Are you planning a visit to Barcelona with the family? Enric Massó, author of “Discovering Barcelona: a travel guide for teens“, shares his pick of Fun Festivals and Events in Barcelona and Catalonia for Families throughout the year:
Festivals and Special Events in Barcelona
There are plenty of festivals and special events you shouldn’t miss if you’re around when they’re celebrated. Here’s a list of events by month:
- Dia de Reis (Three Kings’ Day) on Jan 6th, which is a gift giving festival with firework displays
- Festes dels Tres Tombs on Jan 17th, part of the district festival of Sant Antoni Abat.
- Feast of Santa Eulàlia showcases of ‘gegants’ (giant papier maché heads) and medieval dances.
- Carnival is held at the beginning of Lenten season and there are also a series of religious festivals.
- Feast of Sant Jordi (St George) takes place on Apr 23rd, book stalls are set up and flowers are exchanged by couples.
- Feast of Virgin of Montserrat with choir singing and ‘sardana’ dancing.
- Corpus Christi with carpets of flowers and a ‘dancing egg’ is balanced on the Cathedral’s fountain.
- Dia de Sant Ponç is a herb fair in Carrer de l’Hospital, with flowers, cakes, sweets and aromatic oils.
- Feast of Sant Joan takes place June 23rd to 24th with fireworks and general feasting.
- Grec Festival end June / beg. July, this is a festival of theatre, dance, music, circus and other stage arts
- Sonar, a celebration of electronic music (Europe’s biggest event of this kind).
- Sala Montjuïc lasting around six weeks with open air cinema and concerts.
- Assumption Festa Major taking place Aug 15th to 21st, with celebrations and local parties in the streets of Gràcia during the week leading up to Assumption.
- La Diada on Sept 11th is Catalan national day with many demonstrations and much flag waving.
- Mare de Déu de la Mercè (Our Lady of Mercy) is a week of celebrations in honour of Barcelona’s patron. BAM takes place around Sept 24th, with free musical performances for the Festa de la Mercè, taking place in the squares, city centre and waterfront.
- Festival de Tardor runs from October to November with classical theatre, music, dance, cabaret and exhibitions.
- Festival Internacional de Jazz de Barcelona lasting for about a week and many large venues in the city, this jazz festival features many jazz musicians.
- During December there are many fairs and Christmas markets selling figurines and festive goods outside the cathedral and at the Sagrada Família
- Swimming Cup takes place on Christmas Day Dec 25th, an annual swimming cup where people dive into the icy waters of the port
- New Year’s Eve you’ll find general festivities and parties throughout Barcelona.
The craziest festival of them all: the FESTA MAJOR
A Festa Major (roughly translated as The Major Festival) is a sort of annual street party celebrated in most cities, neighbourhoods, towns and villages throughout Catalonia. Each one of them has its own festa major and it’s the most important celebration in the annual calendar.
Typically a festa major commemorates an important event in the town or area’s history and tradition, such as its foundation. This can be both a celebration and a festivity, that is, a party in honor of a patron or patroness saint of the town and often, if the saint’s celebration date (as per the Roman Catholic church calendar) doesn’t fall in summer months, a second festa is celebrated in this season.
Usually they last three days, often starting on a Friday although some major cities, due to their large population, celebrate a longer festa major. Note that in these cases, during week days, work carries on business-as-usual, as most events happen in evening.
These festivals date back to at least the 13th century and combine both religious and profane ceremonies with religious sermons and processions, parades, dances and other traditional art performances.
Over the years, the profane ceremonies have really taken over the religious essence of the festivity turning the festa major in a civic festivity with plenty of entertainment for everybody and streets adorned with garlands.
There are different displays of popular and traditional arts such as
- grallers (music)
- giants and big-heads
- tabalers (music)
- sardanistes (dance)
- diables (devils)
- correfocs (fire-runs)
Many of them carry a strong symbolism rooted in old legends, beliefs and popular characters dating back several centuries.
When you visit Catalonia, don’t forget to check the different city or town councils’ websites in order to see when their festa major will be celebrated. It’s an event not to miss and a perfect opportunity to better understand their people and their traditions, and it’s certainly much better if you tag along some local folks and get them to explain you some of the meanings of the different performances.
In Barcelona, two of the most popular and well known are La Festa Major de Gràcia, celebrated annually in the Gràcia neighbourhood during mid August and La Mercè, celebrated all across the city at the end of September.
Photo credits: Festivals and Special Events (Stasiu Tomczak-Flickr,CC BY 2.0); Festa Major (sunandlife.eu)
Some of these and plenty more ideas you can find in DISCOVERING BARCELONA, A TRAVEL GUIDE FOR TEENS, an extraordinary and comprehensive travel guide, addressing everything from history and landmarks, to snippets of local language and metro maps; in addition, it includes an exhaustive (in the best way!) index of all the best spots in Barcelona for young visitors! The layout is engaging with fantastic graphics, and the guide features entertaining and useful tips, hints, and suggestions for touring the city and beyond. It provides readers with a concise, comprehensive itinerary of possibilities, featuring everything from historical hot-spots to natural wonders to thrills and adventure. It is the perfect guide for preparing a young traveller for a trip to Barcelona or for keeping a young traveller occupied during the voyage (preventing the dreaded “are-we-there-yets”!).
So if you or someone you know is planning a trip to Barcelona with kids – this travel guide is a must-have; and at under 15€/$15, it is the perfect stocking stuffer!
More info at: www.discoveringbarcelona.info
|By Enric Massó (Barcelona, 1969). A hardcore traveler, Enric is a regular contributor at several travel-related websites such as TripAdvisor, VirtualTourist and the InfoCatalonia.eu sites among others. He’s born and bred in Barcelona but has lived in different cities across several continents. As a day job, Enric is a business strategist but on his spare time he likes to write about travel and cultural awareness. He has always been passionate about European cities and most especially his city, Barcelona: its history, heritage, its vibrant life… With the typical charm of the Mediterraneans he proudly enjoys showing the city to his foreign friends when visiting, many of whom have teenagers. But soon he realised that, although Barcelona ranks very high in the Euromonitor International’s Top City Destinations, there wasn’t much information intended for teens, most guides and travel resources were aimed to grown-up travellers, so he started to gather information and put it in a format aimed just for them: easy to read, fun and entertaining: Discovering Barcelona, a travel guide for teens. Have a peek in the Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature.|
Over to you now. Have you enjoyed any festivals or events during your visit to Barcelona? Share your experiences in the comments below.