A summer of cultural getaways

This is the perfect season for cultural tourism: our favourite getaways are all less than 12 hours away by car. Choosing where to go is the only difficult part.



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© German Parga/Enter Group 2012


Les Rencontres d'Arles

Yes, you might know the story of how van Gogh cut his ear off in Arles in 1888 or how the father of Situationism, Guy Debord, had a house here, but these days the town in the Provence owes its place on the summer cultural agenda to a photography festival that involves the entire population. John Davies, Alfredo Jaar, Sergio Larrain, Guy Bordin, John Stezaker and Hiroshi Sugimoto are the stars of the competition, which serves as a great preview (it might even be better) to Visa pour l’Image in Perpignan.


  1. 324 km from BCN (3 h 55 min)
  2. Arles (until September 22)

Montreux Jazz Festival

A lot of people consider the Swiss festival the best summer festival in Europe. And it's almost right next door. The weekend of July 13, 14 and 15, for example, Prince is playing a sold-out show. Montreux stands for eclecticism: already in its third year, in 1969, the founder, Claude Nobs, invited a rock band. Legends like Ella Fitzgerald and Bill Evans have recorded albums here. Even Miles Davis played his last concert here. This year, in addition to Prince, you can see the likes of Sting, Shuggie Otis, Marcus Miller, Chucho Valdés and Richie Hawtin.


  1. 877 km from BCN (8 h 7 min)
  2. Montreux (until July 21)

Festival de la Porta Ferrada

The oldest summer festival in Catalonia takes a step back to keep going. This year it might not feature the likes of Caetano Veloso or Lou Reed, but is committed to being different: ‘Non solum’ by Sergi López, the pianist Alexei Volodin, the actress Vicky Peña singing Kurt Weill, Al Jarreau or Diego el Cigala want to prove that a festival can still appeal to a local audience without a big star in the line-up.


  1. 84 km from BCN (1 h 10 min)
  2. Sant Feliu de Guíxols (until August 15)

Festival de Teatro Clásico de Almagro

Góngora, Calderón, Lope, Cervantes, but also Shakespeare, provide the foundation of this excellent theatre festival. It presents the best Spanish and Latin American productions about the Spanish Golden Age. This year, for example, welcomes the premiere of a new production by Helena Pimenta, ‘La verdad sospechosa’, written by Ruiz de Alarcón. And keep an eye on Almagroff dedicated to the most innovative plays of the festival.


  1. 682 km from BCN (6 h 21 min)
  2. Almagro (until July 28)

Festival d'Avignon

Theatre lovers of the world, if you've never been to Avignon, you have no idea what you've been missing. About a decade ago, it was reborn as the theatre capital of the world thanks to the revival of the original spirit of this event in the Provence, which combines innovation and excellent taste. This is where true talent establishes itself, including this year's artists: Katie Mitchell, Christoph Marthaler, Jerôme Bel, Pippo Delbono, Anne- Teresa De Keersmaeker, Rimini Protokoll, Angelica Liddell, Jan Fabre, Jan Lauwers, Thomas Ostermeier... The upper ranks of the French acting world will also be present, starting with Isabelle Huppert.


  1. 357 km from BCN (4 h 7 min)
  2. Avignon (until July 26)

© Toti Ferrer

Festival Castell de Peralada

Valery Gergiev, Angela Meade and the Ballets de Monte-Carlo are the three highlights of the festival, which is adamant when it comes to creating a lyrical event of the highest calibre in the middle of the sweltering Catalan summer. A few years ago, it began adding pop, but does so in acceptable doses (Jamie Cullum). In addition, the festival's decision to stage Catalan opera productions, like WOW! by García Demestres, proves that it wants to be more than the paid vacation of the Liceu audience.


  1. 148 km from BCN (1 h 34 min)
  2. Peralada (July 17-August 17)

Festival Internacional de Benicàssim

Despite the recent scare, when the future of this year's edition seemed uncertain, the FIB 2013 is good to go – after selling a majority of its stock to two promoters in the UK. The line-up features Queens of the Stone Age, Primal Scream, Arctic Monkeys, The Killers and Liam Gallagher's Beady Eye as headliners – yes, it has seen better days – with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Johnny Marr, Miles Kane and Jake Bugg amongst the attractions, and Beach House, Aluna George, Azealia Banks and John Talabot adding an interesting touch.


  1. 231 km from BCN (2 h 33 min)
  2. Benicàssim (July 18-21)

Super Bock Super Rock

If you're more of an Atlantic than Mediterranean type, this Portuguese festival is the perfect alternative to Benicàssim. It takes place the same weekend as the FIB, which is why the headliners are the same as those playing the festival in Castellón: Arctic Monkeys, The Killers, Queens Of The Stone Age, Johnny Marr, etc. The difference lies in the more sophisticated part of the line-up, featuring Owen Pallett, Efterklang and TOY, along with electronic acts like Nina Kraviz, Ricardo Villalobos and Carl Craig.


  1. 1249 km from BCN (11 h 20 min)
  2. Sesimbra (July 18-20)

La Mar de Músicas

Sinéad O’Connor opens this great festival on July 19, which is dedicated to world music and this year gives us the chance to discover the likes of South African band BCUC, Ebo Taylor from Ghana or the lovely Imany from the Comoros. The line-up also features Peruvian group Dengue Dengue Dengue and Susana Baca, in addition to Alondra Bentley, Eli Paperboy Reed, Gregory Porter and local talents La Pegatina and Sílvia Pérez Cruz.


  1. 499 km from BCN (6 h 1 min)
  2. Cartagena (July 19-27)

Festival Jardins de Cap Roig

This is our Montreux, but without the jazz. The world's big pop-rock stars gather in Calella de Palafrugell for their big Catalan summer date. The festival generates such anticipation that the big names have already sold out: Mark Knopfler, Diana Krall and Manel. Antònia Font is giving a long, new show in the company of friends (Quimi Portet, Sisa...and?) and Katie Melua premieres Secret Symphony.


  1. 100 km from BCN (1 h 26 min)
  2. Calella de Palafrugell (July 20-August 16)
Monegros Desert Festival

Monegros Desert Festival © Manel Gimeno

Monegros Desert Festival

Faithful to its blend of electronica and hip-hop, the 19th edition of the most extreme music festival on the peninsula boasts heavyweights of both genres like Underworld, Vitalic and Public Enemy. Richie Hawtin, another sacred cow, is doing a DJ set as well as playing godfather to the new talents on his label, M-nus: Tale of Us and Matador. The headliners also include the drum'n'bass duo Nero, the Italians Bloody Beetroots, the DJs Marco Carola, Loco Dice, Luciano and the residents of the Berghain club in Berlin, Marcel Dettmann & Ben Klock.


  1. 291 km from BCN ( 3 h 6 min)
  2. Los Monegros (July 20)


San Sebastián is worth visiting any time of year, for the good food or any other reason, really. But if your visit coincides with Jazzaldia, you get two treats in one trip. And when the headliners include the Masada Marathon by John Zorn – four hours of music by bands he personally picked – Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Belle and Sebastian, Pharoah Sanders, Vijay Iyer Trio and Hiromi: The Trio Project...well, nothing more needs to be said.


  1. 404 km from BCN (5 h 22 min)
  2. San Sebastián (July 24-28)

Low Cost Festival

Relax: Maria Jesús and her accordion will not be playing the festival held in the athletic city named after ex-footballer Guillermo Amor. She only stars in the commercial. The festival headliners include Portishead, Belle and Sebastian, Two Door Cinema Club, Crystal Castles, !!! and Glasvegas. Bands like Love of Lesbian, Fangoria, Los Enemigos, Standstill and Delafé y las Flores Azules provide a good base. Another highlight: the krautrock revival of London band Toy and Barcelona's own Svper.


  1. 372 km from BCN (4 h 35 min)
  2. Benidorm (July 26-28)

Festival Internacional del Cante de las Minas

Rumour has it, this is the best flamenco festival in the world. No wonder it provided the stage where Camarón de la Isla or Paco de Lucía made names for themselves. This year it opens with Flamenco Roots, born from a trip to India by a group of flamenco musicians who have fused guitar and song with the sounds of Rajasthan. The festival pays tribute to Miguel Poveda and includes performances by Eva Yerbabuena, Israel Galván, Vicente Amigo, Argentina and Diego el Cigala. Make sure to catch the singing competitions. Here you'll see the future.


  1. 494 km from BCN (5 h 58 min)
  2. La Unión (August 1-10)

Festival Internacional de Santander

For 62 years, the Cantabrian festival has been the indisputable Spanish leader of classical music in August. And this year's edition will once again delight music lovers: pianist Joaquín Achúcarro with a thoroughly Catalan programme performing pieces by Albéniz and Granados, the Philharmonic of the Scala in Milan, the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and a contemporary selection by the  Ensemble Laboratorium are amongst the festival's most interesting events.


  1. 707 km from BCN (6 h 29 min)
  2. Santander (August 1-26)

Arenal Sound Festival

An eclectic line-up bringing together international bands that generated a lot of hype a while back (The Drums, Klaxons, Editors, The Kooks) and successful local acts (Manel, La Pegatina, Delafé y las Flores Azules, We Are Standard, Iván Ferreriro). The bulk of the concerts are scheduled for Thursday through Sunday, but Tuesday and Wednesday already have something going on: one of the big surprises at this year's Sónar, Dutch act Skip & Die, Barcelona group Extraperlo, and others.


  1. 253 km from BCN (2 h 52 min)
  2. Burriana (August 1-4)

Locarno Film Festival

The Swiss film festival is the most popular of its kind in Europe thanks to the screenings on the Piazza Grande, which is an absolute delight for cinephiles. It seats 8,000 people! Kind of like Sala Montjuïc, except with world premieres. This year, the film ‘2 Guns’ opens Locarno, directed by Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur, best known for ‘101 Reykjavik’, whose cast now includes Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg and Paula Patton. The documentary ‘On the Way to School’ by Pascal Plisson closes the festival.


  1. 1062 km from BCN (10 h 36 min)
  2. Locarno (August 7-17)

Rock en Seine

You're probably thinking, "Paris in August? Are you serious? It's hot, full of American tourists, the river smells..." But if we tell you that Phoenix, Nine Inch Nails, A$AP Rocky, Tame Impala, Eels, Johnny Marr, Paul Kalkbrenner, Franz Ferdinand and Tricky are playing the Saint Cloud park, you might reconsider. And if we tell you you can camp, you might start packing your bag right away. Get ready to discover the festival that Primavera Sound's most expert festival goers flock to. Paris is well worth a party.


  1. 1037 km from BCN (9 h 38 min)
  2. Paris (August 23-25)


The Ampurda summer festival season comes to a close with this festival in Figueres. Acústica started out modestly, but thanks to the energy and momentum of Xavi Pascual, it has even managed to create its own productions that have toured Catalonia. In 2013, the highlight is a concert celebrating the centenary of Espriu with music by Toni Xuclà. Also playing: Manel, La Pegatina, Joana Serrat...


  1. 118 km from BCN (1 h 30 min)
  2. Figueres (August 28-September 2)

Festival du Cinéma Américain de Deauville

Normandy must be one of the most deeply cultural places in all of Europe, a place where you can trace the footsteps of Flaubert, Proust, Marguerite Duras... And for years now, they've organised an American film festival in the region's most chic enclave, Deauville, with loungers and the works. This year, the festival pays tribute to Matt Damon and Michael Douglas. Everything seems really exclusive, but you'd be surprised by what it costs to rent a flat in Trouville – the neighbouring village – in the middle of August. It might make you change your mind about going to the Costa Brava!


  1. 1220 km from BCN (11 h 2 min)
  2. Deauville (August 30-September 8)

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