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Festa Major de la Barceloneta: The Ultimate Beachside Party

The Festa Major de la Barceloneta is soon upon us, and if you are looking for things to do in Barcelona in September, this should definitely be on the itinerary. Barcelona in September abounds with festivals, the largest of which is undoubtedly La Merce. But, if you’re after an equally raucous festival with a more local feel, then turn your attention to the beachfront neighborhood. Here, for several days the locals celebrate their patron saint, San Miquel del Port, in style. So, if you’re about why not join in?! Here’s what you can expect. 

Explore the Vibrancy of La Barceloneta

La Barceloneta is now one of Barcelona’s crown jewels. It’s beautiful beaches, which were brought to life for the 1992 Olympics, are considered some of the best urban beaches in the world. And, despite the throngs of tourists that head here in the summer months, the area maintains a very local feel. History buffs can get their fill at the Catalan History Museum which tracks the history of Catalonia from pre-historic times all the way through to modern-day. But, one of the area’s biggest draws is without a doubt, the Festa Major de la Barceloneta. So if you’re looking for things to do in Barcelona in September, this is an absolute must.

Festa Major de la Barceloneta

If you’re in Barcelona in September, La Barceloneta celebrates their Festa Major at the end of the month from the 25th all the way through until the 29th. It is celebrated in honor of San Miquel del Port, the patron saint of the neighborhood. In the Placa de la Barceloneta there is a beautiful baroque church dedicated to him.

The Festa Major de la Barceloneta dates back to 1855 when, to celebrate the centenary of the neighborhood's existence, the residents threw a huge party.

The Festival’s Best Bits

There is so much to enjoy at the Barceloneta Festival Major, but as with everything, there are some things which are just unmissable.

  • Parade of the Canons

If you’ve got kids, then this is a must. The Parade of the Cannons happens on the last Saturday of the festival and is a hugely popular event. This may have something to do with the fact that as the parade passes through the neighborhood’s streets, a large cannon fires candy into the crowd. The man who fires the cannon, showering everyone in the candy, wears a Napoleonic uniform.

Barceloneta resident Pancraç Farell introduced the decorative sweet firing cannon. When Pancraç Farell visited his wife’s grandmother in France, he participated in a celebration where he saw a decorative cannon which fired sweets. Finding it an inspired idea, when the Barceloneta resident returned to his neighborhood, he built one and introduced it into the area’s own festivities.

  • Street Decorations

Street decorations are a stalwart of many of Barcelona’s Festa Majors. Basically, narrow streets are transformed by beautiful decorations made from papier mache that hang overhead. Each street commits to a theme that can include absolutely anything. Previous years have seen themes such as arcade games, dreams, and dragons. You can easily spend an afternoon idly exploring each of the streets and admiring the elaborate decorations. Also, as you stroll through, you can stop off at various little stalls that sell food and drink. This is another great activity to do with the kids.

  • Habaneras

The showstopper and event that separates the Festa Major de la Barceloneta from all of Barcelona’s other Festa Major celebrations are the Habaneras. This is a musical tradition of Catalonia that originates from Cuba. It is very evocative and usually involves large crowds gathering close to the water to listen and participate in seafaring songs and dances. The tradition was brought to the region by 18th and 19th-century sailors who traveled on trade ships to between Cuba and Spain. Appropriately, accompanying many performances are glasses of burnt rum.

Program Breakdown - TBC

Now, while the full program has yet to be released, here are some of the events you can expect and when you can expect them.

Thursday 26 September
Time: 6 pm
Location: Fàbrica del Sol  
What is it? Learn how to make your urban garden!

Thursday 26 September
Time: 6.30 pm
Location: Plaza Poeta Boscà
What is it? Activities for kids with a Tumacat performance.

Friday 27 September
Time: 5 pm
Location: Plaza Poesta Boscà
What is it? Puppet shows and workshops for kids.

Friday 27 September
Time: 7 pm - 2 am
Location: Paseo Marítimo con Atlántida
What is it? Concerts and performances (Festa La Sardineta).

Saturday 28 September
Time: 12 am
Location: Plaza del Mar
What is it? A performance of traditional Sardanas dancing.

Saturday 28 September
Time: 6 pm
Location: Parc de la Barceloneta
What is it? Gospel concert.

Sunday 29 September
Time: 1 pm
Location: Plaza Poeta Boscà
What is it? Foam party.

Sunday 29 September
Time: 8 pm
Location: Paseo Maritimo con el Espigón del Gas
What is it? The end of Fiestas with fireworks.

The Festa Major de la Barceloneta is a fantastic way to close out the summer and a great festival with a real local vibe. Head on down for singing, dancing, parades and much, much more, you’ll have a blast.

The History of la Barceloneta

Before we turn our attention to the Festa Major de la Barceloneta, let’s take a second to explore the history of the area.

La Barceloneta translates to “small Barcelona.” And, up until the 18th century, it was a little more than a village populated by a small community of fishermen. Today, it is one of Barcelona’s most beautiful areas, that boasts a fabulous promenade and gorgeous stretch of fantastic beach. However, the founding of this area is one that is steeped in a dark history.

At the beginning of the 18th century with the death of Charles the II of Spain, the country was thrown into disarray. Charles the II had no child and therefore no direct heir. Castile accepted Philip of Anjou, the grandson of Louis the XIV, as King Philip the V of Spain. Of course, as always, there was another candidate, the Archduke Charles of Austria. Archduke Charles won favor with the Catalan region by promising to restore the traditional rights to their territories.

However, the Catalans threw their support behind the wrong side. And, when the Archduke lost his support from his Dutch and British allies, the Catalans were left stranded. After a 13-month siege, Barcelona fell.

With King Philip the V now in total control, he moved to establish a unified Spain with a series of decrees called Nueva Planta Decrees. Now, I know what you’re saying to yourself, “okay, but what has all this got to do with la Barceloneta.” Well, the Kingdom felt that in Barcelona extra measures were necessary to keep the city under control. A big part of this was building a big new citadel on the eastern side of the Ciutat Vella - where the Parc de la Ciutadella sits today. To do this, King Philip forced the rehousing of thousands of residents to la Barceloneta. La Barceloneta was, for a long time, one of the most hated symbols of Catalonia’s subordination to the Spanish Kingdom.

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