It's that time again, the shortest night of the year, which here is known as 'Sant Joan's eve' (June 24 is the feast day of this saint, known as Sant Joan or John the Baptist) and is one of the most popular festivals in Catalonia. Fire, music, dancing, cava and 'coca' cake are the stars of the show, which goes on throughout the night. In Barcelona a range of associations organise parties open to all on the city's streets and squares, with bands, dances and bonfires that are made using unwanted wooden items gathered during the year.
One of the main features on the eve of Sant Joan is the arrival of the Canigó Flame ('la Flama del Canigó'), an event that this year celebrates its 50th anniversary. The flame, which comes from the peak of the Canigó mountain in the Pyrenees, is the one used to light Sant Joan fires around the region, and will be received first at the Catalan Parliament and then go to City Hall (1.30pm); it will leave there around 6.30pm accompanied by music from the traditional Cobla Sant Jordi-Ciutat de Barcelona group, as well as a procession featuring the Barcelona Eagle and 'gegants', which are huge papier-mâché figures representing historical characters from the city. While the 'cobla' provides music for the evening, dozens of local organisations will come to collect their part of the Flame to light the bonfires in their neighbourhoods. Another way to really feel part of the festivities is to head to the city beaches, where hundreds of revellers gather, many of them staying to watch the sunrise on June 24. But if you're not a fan of loud noises, you may want to invest in some earplugs, as the firecrackers and fireworks will be exploding all night long across Barcelona.