Dia de Sant Jordi (23rd April)
San Jordi (St George) is the patron saint of Barcelona. Traditionally on this day, men give women roses and the women give men books (a nod to the fact that both Cervantes and Shakespeare died on this date – in separate years). The Ramblas becomes a huge flower market and book stall.
Festival de Sonar (mid-June)
Barcelona hosts the annual Sonar festival of “advanced music and multimedia art.” A collective of technology fairs during the day and music events by night, it is hugely popular so book early. http://www.2009.sonar.es/es/
Festival de Sant Joan (23/24th June)
A celebration involving Barcelona´s favourite things: fireworks and beaches. The entire week leading up to the festival sounds like a war zone in the city as loud bangers whizz overhead and explode. The night of the fiesta itself, head down to the beach (with the rest of Barcelona) for bonfires, drinking and all-night dancing. Take the kids, everyone else does.
Grec Arts Festival (June-August)
Held at venues all over the city from the end of June through August this is the city’s largest music, dance and theatre festival. http://w3.bcn.es/XMLServeis/XMLHomeLinkPl/0,4022,695276287_697057402_01,00.html
Festa Major de Gracia (around 15th August)
This is a week long festival in the streets of the Gracia neighbourhood where a full scale party takes place with lots of live music, fireworks and heavy drinking. http://www.festamajordegracia.cat/
La Diada (11th September)
This fairly subdued affair commemorates the fall of Barcelona during the War of Spanish Succession in 1714 resulting in the devastation of Catalunyan autonomy. In 1980 it was officially recognised as Catalonia’s national day when political groups remember those who died in the 1714 siege of Barcelona by the Bourbons.
Festes de la Merce (around 24th September)
This is Barcelona’s main annual festival with plenty events taking place from 22nd September including competitions to see which group of ‘castellers’ can form the highest human tower and processions involving wooden giants. There are lots of live music events, unbelievable firework displays and heavy consumption of Cava.
Los Reyes (around 6th of January)
This special event commemorates the day of the Three Wise Kings, and the celebration takes place with the Kings arriving in the Barcelona harbor by boat and then bringing gifts to the children of Barcelona. There are the usual assortment of fireworks and very excited children and the procession, also known as “Cabalgata los Reyes Magos,” consists of a parade through the city, starting at 5pm from Portal de la Pau and finishing in Montjuïc. Each district in the city decorates their own floats and joins the procession, and one select float carries the actual Three Kings. One added bonus is that during the parade, sweets are tossed out to the crowds who gather to watch.
Carnaval (around 11th-17th of February)
This is a world-wide celebration, which is especially popular in Barcelona. It begins almost a week before Ash Wednesday and ends on the following Wednesday. It’s a chance for people to dress up, especially children. It begins with the Jueves Ladero, or the “Greasy Thursday” where large amounts of food are eaten and ends with the funeral of the sardine, during which the King of the Carnival dies and is buried. The major highlight of the Barcelona celebration is the Gran Rue, or the big parade that consists of floats and dancing groups that start on Avenida Parallel and carry on through various neighborhoods in the city, before ending back at Parallel. While the parade is nowhere near the size of the big one in Rio, it still manages to draw about 2000-2500 participants and thousands of spectators. (The neighboring town of Sitges, also hosts a big Carnaval parade). http://www.bcn.cat/carnaval/2010/index.htm