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Traditional festivals

The Best Night of the Year: Nit de Sant Joan

Written by Emily Elwes

Every year Barcelona celebrates the summer solstice (when the day is longest) with the festival of Sant Joan. This takes place over several days but the main date is the 23rd, nit de Sant Joan, which involves huge amounts of partying and pyrotechnics. The festival is adapted from the pagan practices of worshiping times of year and is celebrated in the Christian tradition as John the Baptist’s Birthday. However, many of the pagan traditions remain, the first being the symbolism of fire as fertility and purity. This tradition of using fire has remained a key to the celebrations of Sant Joan in Barcelona. This takes the form of fireworks and huge sparklers being set off across the city. Today, ShBarcelona will tell you a bit more on the Nit de Sant Joan.

Related article: Holidays and Celebrations in 2019

What goes on?

Palamós_-_Focs_de_Sant_Joan_(2)

Photo via Visualhunt

The nit de Sant Joan is often called the nit de Foc, (foc = fire), by Catalans and this is the focus of the evening. As mentioned fireworks are used all across the city. Just before the celebration temporary firework shops pop up on the streets and people often queue to get some. The locals here invite their friends up onto terraces to drink, dance and watch the fireworks. So if there’s anyone you know with one its likely they’ll be having a party. If you can’t get yourself to one of these local shindigs, there is plenty else to enjoy.

The Best Places To Go

One of the main areas to visit is the beach where there are parties from sunset to sunrise. Many people go there with picnics and Cava and make bonfires. It’s a great place to watch the fireworks start with their bright explosions reflected in the waves and fires lighting up the crowds. It begins to fill up around early evening, so it’s best to go early to grab a good spot.

There are also ‘revetllas’, open-air street parties, organized by local communities in different Barrios. These will feature live bands playing rumba catalana or flamenco, DJ’s playing techno, house and reggae and lots of dressing up. The dressing up culminates in displays in placas involving slightly scary devils and hooded figures holding huge sprinklers. You can find your local revetllas on a handy map here.

However, it does have to be said, the whole city comes alive, so don’t worry if you can’t get exactly where you wanted too. Every corner and street will be filled with revelers. It is mayhem and is to be enjoyed, so take it easy and relish every moment. Even better the 24th is a public holiday so you’ll have ample time to recover the next day.

Related article: Suggestions for a Great Bachelor Party in Barcelona

Something to Eat and Drink

Photo via Visualhunt

The traditional dish of Sant Joan is the Coca or coquets (plural). This is a form of brioche bread served for dessert, it is usually filled with a sweet such as marzipan, chocolate, candied fruit or cream. The most traditional form is anise-flavored bread (aniseed), with candied fruit and pine nuts. These can be bought in bakeries anywhere in Barcelona and there will be piles of the stacked up in the supermarkets in the run up to the festival. These should be washed down with great quantities of cava, which is produced in Catalonia and is delicious

Transport

Transport on the night is a breeze, the Metro is open all day and night during the celebrations and taxis are still available for those wanting them. However, if you are staying a short distance from the celebrations it is wonderful to walk around the city to look at the events and get a fee of the electric atmosphere that surrounds Barcelona on Nit de Sant Joan.

Have you been in Barcelona during Sant Joan? Where did you go to celebrate?

The Best Night of the Year: Nit de Sant Joan
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About the author

Emily Elwes

Emily is a freelance content editor & manager living & working in Barcelona. She's passionate about food, drink, language and collaborative consumption.

3 Comments

  • Hi Emily! My family (2 adults + 2 teenagers) and I are making a quick visit to Barcelona on June 22, 23, and 24 of 2019. It looks like the Nit de Sant Joan is happening while we are there and we are excited to participate. We’re staying in El Born (on Carrer de la Princesa) – do you know if there are any festivities happening in that neighborhood? Or do we need to go down to the beach? It would be fun to see the bonfires and I’ve heard there are celebrations in the streets and squares with fireworks displays and “diables and dracs” – is this the case? Also, is there a particular (non-touristy) restaurant you would recommend for that night? Any insights you could share would be most welcome – I am having a hard time finding specifics online. Thank you!

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