10 ways to celebrate summer in Barcelona: Festivals, beaches, and low-cost fun
After what has been one of the wettest, coldest springs on record, summer has finally arrived. Sizzling days are spent at one of the city’s nine beaches, and humid nights are enjoyed at one of the numerous festivals. Don’t miss these events and city sweet spots from June to September.
1. Sant Joan: All-night beach fiesta
The summer solstice is marked by a huge blow-out on the beach: Sant Joan. On the night of the 23rd of June, party people head to the city’s shoreline with picnics, booze, music and a serious desire to get down. The merrymaking does not stop until dawn. The 24th is a public holiday, giving you a chance to sleep it off.
2. Sala Montjuïc: Outdoor movies for cheap
July 6-August 8
Sala Montjuïc is an open-air cinema located within the castle atop Montjuïc Hill. It’s a privileged place to catch a flick from July 6th to August 8th. This year’s line up includes Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, Grease, Gravity, Django, Searching for Sugarman and many others.
Locals love this festival and it fills up early. Friends bring baskets filled with a picnic dinner in addition to Spanish beers and wine, and make a long evening out of it. It’s so hot in Barcelona in July and August that sitting outside on a wide, grassy lawn under the stars as the day cools is just about perfection. The venue opens at 8:30PM, and then kicks off with live music for an hour before the movie begins. Films commence at 10PM.
A couple of things to keep in mind: it takes some doing to get to the castle. Go early and allow time for the bus or to walk. There are also free buses from Plaça Espanya (crossroads with Av. Paral·lel) at 8:15PM. Buses take spectators back only when the film is finished. There are usually long lines to take these free buses, so plan ahead. Despite the hassle of getting up to Sala Montjuïc, the experience is worth the €6 ticket price and planning.
3. Cruïlla Festival: Big name bands for a good price
Three days of music at the Cruïlla Festival, which kicks off on the 11th of July. This show is not as well known as Primavera Sound or Sonar, and so, not as expensive. Many national and international musicians will be at Cruïlla this year, including Macklemore & Ryan Luis, Jack Johnson and Berri Txarrak. A three-day pass goes for €70 or get a day-pass for €45. The festival is to be held at one of Barcelona’s top venues, Parc del Forum, with stages set along the Mediterranean Sea.
4. Música als Parcs Festival: Free open-air concerts
All summer long
Free outdoor concerts are held in parks from June to August during the Música als Parcs Festival. Locals bring family and friends for a night of tunes and snacks. Now in its 19th season, Música als Parcs puts on over 46 concerts throughout the summer. Concerts begin at 8PM or 9PM, so check first.
5. Festa Major de Gràcia: A buzzing neighborhood block party
Gràcia is a top ‘hood for a taste of authentic Barcelona, removed from Gaudí sights, La Rambla and mass tourism. This area was once a village and it still has a small-town vibe. Locals love it.
Like all ‘hoods in the city, once a year there is a ‘block party’ when neighbors feast, dance and party the night away. The ‘block party’ in Gràcia (the Festa Major de Gràcia) is the best in the city, because they go all out with lavish decorations and live music on every corner. It’s crowded. It’s wild. It’s all day and all night. It’s on from the 15th to 21st of August, 2014.
Beaches, Parks & Day Trips
6. La Barceloneta: Hit the city’s main beach
La Barceloneta is the most crowded of the city’s nine ‘playas’. Head north, away from the sail-shaped W Hotel, for better spots. Barcelona’s beaches are not entirely natural and were created for the 1992 Olympics. The sand, therefore, is slightly chalky. No matter. They are still heavenly to have nearby on hot July afternoons. Many tiny beach bars line the sands offering food, drinks, music and bathrooms. The Mediterranean Sea is normally calm, warm and safe (apart from occasional jellyfish).
7. Sitges: A quaint seaside village
Take an easy, 40-minute train ride down to Sitges, a whitewashed village on the Mediterranean. Walk along its charming promenade, shop its boutiques and sip crisp Spanish wines while tucking into a seafood paella at one of its many eateries. The beaches are nice, too. Make a day of it.
Related: Our list of great day trips from Barcelona, including more details on Sitges.
8. Parc de la Ciutadella: Outdoor urban paradise
Parc de la Ciutadella is the place locals flock to on sunny mornings in the center of the city. There’s a boating lake, playgrounds for the kids, trails, plenty of picnic spots and the city zoo. Oftentimes there are parties and events held in different corners of the park—you never know what you might come across!
9. Stay in a beach hotel: Cozy rooms for a great price
Book near the seaside from June through August. A hotel or hostal close to the beach will save you metro fare and stuffy, crowded bus rides from the coastline and back. A reservation at Hostal Orleans or Hotel Banys Orientals means you’ll be a 15-minute walk, or less, from the Med.
Related: More cheap hotels near the beach, including rooms as low as $55 per night.
10. Head to the beaches of Marseme: White sands off the beaten path
At times, especially on the weekends, the city’s beaches can be too packed. You might find yourself waiting in line to throw down your slice of beach towel. This is irritating. For more room and peace and quiet, head north to the beaches of Maresme. The short train ride makes a world of difference. Some of the best of the bunch are El Masnou and Sant Pol de Mar.
Final Summer Tips
Keep in mind that June, July and August are top tourism months in Barcelona, so the city will be crawling with visitors. In August, most locals leave town for a month-long vacation, and you’ll find many shops and restaurants closed. But with so many beaches and festivals to check out, you won’t be lacking for an endless list of things to do!