Barcelona is a summer city. Open to the world, the Catalan capital truly comes alive during the vacation season. It is also our favorite season of the year, and we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite places to go and things to do so you can enjoy it as much as we do.
We all scream for ice cream
There are a ton of pedestrian ice cream parlors in Barcelona, but there are a few that really stand out and are worth taking the time to visit. The Gelateria Italiana on Plaça de la Revolució, in Gràcia, is one of them – get the dark chocolate and the Tiramisu if you go. Another is Rocambolesc, by Jordi Roca of the Roca brothers, on La Rambla, and a third is Gocce di Latte, near La Barceloneta, known for their very unusual but absolutely terrific lemon, Sichuan pepper and cumin ice cream. If you’re not an ice cream person try horxata, a refreshing drink made from tiger nuts that’s local to Spain.
Fireworks and bonfires for la Verbena de Sant Joan
Known as “la nit més curta de l’any”, the shortest night of the year, Sant Joan is the holiday that marks the beginning of the Summer in Spain. It is celebrated by building –and then burning!– large bonfires, and by setting off fireworks in the streets. The celebration takes place on the evening of the 23rd of June, and in the lead-up to the festival you’ll see little metal shacks dotting many streets, plazas and public places. They’re fireworks vendors, and you can even pick up some of your own and head to the beach to set them off together with thousands of people that will drink and dance until the sun rises.
Escape the Summer heat at Barcelona’s ice bar
If you have one of those moments when the Mediterranean sun gets to you, where you wish you’d gone to Alaska instead of Spain, you’re in luck – you can take a plunge into sub-freezing temperatures at Icebarcelona – a literal ice bar found on the Passeig Maritim. Since most people don’t bring a parka when coming to Barcelona in the Summer, the bar will provide you a warm, winter jacket so you can enjoy their delicious cocktails served in ice glasses without freezing. Just remember, don’t lick anything 😉.
Enjoy live music in the park
From June to August, Barcelona’s parks host free, live jazz and classical music concerts. Bring a blanket or a towel and have a picnic dinner on the grass while you relax after spending the day in the sun. One of the most pleasant experiences you can have in Barcelona is to sip a cold beer on the grass in Parc de la Ciutadella at sunset.
Get your party on for La Mercè, Barcelona’s biggest holiday
La Mercè is Barcelona’s “festa major”, the holiday of the city’s patron Saint. For a week in mid September a festive mood invades the Catalan capital and there are cultural activities, parades and concerts every day. There’s so much going on that it can be hard to know where to go and what to see, but there are a few favorites you shouldn’t miss, such as the traditional Castells, at Plaça Sant Jaume, human towers built by dozens of people climbing and standing on each other’s shoulders; the Correfoc on Via Laietana, which is a dance/parade where participants dress up as devils and shoot off fireworks in the streets, La Antiga Fàbrica Damm, the most important live music spot of the festival, and the Parc del Forum, which also has many large stages with live music and DJ’s playing well into the night.
Tip from Matthias: Check out Barcelona Acció Musical, La Merce’s music festival, for dozens of concerts featuring local and international artists.
Go shopping during the Summer sales
Every year, from July 1st to the end of August, shops in Spain go on sale, making the summer months a great time to go shopping for clothing while you’re in Barcelona. All the major stores and major brands offer discounts during these days, so take the time to explore and you’re sure to find some great deals.
Not a beach person? No problem
Barcelona’s beaches are not the only place you can sunbathe and go for a swim. If you want to bask in the Mediterranean sun in a more relaxed environment, away from the crowds and the bustle, head to the Club Natació Atlètic Barceloneta. Located right in front of the Barceloneta beaches, the Club Natació is a private swimming club with multiple indoor and outdoor pools and a Spa. Although it is a proper club, visitors can purchase a day pass and go swimming and sunbathing in a much more relaxing, private setting. Another great place to go for a dip off the beach are the Olympic pools of Montjuic, which overlook the city from the hillside.