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50 things to do in Barcelona in 2014: culture and tradition

Highlights of Barcelona's cultural and traditional events in 2014

La Merce
By Time Out in association with BarcelonaTurisme

Among the 50 great things to do in Barcelona in 2014 are local cultural and traditional events that you won't want to miss. Join in big week-long street parties with fierce decorating contests, find out what books and roses have to do with each other, test your bravery and speed during fire runs, and hold your breath during the making of human towers you have got to see to believe.

Castellers La Mercé
© Pep Herrero

Castellers and La Festa Catalana

The deeply loved local tradition of building human towers, in various formations, can be seen during festivals all over Catalonia. It consists of groups of enthusiasts, called colles, who team up on festival days to build and then dismantle human towers. This and other Catalan traditions, from papier-mâché giants to sardana dancing can also be seen every Saturday at 7.30pm in various Old City locations such as the square in front of the Cathedral.

Sant Jordi

Festa de Sant Jordi

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 red roses decorate the Palau de la Generalitat and the city’s many statues and paintings of George in all his dragon-slaying glory. For more than five centuries, this has been the Catalan version of St Valentine’s Day, when couples exchange red roses and books – this is also the ‘Day of the Book’, perhaps because the date coincides with International Book Day and, not by happenstance, with the date of death of both William Shakespeare and Miguel Cervantes. It’s a great day to simply stroll around the streets of the city, browsing the book stalls, smelling the roses and enjoying the atmosphere, or you can take advantage of the fact that it's open doors day at the city hall in Plaça Sant Jaume and visit its ancient galleries and halls.
Festa major de Gràcia Verdi

Festa Major de Gràcia

The main event at Gràcia’s extravagant Festa Major is its street competition, where residents transform some 25 streets into pirate ships, rainforests and Jurassic landscapes. The festival opens with giants and castles in Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia, and climaxes with a correfoc (fire-running) and a castell de focs (castle of fireworks). In between, there are some 600 activities, from concerts to bouncy castles. And all of these events and activities see the neighbourhood taken over by an estimated 1.5 million revellers every August in an eclectically festive mix that includes everyone from local pensioners to inebriated air guitarists, all out to have a good time. While the daytime is packed with activities for kids and families, the real fun usually begins sometime in the early evening and doesn’t start to wind down until the wee hours of the morning.

Mercè. Gegants de Barcelona

Festes de la Mercè

This five-day festival opens with giants and dragons in the Plaça Sant Jaume. It’s followed by more than 600 events including sardanes (traditional Catalan dancing) and correfocs (fire-running). Other highlights include dazzling fireworks displays, free concerts, a seafront air show, sporting events including a swim across the port and a regatta, and a heap of activities for children. Many visitors are enchanted by the processions of gegants, large hollow figures made of papier-mâché and carried around by groups of enthusiasts, which were first introduced into the festivities at the beginning of the 20th century. Those brave enough to want to experience the fire-running and see the processions of firework-wielding devils should attend suitably equipped and protected against flying sparks by wearing adequate footwear, hats, protective glasses and thick long-sleeved shirts.

Mercat de Mercats

Mercat de Mercats

The ‘Market of Markets’ is a gastronomic fair that brings together food and wine producers from all over Catalonia. The stalls are arranged in front of the Cathedral, and a €12 ticket allows you to choose four tapas from whichever stalls you like, while €10 gets you four small glasses of wine or cava (plus you get to keep the glass). Some 30 market stalls, 50 local food producers, 12 of the city’s bars and restaurants, and 16 wineries took part in last year’s edition. Amateur chefs should note that they can get great tips on how to perfect their dishes from world-renowned Catalan chefs. It’s a weekend that offers the chance to discover and taste the products sold in the markets, enjoy a variety of tapas and wines and get to know the gastronomy of Catalonia much better.



This year sees the 300th anniversary of the fall of Barcelona to the Bourbon troops during the war of Spanish Succession and the consequent loss of Catalonia’s traditional rights and liberties. Tricentenari BCN is a programme of events curated by Catalan journalist Toni Soler designed to commemorate and understand those events, creating a dialogue between the past and the present that will allow us to relate the history of Catalonia to its present and future aspirations.

50 great things to do ... by season

Things to do


Highlights of Barcelona's winter 2014 events 080 Barcelona Fashion Running over five days, 080 gives the Barcelona fashion scene a biannual shot in the arm, thanks to the support of the Generalitat de Catalunya. It primarily showcases local designers, from up-and-coming ateliers such as Natalie Capell to globally big-hitting brands such as Mango. The fashion-focused fair also tries to be a living reflection of all of the bubbling creativity that exists in the city – a creative vivacity that finds expression in the designers from all over the world who have made their home and set up their businesses in trend-setting neighbourhoods like the Born, the Raval and the Barri Gotic. As well as providing an unbeatable showcase for new and upcoming trends in the city, 080 Barcelona Fashion also aims to transform the show into a benchmark event in terms of the design, production, distribution and commercialisation of the products emerging from the sector, as well as building closer ties with industry and with NGOs and Barcelona’s social fabric. Davant l'horitzó The Fundació Joan Miró is hosting an exhibition dedicated to the horizon as a recurring element in the history of modern painting from the 19th century to the present. The exhibition aims to highlight the defining power of the horizon, delve into its enigmatic duality, review the changing nature of its representation, and reflect on its role as a paradoxical mirror of the mutations of history and culture. The title of the show i

Things to do


Highlights of Barcelona's spring 2014 events Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes One of this year’s successes at New York’s MoMA, this exhibition of the work of one of the most respected architects of the 20th century transfers to Barcelona’s CaixaForum. Covering the full range of his career, the exhibition will not look at his creations and ideas, via photographs, sketches and models of some of his large scale projects, but also his life – through a selection of documentary footage. All of these myriad elements allow us to follow and understand the way in which Le Corbusier envisaged and imagined his environment. The exhibition takes us from his early watercolours and drawings, made on his travels, to his landmark work as part of the International Style. It also allows us to appreciate the sheer breadth of his interests, encompassing his work as architect, interior designer, artist, city planner, writer, and photographer, presenting everything from his theories of urban planning, which are still influential today, to his designs for furniture and even tools. 25th BCN Guitar Festival Now in its 25th year, the BCN Guitar Festival doesn’t stand still and has expanded to include not only classical guitar and established virtuoso performers, but an increasing amount of alternative bands and musicians. It has also become more international over time, and in 2013 featured stellar names like Eels, Ron Sexsmith, Lucinda Williams and Marisa Monte, among others. The festival ha

Things to do


Highlights of Barcelona's summer 2014 events Post-Picasso: Contemporary Artists' Response to His Art The Museu Picasso will host an exhibition of 80 works by artists from around the world, in a look at the ways in which Picasso’s work influenced, and was explored by, later generations. These pieces will include work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Rineke Dijkstra, Rachel Harrison, among many others. For them, as well as for a remarkable and hitherto unacknowledged variety of artists from all around the world, from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America, as well as from Europe and North America, who are working in a range of mediums that run from video and photography to painting and sculpture, engagement with Picasso’s work has provided a liberating and polyvalent model that allows them to address the phenomena of the globalization and diversification of contemporary art in our century. Summer Nights at La Pedrera Nits d’Estiu (Summer Nights) sees live jazz from local bands on the magical rooftop terrace of Gaudí’s undulating apartment block, in the shadow of his warrior-like chimneys. Concerts take place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, and the price includes a visit to the ‘Espai Gaudí’ exhibition and a glass of cava. A fixed tapas menu is also available. It’s a great chance to take in the essence of Gaudí and his most emblematic work, together with a large and varied programme of live jazz music. While the visit to the Espai Gaudí, a museum exhibition located in th

Things to do


Highlights of Barcelona's autumn 2014 events European Society of Cardiology Congress Europe’s major event for medical professionals in the cardiovascular field takes place every summer in the trade fair zone in L’Hospitalet, on the outskirts of Barcelona. The event brings together thousands of visitors, who can choose from among more than 500 talks and conferences, looking at all the latest research. The 2014 edition is putting the spotlight on the theme of ‘Innovation and the Heart’ and offers Clinical Practice, Experts and Abstract Sessions on guidelines, the most challenging cases faced by leaders in the field, and controversial topics in the discipline. Attendees will also have the opportunity to find out about the latest developments in scientific research and even to ‘Meet the Legends’ in a programme designed to provide younger practitioners with a unique opportunity to interact with some of the key figures who have shaped cardiology as we know it today. 2014 Basketball World Cup The celebration of the Basketball World Cup in Spain in 2014 will give Barcelona, one of the six host cities, alongside Bilbao, Granada, Gran Canaria, Madrid and Seville, another opportunity to demonstrate its ability to organise world-class sporting events. The main venue for the event, which will run from the 30th of August to the 14th of September, will be the Sant Jordi arena, with capacity for 17,960 spectators. Among the teams competing for the ultimate prize in world basketball will be S

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