With an events calendar packed with everything from traditional Catalan religious festivals to cutting-edge technological events and large-scale music concerts, there is always something on in Barcelona.
Whether a visitor to the city or a new arrival who plans to stay for a few years, it is worth knowing about some of the most prominent celebrations among the city’s many festivals.
Expats can do everything from celebrating the city’s patron saint amid dragons, devils and showers of sparks, to enjoying the sound of roaring engines at the Spanish Grand Prix.
We've listed some of the most popular festivals and events in Barcelona below.
Annual events in Barcelona
In a lead-up to the fasting practised during Lent, Carnival is a week long festival of indulgence held in February each year, featuring plenty of feasting and dancing. An over-the-top carnival parade to bring the period of plenty to a close is the highlight of the festival.
Barcelona Marathon (March)
An annual race that has been running since 1978, the Barcelona Marathon takes participants past some of the city’s most popular sights, including Sagrada Familia, the Camp Nou soccer stadium and the beach.
Palm Sunday (March/April)
An important holy day for the Catholic Church, Palm Sunday is celebrated in Barcelona with a procession involving many beautiful floats, sculptures and artworks, as well as the sound of beating drums.
Spanish F1 Grand Prix (May)
The Spanish Formula One Grand Prix always attracts a crowd, with thousands of spectators converging on Barcelona to watch the world’s best drivers compete.
Sonar Festival (June)
The Sonar is a contemporary arts, design, and electronic and experimental music festival. The festival takes place over a weekend and is split between two different sites around the city: one in the city centre for Sonar by Day, and one further afield for Sonar by night.
European Balloon Festival (July)
The sky fills with colourful hot-air balloons in a four-day event that draws thousands of tourists and participants from all over the world each year. It includes a hot air balloon competition and fireworks.
Barcelona Summer Festival (June to August)
The Barcelona Summer Festival, commonly referred to as the Grec Festival, is an international cultural event that features theatre, dance, music, flamenco, film and circus. The Grec festival is held throughout the summer months, between June and August each year.
Festes de la Mercè (September)
A week-long festival towards the end of September, the city gathers to celebrate its patron saint, Our Lady of Mercy. The event starts with a bang, as parades of dwarfs, dragons and giants open the festivities. Residents enjoy fireworks, music and sporting events, until the final parade when around 100,000 people gather at the Barri Gòtic to watch.
Fira de Santa Llúcia (December)
A traditional Christmas fair held at Avinguda de la Catedral, with a history that goes back to the 18th century, expats can explore stalls that sell all kinds of handcrafted Christmas gifts and decorations. Expats are likely to be at least slightly taken aback by the caganer, a famous Catalan figure that features in many of the city’s nativity scenes.
Are you an expat living in Barcelona?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Barcelona. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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