Much like in Madrid as well as other parts of the world, Barcelona makes a huge effort when it comes to Carnival time which symbolizes the start of Lent. Taking place sometime in the months of February or March, locals take to the streets disguising themselves in fancy colourful costumes and participate in full-on parades where there is plenty of laughter and entertainment. It is the time when anything goes as long as it means fun is involved! Carnival time in Barcelona starts on 'Greasy Thursday' or Jueves Ladero. It is a day for eating large amounts of sugary and fatty foods just like we do on Shrove Tuesday our Pancake Day. The highlight of the Carnival is the Gran Rue which is the big carnival parade attracting thousands of people each to year interested in seeing the marvellously decorated floats and carriages as well as the dancing carnival groups. So much preparation goes into Carnival time in Barcelona so make the most of this event and get in on all of the fun too!
The Festival of Saint John takes place annually on the 23rd April. It’s a very important event in Barcelona and celebrates the patron of Catalonia. The Day of Saint John is known as Catalan’s Valentine’s Day and is filled with traditions. On this day in streets such as las Ramblas you will find rows and rows of book and rose stalls. Why you ask? Because in Catalonia, the tradition is that men give their girlfriends or wives a rose and in exchange, women give men a book. If you’re the romantic kind why not follow tradition yourself? On the night of Saint John, firework displays take place all over the city in addition to lots of bonfires on the beach where people dance and sing until the crack of dawn.
Sonar is one of the largest international music events in Barcelona and is normally held before the beginning of the summer in June and lasting three days. This urban annual festival of advanced music and multimedia art unites old and new electronic music groups as well as the latest trends in audiovisual art. In previous line-ups, the event has had live performances from well-known artists such as Blur, Pet Shop Boys and Kraftwerk. Thousands of music fans from all over Europe come to this event that normally takes place in two different sites; one during the day (Sonar by Day) in Barcelona’s city centre and one at night (Sonar by Night) which is held more out of town.
The Grec Festival is the main annual arts event in Barcelona which combines theatre, music, dance, circus amongst other genres of art. Celebrated during the months of June and July, the festival was created to showcase outstanding works by Catalan artists and companies in addition to the best shows from all over the world. Due to the events growing popularity, there are more and more performances being carried out in English. The Grec Festival takes place in several venues which have included in the past Teatre Grec, Teatre Lliure, Mercat de les Flors, Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, L’Auditori among other theatres and cultural facilities of Barcelona.
The Festa Major de Gràcia, Barcelona’s huge street party, starts on the 15th August and lasts one-week. It takes place in Barcelona’s picturesque town of Gràcia, home to Gaudí’s Guell Park and is a celebration of its neighbourhood. During this festival, streets are completely decorated and transformed into different themes which in the past have included 'Under-the-Sea', pirate ships, rainforests, 'Ancient Rome' and Jurassic landscapes. Sometimes up to 25 streets will compete to win the title of ‘Best Decorated Street’, a competition which is taken very seriously and involves weeks if not months of planning and preparation. Every year, over a million people of all ages come to appreciate the hard work and creativity that is invested by the town’s residents in this simply unique festival. Locals and tourists alike will also come to participate in some of the 600 events that bring the town to life including free workshops, activities and concerts.
For gay and lesbian events, Barcelona, which is internationally known as a gay-friendly city, is one of the top destinations to head to. It holds the largest gay and lesbian event in Europe known as the Circuit Festival which attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year from over 50 countries worldwide. The Circuit Festival is a recreational week-long event that normally takes place during the month of August, thus promising plenty of hot sunshine! The event consists in pre-parties, parties and music by some of the world’s top DJs in addition to leisure, art and sports activities such as yoga, volleyball and fitness sessions. The highlight of the Circuit Festival is the Circuit Festival Water Park Day at Illa Fantasia waterpark in north Barcelona and is classed as the world’s largest pool party with well over 8000 people splashing around! During the festival there are also exhibitions, talks, cinemas, tours of the city, club nights as well as special discounts in shops and salons.
Celebrated around the 24th September, Festa de la Mercé remembers Barcelona’s patron saint, Our Lady of Mercy, and gives way to many other events. It is a week-long event which opens in the Plaça Sant Jaume with giants, dragons and entertaining large head dwarfs. Among the highlights of the events is a dazzling fireworks display, free concerts, performances of Sardanas (typical Catalonia dance), a seafront air show, sporting events and plenty of traditional Catalan music. Many events now take place in the magical Montjuic castle or in the former textile factory in Sant Andreu. The final parade of Festa de la Mercé takes place in Barcelona’s hub town, the Gothic Quarter, and attracts over 100,000 locals and visitors every year and you can be a part of it.