With stunning architecture, world-class museums, legendary nightlife and beaches a few minutes’ walk from the city centre, Barcelona is great to visit any time of year. From May to September, the warmer months are packed with outdoor events like the Sónar electronic music festival and the eclectic Primavera Sound, as well as jazz nights in the open spaces of gorgeous Gaudí buildings around the city.
Indoors or outdoors, there are cultural festivals featuring amazing human towers, fashion shows, Christmas markets and top sporting events like the Barcelona Marathon and the Spanish Grand Prix, and the neighbourhood of Gràcia welcomes visitors to what is arguably Europe’s best street party. It’s a landmark year for the city’s wonderful museums and galleries, with a major new Dalí and Picasso exhibition and shows at the brand new Design Museum and Museum of World Cultures.
If you’ve never been to Barcelona, or if you’re making a return visit, 2015 is the year to experience all the city has to offer — download the guide in PDF format to see the full list of the 50 top events taking place in Barcelona in 2015.
080 Barcelona Fashion
Discover what you should be wearing, according to Catalan designers, this autumn and winter with the fifteenth edition of this bi-annual event to promote the local fashion industry. As well as catwalk shows there are talks and discussions on the sector, pop-up shops, DJ sessions, photo competitions and stands from some of the local design schools, where you can spot the next generation of 080 participants. www.080barcelonafashion.cat
Museu de Cultures del Món
Barcelona’s newest museum, the Museum of World Cultures, promises to be exceptional, with exhibits from Africa, Asia, south and central America and Oceania, gathered since the late nineteenth century by local institutions and private collectors. With almost 40,000 items, including religious statues, clothing, artwork and books, there’s enough material here to keep curious minds distracted for hours. Its location is an added attraction: two adjoining houses opposite the Picasso Museum, built by wealthy medieval families, which have been restored and merit a close inspection in their own right. museuculturesmon.bcn.cat
Design for Life
Barcelona’s new Design Museum opened in December 2014, bringing together the collections of the city’s former industrial design, graphic and decorative arts, ceramics and textiles museums, some 70,000 items in total. It’s located in the Disseny Hub, a striking new building surounded by a moat, designed by leading Barcelona architects including Oriol Bohigas. ‘Design for Life’ looks at the concepts behind 100 objects used in everyday life, from Catalan and international designers, in the fields of communication, the human body and geographical surroundings. It’s the first in a series of exhibitions taking a critical look at the role of design around the world and how products and concepts are adapted to the societies they are aimed at. www.museudeldisseny.cat
Zurich Marató de Barcelona
There’s no two ways about it, running is popular in Barcelona these days. It seems as though not a weekend goes by here without a big run or power walk taking place. But the Zurich Barcelona Marathon is the daddy of them all; increasingly attracting runners from abroad, it has taken its place in the list of the world’s most popular 42km challenges. The route zig-zags its way across town and, for those not concerned about breaking their PB, offers a checklist of the city’s main landmarks, including the Camp Nou, the Arc de Triomf and a selection of Gaudí creations. In an effort to make this an inclusive sporting event, there are numerous entertainment points along the way, including music and dance performances. If you haven’t yet signed up for this alternative tour of Barcelona, here’s your chance – 14,200 runners took part in 2014, but the organisers say that numbers can go above 17,000 this year. www.zurichmaratobarcelona.com
For the first time, work by two of the last century’s most brilliant artists is brought together. Following their first meeting in Paris in 1926, we observe how Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí echoed and challenged each other in their work. The show is produced with the Dalí Museum in St Petersburg, Florida, where it was exhibited for four months from November last year; Barcelona’s Museu Picasso is its only other venue. More than 80 paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures are on display, many of them rarely seen in public before. www.bcn.cat/museupicasso
Festa de Sant Jordi
Catalonia’s equivalent to Valentine’s Day, the day of Sant Jordi (St George, patron saint of Catalonia as well as England) is so much more than heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and uncomfortably forced Valentine card rhymes. The basic idea is that men present their sweethearts with a rose, while women give their beaus a book. On the day, the streets fill to bursting with stalls selling roses of every colour, shape and size and books for all tastes. Bibliophiles will be in heaven, as unhurried book browsing is all but obligatory. Just hope that the weather stays fine. www.bcn.cat/barcelonacultura and bcn.cat/culturapopular
This urban festival has become a top player on the European summer circuit, with three long nights crammed full of music, from up-and-coming local groups to major names. Though it’s a pocket festival without overnight camping, Primavera Sound is certainly not lacking in variety or atmosphere. Seeing all the acts you want requires careful planning, with multiple stages hosting everything from indie pop to hard metal, folk and experimental. Pixies, Metronomy and Arcade Fire were amongst the 229 acts who played last year, and headliners for 2015 include The Strokes and Ride. www.primaverasound.com
Formula 1 Gran Premio de España 2015
One of the biggest weekends on the Barcelona sporting calendar, the F1 Spanish Grand Prix drives into town once more at the Barcelona-Catalunya Montmeló circuit, where it has been held since 1991. Join the 140,000 spectators to see if reigning champion Lewis Hamilton can repeat last year’s top podium spot, while the locals cheer on Fernando Alonso, who won the previous year and was the first Spaniard to win the Grand Prix in 2006. The main event is clearly the Sunday race, but there are lead-up events starting with a pit lane walkabout on Thursday 7th (for holders of a three-day or Sunday ticket), before the qualifying sessions on Friday and Saturday. If you go with your family, a kids zone offers entertainment for three to 12-year-olds. www.circuitcat.com
If you know anything about electronic music, you know about Sónar. Now in its twenty-second year, with the official title of International Festival of Advanced Music and New Media Art, these days the parallel activities generate as much excitement as the live acts at the main day and night sessions. Art installations, a conference dedicated to digital culture and decibel-appropriate kids’ specials are just part of the extended Sónar programme that takes over many corners of the city. The live performances feature top electronic acts new and old, with such noteworthy names in recent years as Grace Jones, Pet Shop Boys and Yelle. www.sonar.es
Festival Jardins Palau Reial Pedralbes
A relative newcomer on the Barcelona music festival block, this year is the third outing for this sumptuous event where the venue is almost as high on the bill as the acts. The setting is the gardens of the Palau Reial de Pedralbes, where carefully tended flowerbeds, Michelin-starred food and a lot of cava set the scene. But that’s not to decry the quality of the performers, with past acts that have included Blondie, Tom Jones, Lana del Rey and Kool and the Gang. www.festivalpedralbes.com
For somewhere so highly desirable and perfectly lovely, Stoke Newington doesn’t traditionally have many brilliant pubs or restaurants, although that’s starting to change. The cynic might say that the stalwarts who established themselves as neighbourhood favourites a decade or more ago then settled back comfortably on their laurels. But in the quiet terraces between Church Street and Dalston, something different stirs. The Prince closed in 2014, and after an intensive going-over is open again with a new look. There’s unusual industrial lighting, herbs growing in the garden, a parquet-floored bar, neat tiling – and no brewery tie. As a free house it can stock and sell any beer it likes: in this case, loads from London. So you might find Bermondsey’s Partizan Saison Ginger, certainly not cheap at £3 a half; or a more straightforward Prince house pilsner at £4 a pint. Through the back is a smart dining room looking over the compact but peaceful garden; but you can eat in the pub too, and you should. The food’s far better than the usual pub grub, and pleasingly avoids the seen-it-all-before US diner stuff. Instead, it ranges from Jersey oysters to more complex dishes such as courgette and butter-bean cassoulet or lamb’s liver with green sauce. The residents of these quiet terraces have taken the Prince to heart: it’s busy most nights. A couple more gastropubs like this and Stokey really would be highly desirable.