Barcelona, capital of Catalonia, is second only to Madrid when it comes to commerce, culture and sport, and is one of Europe’s great cities. It fairly vibrates with life and energy and this is expressed volcanically in its many festivals, which burst to the surface in a series of colourful explosions throughout the year.
I always try to time a visit here to coincide with at least one of them, as this is when I’m guaranteed to see the city at its exuberant best. Tapas bars and restaurants, clubs and plazas overflow with celebrating crowds letting their hair down and doing what the Spanish have always done best – party! I’ve been a regular visitor to Barcelona for pushing twenty years now, and there’s always some festival or other going on here. It’s easy to find accommodation in Barcelona, with everything from self-catering studio apartments to plush hotels to choose from when you head for this incomparably vibrant city.
If you happen to be in Barcelona in February you’re in for a treat in the form of this Catalan feast of a festival that celebrates the regional cuisine. The Spanish eat a lot and they don’t care who knows about it, and in the Calcotada festival every Catalan dish you can imagine, as well as many you can’t, is on mouth-watering public display. The festival was started by a farmer in Tarragona a century ago and has become a standing event of the calendar. Audience participation is mandatory, and spring onions (calcots) are the centrepiece, augmented with a bewildering array of classic Spanish dips, so build up an appetite before jumping in!
- There’s some great info on it here
Feria de Abril
This April celebration of all things Flamenco lasts a full week and comes hot on the heels of the flamboyant Easter celebrations. It started out in 1847 as a farmers’ market, and nowadays with fun fairs, displays of horse riding and numerous market stalls the Feria de Abril sweeps you along in a tide of fun from start to finish. The eye of the storm is the Parc del Forum and if you’ve always wanted to dip into a paella dish the size and shape of a small car or view the city from the top of a Ferris wheel then this is the time and place for you to realise your dream.
Check out this video
Festa dels Cors de la Barceloneta
This major festival in June is one of my personal favourites and it’s just one small part of the Fiesta del Barrio which takes place in the different districts of Barcelona in the summer months. It goes back 150 years, and giant papier-mâché figures are paraded on carts and shoulders along the streets and the streets themselves compete for best decorations. Drummers, dancing devils and firework displays, with the sheer noise and excitement going on into the small hours, will blow you away and you could end up anywhere – exhausted and almost certainly drunk but definitely happy!
Check out this video for a slice of Festa Dels Cors de la Barceloneta
For rave aficionados like me, the Monegros festival in July is a must-see and indeed must-hear event. It’s Spain’s biggest celebration of cutting-edge electronic music. In fact it’s so big and noisy that it’s held outside the city, in an area of desert. Over 22 hours of non-stop music in a crowd of up to 40,000 ravers will leave your ears thudding and the blissful awareness that you’ve just experienced Europe’s equivalent of Nevada’s ultra-intense Burning Man festival. It features five super-stages and the sounds include everything from Hip Hop, Techno and Electro to Dubstep, Drum & Bass and a whole lot more besides.
Check out the after-movie from 2013 here
Fiesta de la Merce
In September, the Fiesta de la Merce is perhaps more in keeping with the historic spirit of old Spain than a rave is. It’s held in honour of Barcelona’s patron saint and protector of the city and it’s a great family event, consisting of a series of free music concerts, street celebrations, the usual processions of papier-mâché giants on floats and some amazing human castles. This is what you might dub a more relaxing kind of festival, by Barcelona standards, and personally I like to leave my digs early in the morning to take in all the sights and sounds across the city, stopping off for tapas maybe at lunchtime and a bowl of escudella i carn d’olla in the evening, washed down with a few beers. Don’t miss the fire shows for great photo opportunities that capture the spirit of the city and its people at their exuberant best.
Check out this fun video of Fiesta de la Merce.