The capital of Catalonia, Barcelona is one of Europe’s most happening cities
. That is to say that there is always something going on. And, as the steady rise of thermometer mercury marks the gentle arrival of summer it’s time to turn our attention to all the city has to offer, whether it be a Barcelona festival, sporting or cultural event
. So strap in and read through some of the best festivals coming your way in 2018.
Barcelona Music Festivals
Primavera Sound (May/June)
Date: 30 May - 3 June
kicks off the summer and Barcelona festival season
with style. The festival, founded in 2001, is renowned for its “chill” vibe and easily navigable venue, Parc del Forum. And, has firmly established itself on the international music scene, rivaling Glastonbury, Worldwide, and Sonar. With a lineup that lends itself to die-hard house and tech heads as well as alt and indie rock fans, Primavera Sound
guarantees a good time can be had by all. Artists in previous years have included LCD Soundsystem, Tame Impala, Aurora Halal, Grace Jones and Kendrick Lamar. What’s more, late May is a beautiful time of year in Barcelona. The weather is gorgeous, with warm evenings - perfect for a boogie late into the night (or early into the morning).
Music in the Parks
Date: June - August
Every year, for the past 15 years, Barcelona, over the summer months, transforms its parks into small, outdoor concert halls. Beginning in June, the opening event kicks things off with a musical bang that is always a one of a kind performance. And, for the next three months, you can rock up to, take a seat and enjoy music in the parks
that includes everything from jazz to classical in the warm summer evening air. The best part is it is all completely free!
Date: 14 - 16 June
Sonar, Barcelona’s leading electronic music festival
and one of the world’s largest, celebrates the exploration and innovation of dance music culture. Here, the party side of dance music rubs shoulders with the art and technology side of it too. Split across two different venues, Sonar by Day and Sonar by Night caters to the techno-dreams of its festival goers in many forms. From crowd-pleasing, arena pumping sets and sweaty, intimate performances of musical experimentation to talks, workshops, and exhibitions, Sonar offers up an exciting weekend of excellent activities. To sweeten the pot, DJs flock to the city and bring to life the lively “Off-Sonar” scene in performances at many of the city’s bars and clubs.
Barcelona Beach Festival
Date: 14 July
Barcelona Beach Festival
is one of July’s most anticipated festivals. For one day (and night) only a stellar lineup of commercial powerhouses spin their decks. This year’s lineup includes performances from Armin van Buuren, David Guetta and Axwell and Ingrosso. As the name suggests (Barcelona Beach Festival), the party takes place on the shoreline just a little further up from the Parc del Fòrum on the Platja de la Pau. So, as the DJ closes out the final set, you can watch the sun come up over the Mediterranean. Sounds pretty good.
Barcelona International Jazz Festival
Date: April - November
Shifting gears a little and moving away from the steady pulse of bass-heavy beats is the Barcelona International Jazz Festival
. And, if you’re looking for cultural things to do in Barcelona outside of a trip to the Sagrada Familia, then this sprawling jazz festival is a great place to start. Running eight months, Barcelona’s International Jazz Festival is one of Europe’s most well respected. Held in venues across Barcelona, the festival finds a perfect balance between mainstream artists and lesser know, up and coming acts.
Date: 12 - 14 July
Mid-July sees Parc del Forum explode back into life with another Barcelona based music festival. Unlike Primavera Sound and Sonar, Cruilla isn’t defined by a theme or style
of music. Instead, over three days, it offers up an eclectic lineup of artists and running orders. In 2015, Lauren Hill was followed by FFS. This year you will be able to enjoy shows by N.E.R.D, Kygo, and Manchester-born, grime artist, Bugzy Malone. Cruilla festival celebrates the diversity of music under the crystal clear, summer skies and warm nights of the of the Catalan capital. It’s well worth being a part of.
Barcelona Sports Events
Date: 22 June - 1 July
Mediterranean Games are not so much a Barcelona festival as a Barcelona sporting event, but I would be remiss if I didn’t include it. For ten days in June, Tarragona, an hour and a half south of Barcelona, will host 4000 athletes from 26 countries competing in 33 different sports. Postponed for a year due to funding issues, this summer, Tarragona will come alive with the energy and excitement of a massive sporting event. Cheer on athletes competing for gold in sports like archery, swimming, beach volleyball and tennis. Tarragona also boasts some of the best preserved Roman ruins in all of Spain, so when you need a day to get your voice back, you’ll have plenty of other things to do too.
European Waterpolo Championships
Date: 14 - 28 July
Waterpolo is a pretty niche sport, but if you’re in Barcelona in July and a diehard fan (or just curious) then you’re in luck. This year, the Catalan capital is hosting the 33rd edition of the European Waterpolo Championship
. Two competitions (men’s and women’s) will unfold over two weeks culminating in what’s sure to be a thrilling and very wet final.
Barcelona Film Festivals
Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia
Date: 5 - 14 October
Every year for the past 50, Europe’s leading horror, gore, fantasy and sci-fi film festival takes place in the small seaside town of Sitges. So, if you're wondering what to do in Barcelona, hop in a car or jump on a train and take the short hour and a half journey south for ten days of films. The Sitges Film Festival
champions genre films and filmmaking. And, hosts a number of fantastic screenings (many of which include premieres), conferences, lectures and the famed “Zombie Walk.” The atmosphere reflects an audience who delight in themed screenings and the gorey, fantastical narratives that dominate so many genre films.
L’Alternativa Film Festival
Date: 12 - 18 November
As Barcelona begins its slow march into winter, over a week in November, the city comes together to celebrate independent film
. This year is the 25th edition of L’Alternativa Film Festival
. According to their website, the festival endeavors to offer “filmgoers and professionals a unique opportunity to discover and enjoy screenings and activities that value creative freedom, diversity, innovation, commitment and thought-provoking reflection.” Open to joe public, the festival consists of two official competitions for feature and short films. It hosts a whole slew of screenings, all of which are of independent films, alongside masterclasses, debates, roundtables and creative workshops.
Nit de Sant Joan/Dia de Sant Joan
Date: 23 - 24 June
Quite probably the biggest night on Barcelona’s cultural calendar is the Nit de Sant Joan
. Or, the night before Saint John’s Day. In celebration of the summer solstice and the birthdate of St. John the Baptist, the whole city explodes into life. Barcelona’s sky is a carnival of colors as everyone (and their dog) shoots off fireworks. Bars and clubs are packed with happy revelers ready to party the night away. The real action, though, is down at the beach. Here, people light bonfires, drink cava, and enjoy picnics. And, as the night pushes on many take a late night dip to wash away the sins of the year.
Date: 29 - 30 June
Join in at one of the world’s best LGBTQ celebrations, the Barcelona Pride festival
. In the weeks leading up to the Pride event itself, Barcelona comes alive with a whole range of activities that celebrate sexual diversity. There are conferences, parties, and street markets, many of which donate all collected proceeds to LGBTQ organizations. The Pride event takes place from the 29th - 30th of June with the parade taking place on the Saturday between 17.00-19.00. And, there are also a ton of fun things to do across the weekend from high heel races and Zumba classes to sports activities and concerts. So, head on down and be proud.
Festa Major de Gracia
Date: 15 - 21 August
Throughout the year every neighborhood in Barcelona celebrates its own Festa Major, but it is with childlike excitement that the city anticipates the Festa Major de Gracia
. In September, the quieter barrio of Gracia throws itself into a week-long street festival of vibrant color and celebration.
The origins of the festival date as far back as 1817 when Gracia was an independent village. And, the area’s tight night community has forged an identity that has stood the test of time. That said, the Festa Major de Gracia is regarded as the most open and inviting of all of Barcelona’s Festa Majors. Expect to enjoy elaborately decorated balconies (part of a street competition), music, and dancing. Don’t miss the opening parade with the gegants (giants) and capsgrossos (big heads). There are loads of stalls serving delicious street foods like botifarra sausages and of course, Catalan pastries. All of which you can wash down with a small glass (or glasses) of vermouth.
La Mercè Barcelona Festival
Date: 21 - 24 September
is the BIGGEST, annual Barcelona festival. Celebrated in September, the festival is held in honor of the Virgin Mary of Mercy. Legend has it that, in 1687, Barcelona suffered a plague of locust. When the Consell de Cent asked for the Virgin Mary’s assistance in deliverance from the plague, she answered. So, to commemorate her deed, the Virgin Mary of Mercy was named the patron saint of Barcelona and a party thrown in her honor. The tradition has continued since.
Now, the weeklong festival consists of a ton of traditional activities and celebrations. Most notable is the famed Castellers - or human towers. Of all the things to see in Barcelona, this takes the cake. Castellers sees teams competing to build bigger, better human towers. There is also, the Correfoc, or the fire run. This tradition varies, but almost always guarantees a parade where people race around letting fireworks off and carrying effigies of the devil.
Fira de Santa Llùcia
Date: November - December
The “Avenida de la Catedral” is home to the Fira de Santa Llùcia
, Barcelona’s biggest Christmas market. Dating back to 1786, it now includes over 300 stalls that sell food, drink and handcrafted Christmas decorations. Pick up a poinsettia or giggle over a caganer. For those who don’t know, the caganer is a figurine depicting a man taking a - well - having a bowel movement. The term translates literally to “the shitter.” For those with kids, they can pick up a stick and beat the caga tió (shitting log) while singing a song that demands the papier mache log poop them a present. There is also a nativity scene and music.
Sagrada Familia Tour with Priority Access
Park Guell Tour with Priority Access