Men are gifted books and women red roses. Happy Frog believes in equality, thus encourages a change in these absurd roles. Books and roses are sold all around Barcelona. Books in Catalan are heavily promoted. In fact, the celebration itself is becoming increasingly nationalistic, thus it’s common to see Catalan flags all around.
Barcelona Pride Parade
All across the world, Pride Parades celebrate diversity, freedom and equality. Though dates and activities vary from country to country, Pride generally takes between one week and a month. It is a festival for all sexual preferences, shapes, wallets, colors, sizes, looks and tastes and everyone is invited!
Barcelona Pride Parade takes place at the end of June and lasts 10 wonderful days. It’s a time of seminars, workshops, markets, family events, exhibitions, sport events, movies and all sorts of activities that lead to a final main parade. The parade begins in Jardins de les Tres Xemeneies and ends in Maria Cristina Avenue. At the end of the parade there is a manifesto demanding equal rights for everyone.
Evening of June 23rd
Sant Joan commemorates the birth of Saint Joan the Baptist on June 24. He is the protector of the sea; therefore San Joan is very important around the Mediterranean. The celebration usually includes large bonfires and fireworks. Porto celebrates it spectacularly. Locals and tourists light ‘sky dragons’ and fight each other with plastic hammers.
In Barcelona kids start throwing firecrackers the week before. However, everyone gets crazy the night before, June 23rd. People gather on the beach for a night out and throw tones of firecrackers and fireworks. Celebrations are dedicated to the summer solstice too. We have mixed feelings. Yes, it’s Barcelona’s biggest beach party, but the firecracker thing is simply too much!
Local Parties: Fiestas de Gràcia and Sants
Barcelona is divided into 10 districts which are further divided into neighborhoods. Every district organizes its own annual local party and some neighborhoods too. Therefore, Barcelona is home to a plethora of colorful festivals! Neighbors decorate their streets and party all night long for an entire week. Our favorites are the Fiestas de Gràcia and Sants, Barcelona’s largest local parties. They stand out for their elaborate decorations and extensive musical program.
The party in Gràcia begins on August the 15th. Resident artists take control of the streets and produce pretty interesting pieces. At the same time, the music program is sophisticated, bringing together Catalan, Spanish and international bands of different genres. On the other hand, Sants party begins a week later and has more of a Spanish vibe, with flamenco and Spanish rock dominating the scene.
Fiestas de la Mercè
Around September 24th
Barcelona hosts festivals of all sizes, forms and shapes. Which one is the biggest of them all? Without a doubt, La Mercè: a 4 day event that ends on September 24. The whole city turns into a giant stage. We are basically talking about a non-stop party that includes an impressive number and variety of events. Most take place around the Old Town, and there is a giant concert stage in Fórum.
A classic that never fails to surprise is The Giants (Els Gegants): a monumental walk on la Rambla. On the other hand, the famous Catalan human towers (Castellers) take place in Plaça Sant Jaume and the Fire Dragons (Correfoc) run through Via Laietana. Be sure to check Park de la Ciutadella, the centre of all the action, with different concerts, art projects, theaters, and live performances. It all ends with a spectacular display of fireworks in Plaça Espanya. Though very crowded, it is safe and a show not to be missed.