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Primavera Sound 2018
© Maria Dias Primavera Sound 2018

Barcelona festivals and events: the best of spring

All the big Barcelona festivals and events you need to know about to celebrate spring in the city

By Time Out Barcelona Editors and Jan Fleischer
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Friendly warning! We're working hard to be accurate. But these are unusual times, so please check that events are still happening.

There are so many things to do in Barcelona in the spring, from the city’s biggest marathon to the Guitar BCN Festival, as well as the massive Primavera Sound music festival. There’s also the Sant Jordi celebration that fills the city with books and roses, the Earth Day Fair, a couple of film festivals, Easter week and more.

RECOMMENDED: Barcelona festivals and events: the best of the year

 

Barcelona: Spring Festivals and Events

Guitar BCN festival

Where: various venues
When: Jan 31 – Aug 13, 2020 [Some events CANCELLED or POSTPONED, please consult the Guitar BCN 2020 website]
Tel & website: 93 481 70 40/www.guitarbcn.com
This prestigious guitar-based music festival, which was once a spring fling and now runs from January to August, attracts world-class players. Styles span everything from flamenco to Latin sounds, classical guitar and gypsy jazz.

Festes de Sant Medir de Gràcia

Where: Gràcia to Sant Cugat & back
When: Mar 3, 2020
Website: www.santmedir.org
On or around the feast day of St Emeterius (Sant Medir in Catalan), for almost 200 years colourfully decorated horse-drawn carts have gathered around the Plaça Trilla to ride up to his hermitage in the Collserola hills. The most popular element are the carts that circle the streets of Gràcia and shower the crowd with 100 tons of blessed boiled sweets.

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Mutek

Where: various venues
When: Mar 4-7, 2020
Website: www.mutek.org
The International Festival for Digital Creativity and Electronic Music, which got its start in Montreal back in 1999, has been making sound waves in Barcelona. There’s a Digi_Section daytime conference programme (Q&A sessions, workshops, demos) and, of course, electronic music every night.

 

Zurich Marató de Barcelona

Where: Plaça Espanya
When: Mar 15, 2020; 8.30am-2.30pm [CANCELLED]
Website: www.zurichmaratobarcelona.com
The Barcelona Marathon has been a Barcelona staple for over 40 years. The marathon course runs throughout the city streets, so you might want to check the website whether you’re participating, watching, or just want to know where traffic will be diverted on the day.

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Barcelona Beer Festival

Where: La Farga
When: Mar 13-15, 2020 [CANCELLED]
Website: www.barcelonabeerfestival.com
Some 650 different types of craft beer served in rotation from the bar’s 110 taps, plenty of representation from foreign brewers, and the rest, Catalan and Spanish, many of them being tasted for the first time in the country. The organisers have said the festival is akin to a living thing: beers that are served on Friday will be changed each day following. Most brands run between just €2 and €4. To accompany your drinks, there are six food stands that excel with their offer year after year. The beers are served at different temperatures, with careful attention paid to the ideal service for each beer, and pulled by staff who are well trained in pouring a glass on tap.

Setmana Santa (Holy Week)

Where: various venues
When: Apr 5-12, 2020
Easter for Catalans is a relatively sober affair, with none of the pageantry embraced by their southern cousins. The main event is the blessing of the palms on ‘diumenge de rams’ (Palm Sunday). Crowds surge into the Cathedral clutching bleached palm fronds bought from stalls around the city; these are then used to bring luck to households. On Good Friday, a series of small processions and blessings takes place in front of the Cathedral. On Easter Sunday, godparents dole out the ‘mones’ – chocolate confections, more elaborate than humble Easter eggs.

 

 

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Saló Internacional del Còmic

Where: Fira de Barcelona
When: Mar 8-10, 2020 [CANCELLED]
Website: www.comic-barcelona.com
This is the weekend that comic and graphic novel aficionados have circled on their calendars every year. The International Comic Fair features four days of compressed activities, new releases and exhibitions in a 19,000m2 venue.

Circ d’Ara Mateix

Where: Mercat de les Flors
When: April 9-19, 2020 [CANCELLED]
Website: http://mercatflors.cat/en/

The shows that the Mercat de les Flors has programmed for this ‘Circus Today’ cycle reflect modern trends and artistry in today’s circus world that have little to do with what ‘circus’ meant in the past.

 

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Món Llibre

Where: various venues
When: Apr 18 & 19, 2020 [POSTPONED TO June 20 & 21, 2020]
Website: www.barcelona.cat/monllibre/
This two-day ‘World of Books’ festival dedicated to the youngest readers features fun activities and readings to introduce children to the wonderful world of books.

Sant Jordi

Where: La Rambla & all over Barcelona
When: Apr 23 [Book festivals and related events POSTPONED TO Jul 23]
Website: www.bcn.cat/stjordi
On the feast day of Sant Jordi (St George), the patron saint of Catalonia, nearly every building bears the red and gold Catalan flag, while bakeries sell Sant Jordi bread streaked with red ‘sobrassada’ sausage pâté. Red roses decorate the Palau de la Generalitat and the city’s many statues and paintings of George in all his dragon-slaying glory. It’s said that as the drops of the dragon’s blood fell, they turned into red flowers – and for more than five centuries, this has been the Catalan version of St Valentine’s Day. Men traditionally gave women a rose tied to an ear of wheat, and women reciprocated with a book; this is also ‘the Day of the Book’. It accounts for an amazing 10 percent of Catalonia’s annual book sales, and street stalls and bookshops give good discounts.

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Fira de la Terra

Where: Passeig Lluís CompanysParc de la Ciutadella
When: Apr 18 & 19, 2020 [POSTPONED. New dates TBA.]
Website: www.diadelaterra.org
The Fira de la Terra is a two-day eco-festival to celebrate Earth Day (April 22), although it’s normally held on the nearest weekend to the actual day. There are handicrafts, food stalls and performances, along with talks on environmental issues, though most of the activities are aimed at children.

D’A: Festival Internacional de Cinema d’Autor

Where: Various venues
When: Apr 30 – May 10, 2020 [SOME PROGRAMMING MOVED ONLINE. See https://dafilmfestival.com/en/da-2020-online/.]
Website: https://dafilmfestival.com/
The Independent Film Festival in Barcelona isn’t just about the chance to see films that you otherwise couldn’t; it also focuses on the main concerns of contemporary cinema. The festival is also establishing itself as a springboard for Catalan filmmakers who bet their all to make where they call home a bit less small in the world of cinema.

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Dia del Treball (May Day)

Where: Plaça da la Universitat and various venues
When: May 1
A day of demonstrations and marches led by trade unionists representing various left-wing organisations. The main routes cover Plaça da la Universitat, Via Laietana, Passeig de Gràcia, Passeig Sant Joan and Plaça Sant Jaume.

Feria BioCultura

Where: Palau Sant Jordi
When: May 7-10, 2020 [POSTPONED TO Sep 24-27, 2020]
Website: biocultura.org
The International Fair of Organic Products and Responsible Consumption is the most important of its kind in Spain. With hundreds of exhibitors, tens of thousands of attendees, and thousands of organic products, the fair includes products ranging from cosmetics and hygiene with certified ingredients; organic materials; eco-materials, furniture and home decor; renewable energies; therapies and medicines; recycling; environment and ecology; rural tourism; toys; arts; music; books and magazines.

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Festa Major de Nou Barris

Where: All over Nou Barris
When: May 14-19, 2019 (2020 dates TBA)
Website: www.bcn.cat
What the humble neighbourhood of Nou Barris lacks in landmark architecture, it makes up for with vim. Along with some great cultural programming, it has a very lively festa major, attracting top-notch local bands, along with the usual parades and street fairs. The Nou Barris flamenco festival runs concomitantly, and also brings in some big names.

Barcelona Poesia & Festival Internacional de Poesia

Where: all over Barcelona
When: May 13-20, 2020
Tel & website: 93 316 10 00/www.barcelona.cat/barcelonapoesia
This poetry festival started in 1393 as the courtly Jocs Florals (Floral Games), named after the prizes: a silver violet for third prize; a golden rose as second; and, naturally, a real flower for the winner. The games died out in the 15th century but were resuscitated in 1859 as a vehicle for the promotion of the Catalan language. Prizes went to the most suitably florid paeans to the motherland; these days, Spanish is permitted, as are Basque and Galician. Many languages can be heard at the International Poetry Festival.

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Sant Ponç

Where: C/Hospital
When: May 11, 2020
Website: www.festacatalunya.cat
A street market held in honour of the patron saint of beekeepers and herbalists, and ablaze with candied fruit, fresh herbs, natural infusions, honey and honeycomb, most of it straight off the farmer’s cart.

Primera Persona

Where: CCCB
When: May 10 & 11, 2019 (2020 dates TBA)
Website: www.cccb.org
The Primera Persona Festival is dedicated to writers of literature and music who employ the first person singular and their own experience as raw material for their work. In 2019 the festival was even bigger, with more performances, shows, concerts and monologues than in the two previous editions.

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La Nit dels Museus

Where: all over Barcelona
When: May 17, 2020; 7pm-1am
Website: icom.museum
The European Night of Museums is an initiative promoted by the Council of Europe, with more than 3,000 participating museums. It takes place the night before International Museum Day (see below), a day that brings together more than 30,000 centres worldwide with the aim of raising public awareness about the role of museums in the ongoing transformation of society.

Dia Internacional dels Museus

Where: all over Barcelona
When: May 18, 2020
Website: https://icom.museum/en/
Masterminded by the International Council of Museums, this worldwide day of free museum entrance has an annual theme with related activities. Note that the recommended date is May 18, but this can vary from year to year. La Nit dels Museus is a newer initiative, where more than 60 museums offer free entry on the previous night from 7pm to 1am (see above).

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Festival Ciutat Flamenco

Where: Mercat de les Flors
When: May 16-31, 2019 (2020 dates TBA) [POSTPONED TO autumn. New dates TBA.]
Website: https://ciutatflamenco.com/
Mercat de les Flors dedicated the Ciutat Flamenco festival of 2013 to Carmen Amaya with a full year of celebrations and the inauguration of the Sala Carmen Amaya auditorium. The Mercat has a contemporary, transcultural and universal vision of flamenco, featurng performances by new artists, dialogue between music and dance, artistic residencies, ‘tapeos’ and more, in order to examine and bring up to date the tradition and future of this art. Organised jointly by Mercat de les Flors and Taller de Músics, the festival presents the most innovative face of flamenco, opening the traditions up to new interpretations while maintaining flamenco as an art deeply rooted in the culture.

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Feria de Abril de Catalunya

Where: Fòrum area
When: Apr 24 – May 3, 2020 [POSTPONED TO May 28 – June 1, 2020]
Website: www.fecac.com
A pale imitation of Seville’s grand Feria de Abril, this week-long, sprawling and joyously tacky event is still a whole heap of fun, especially for fans of fried squid and candy floss. The rows of decorated marquees are a sea of polka dots, as young and old twirl on and off the stages, and onlookers glug manzanilla sherry and scarf some of the greasiest food imaginable. It’s great for children, and there’s a funfair.

Festa dels Cors de la Barceloneta

Where: Barceloneta
When: weekend of Whitsun (Whitsun in 2020 is May 31)
In a Pentecostal tradition dating back 150 years, more than 20 choirs of workers parade through the streets of the neighbourhood in elaborate costumes garlanded with objects typical of their profession – nets and oars for a fisherman, cereal boxes and sausages for a grocer – on the Saturday morning before Whitsun. They then pile into coaches and take off on a weekend jolly, returning for more parading, fireworks and revelry on Monday evening.

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Primavera Sound

Where: Parc del Fòrum
When: Jun 3-7, 2020 [POSTPONED TO 2021]
Website: www.primaverasound.com
This three-day (plus bonus days), six-stage music festival is one of the best in Spain. Credit for its success is due to its range of genres. There are rafts of electronica acts, DJs and local bands, plus a record fair and the Soundtrack Film Festival. The 2020 line-up was to be all about variety, with acts ranging from Kacey Musgraves's country crooning to the cutting-edge rap lyrics of Tyler, The Creator. Huge names have played on the stages in previous years, including Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Belle & Sebastian, The White Stripes, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, Pet Shop Boys, Pavement, PJ Harvey, Fleet Foxes, Yo La Tengo, Björk and Franz Ferdinand... Get your tickets early (they go on sale practically right after the previous edition ends, and before any names are announced) to save a lot of money, as the price goes up regularly as the event date nears.

La Tamborinada

Where: Parc de la Ciutadella
When: June 2, 2019 (2020 date TBA)
Tel & website: 93 414 72 01/www.fundaciolaroda.cat
Aimed at children, this vibrant one-day festival fills the Ciutadella park with concerts, workshops and circus performances. Games and entertainments run from snakes and ladders to a towering wall for rock-climbing.

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L’Ou Com Balla

Where: Ateneu Barcelonès, Casa de l’Ardiaca, Cathedral cloisters, Museu Frederic Marès, all in Barri Gòtic
When: June 11-14, 2020
Tel & website: Institut de Cultura 93 301 77 75/barcelonacultura.bcn.cat
L’Ou Com Balla (the ‘dancing egg’) is a local Corpus Christi tradition dating from 1637: a hollowed-out eggshell is set spinning and bobbing in apparent perpetuum mobile on the spout of various fountains garlanded for the occasion with flowers. The Sunday Corpus Christi procession leaves from the Cathedral in the early evening; on the Saturday, there’s free entry to the Ajuntament, the Palau Centelles behind it and the Museu d’Història de Barcelona, along with ‘sardanes’ (circle dances) at 7pm outside the Cathedral.

Withlocals Universal Widget Paris

More festivals and events in Barcelona

Summer

Things to do Festivals

Sónar and Cruïlla, outdoor film fests, Sant Joan and the Gràcia fest, Gay Pride, the Grec

Piromusical de la Mercè
© Boule

Autumn

Things to do Festivals

Jazz and hip-hop music festivals, the massive La Mercè celebration, Sitges & In-Edit film fests

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Winter

Things to do Festivals

Christmas markets, New Year parties, Kings' Day, the Mobile World Congress, Carnival

Primavera Sound 2015
© Maria Dias

Spring

Things to do Festivals

Primavera Sound, the big marathon, Guitar BCN festival, Sant Jordi's books and roses

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