Spain is a secular country with no official state religion, but its roots are deeply Catholic. Because of this, each city and town in Spain has its own patron Saint, and typically parties and celebrations are held every year on that Saint’s given day. In the case of Barcelona, this leads to a somewhat peculiar situation, because the current metropolis was no such thing just a century ago. Up until recently, many of Barcelona’s neighborhoods were actually independent towns and villages, which were subsumed by the city as it grew over the 19th and 20th centuries. Because of this, many of Barcelona’s neighborhoods have their own special holidays and neighborhood parties, like the famous “Festes de Gracia”, which gather tens of thousands of people every year to dance and party in the streets until the wee hours.
Festa Major de Gracia
The most popular neighbourhood festival takes place in Gracia, which was once an independent town and still boasts its own unique quirks. Community is the name of the game in this area throughout the year, which is only heightened during the fun of the Festa Major. The street decoration competition is the main event, with more than 25 associations striving to create the most innovative street décor – in the past, narrow laneways have been transformed into underwater worlds, jungles, and scenes from a zombie apocalypse. As well as this, there is plenty of street food and drink to go around, and dancing, music, and art shows to while away the hours.
Festes dels Tres Tombs
This unique festival celebrates St. Anthony Abbot, a.k.a. the patron saint of animals. Expect plenty of cat costumes and other critters during the processions and parades that march through the Sant Andreu and Eixample neighbourhoods. You’ll be in heaven if you’re an animal lover, as locals bring their pets to be blessed amongst the music and festivities.
Festa Major del Raval
Picking up the baton towards the end of July is El Raval, a youthful part of Barcelona that’s quickly coming into its own. Whilst this definitely isn’t the largest neighbourhood festival by any stretch of the imagination, it puts on a great show filled with reggae concerts, alternative crowds, and, thanks to its large ethnic population, food sourced from all over the world.
Festa Major de Poble Sec
Barcelona’s trendy district Poble Sec puts on a lively show in July that was made for hipsters and fashionable youths. Crowds congregate outside El Molino, sipping on chilled mojitos and cans of beer whilst listening to local bands and DJs work their magic. It’s great for kids too, with a collection of fun for younger members of the family and, in previous years, there’s been a craft beer festival running alongside the whole shebang.
Festa de Sant Roc
The Gothic Quarter’s neighbourhood festival is the oldest in the city, dating back to 1589. Throughout the winding medieval streets there is plenty of traditional Catalan culture to admire, including the ‘gegants’ (giants), street games, fire runs, and Sardana dances (elements that have been a major part of the festival since its inception). There are two activities that set Festa de Sant Roc aside from the rest, though. La Cucanya contest encourages participants to walk over a grease-smeared pole, whilst the drinking competition sees judges pouring wine down the throats of contestants from a larger version of the traditional porrón drinking vessel.