I’ve recently returned from my Asia trip and have settled in in my new flat in Poblenou, one of Barcelona’s best “up and coming” neighborhoods and home to a lot of technology and internet companies. After six years of living in different areas of Barcelona, this is the first time I’ll be exploring Poblenou so expect lots of posts on that coming up.
For now, I wanted to share a few things with you that I love doing in the summer – things to do in Barcelona that you probably won’t find in your standard guide book. Here are my Top 5:
1. Go to a Festa Major
Pretty much every barrio (or area of town) in Barcelona has its own Festa Major, a local street festival usually comprised of cultural events, decorated streets and unruly amounts of alcohol. Perhaps the most famous one is the Festa Major de Gracia in Mid August. This is a true local celebration. Neighborhood associations plan their events and decorations all year round, as there is fierce competition for the prize of the best decorated street (only recycled materials are allowed!). Local bands play music of all styles every night. It’s an awesome festival, not to be missed. Go early in the day if you want to enjoy a stroll through the decorated streets, or in the evening for music and partying. Escape the neighbourhood if you are amongst the few unlucky ones who have to work in August and thus need some sleep, you won’t be getting any in Gracia.
2. Enjoy a free concert in the park
Every year, the Barcelona City Council organises a series of free concerts in Barcelona’s public parks. These are a mix of classic and jazz and a great way to relax on a warm summer evening. Ciutadella Park, one of Barcelona’s biggest parks, gets more than its fair share of free concerts. Meet your friends for a concert in the park, and head to the nearby Born quarter for a drink afterwards. Or bring a bottle of wine and some cheese to go with that jazz.
3. Escape the crowdy tourist beaches and go to a beach outside the city
Barcelona’s beaches are one of the city’s biggest assets for most of the year, but during the summer season they can become overcrowded with bachelor party crowds blasting awful music out of cheap speakers, or you simply can’t find a place for your little beach towel because locals and expats claim way too much space with their bright yellow & black beach volleyball nets.
For a short beach break on a budget, try the beaches of Badalona or Montgat Nord, both reachable in less than 20min from Plaza Catalunya with the R1 train line on the normal one zone T10 metro ticket (so a round trip would set you back about 2 EUR per person).
For a longer day trip, explore the beautiful seaside town of Sitges, about 45min South of Barcelona on the R2 train line.
4. Montjuic Cinema
Pack a tortilla de patatas, some vino tinto and a blanket, and head up the hill for Sala Montjuic, Barcelona’s coolest outdoor movie theatre in the gardens of Montjuic castle. There’s a mix of classic and (more or less) recent movies, and usually at least one silent movie accompanied by a full orchestra in concert. Highlights of the recently released 2014 program include Gravity amongst the new movies and The Godfather in the classics selection, both movies worth watching if you ask me!
Entrance fee is 6EUR, deck chairs can be rented for 3EUR a piece.
5. Stay around for La Merce, Barcelona’s festival of the year
If you’re in Barcelona in September, you get to experience La Merce, the official annual festival of the year celebrating La Merce, the patron saint of the archdiocese of Barcelona. Traditional highlights include the parade of the Gegants i Capgrossos, giants made out of paper maché, the competition of the Castellers (human towers) and the treacherous Correfoc, literally a fire run where people dressed as devils dance and run through the crowds with fireworks. Let me point out right here that this is not an activity you’d want to bring your kids to, neither should you wear your newest outfit… the runners do get the crowd involved so be prepared. Check out the official La Merce website for the full program once it’s released.