Things to Do in Barcelona

5 Things to do in Barcelona This Summer That Are Not in Your Guide Book

This summer I’ll be celebrating my 11 year anniversary of living in Barcelona. Quite incredible really. The plan in the beginning was always to leave after a year. I’ve spent my share of summers here, as I tend to leave vacations for the winter. Summers in this city are beautiful, and there is an amazing range of things to do in Barcelona in summer. I’ve compiled my top 5 ideas for you, updated them for 2018, and added a bonus one at the bottom because I couldn’t resist! This one will cool you down after all the festivals for sure.

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.

My Top 5 Things to Do in Barcelona This Summer

1. Go to a Festa Major

Things to do in Barcelona

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 with a long tradition. Neighbourhood 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, so they are collected a long time in advance!). 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, as you won’t be getting any shut-eye in Gracia.

2018 Dates: 15th to 21st of August
Location: Gracia neighbourhood. Nearest metro stations are Diagonal (blue and green line), Fontana (green line) and Verdaguer (yellow line). The festival spans the whole neighbourhood, I recommend just taking a stroll through the area for a few hours, ideally in the late afternoon if you want to enjoy the decorations, or in the evening if you’re looking for a party atmosphere.
More info: Festa Major de Gracia website.

Other popular Festas Majores in the summer are the one in the Poble Sec neighbourhood (more information on their website) in late July and the one in Sants in late August (info on their website).

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. Picnics in the park have become one of my favourite things to do in Barcelona, and the live music is a huge bonus making for a great summer night!

A bit more info is available on the city council website, and the full program is available here in PDF format. It’s in catalan, but you’ll see the date, time and name of park as well as who’s playing and what type of music it is – it’s pretty straight forward and understandable despite the language barrier – you’ll feel even more like a local!

3. Escape the crowdy tourist beaches and go to a beach outside the city

Sitges Beach
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 there are just way too many people. It’s a city after all.

For a short beach break on a budget, try the beaches of Badalona or Montgat, 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 (remember my picnic pep talk above?), 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. The 2018 season runs from June 29th to August 3rd, and highlights include Dunkirk and Three Billboards outside Ebbing. Classics this year feature West Side Story, with the silent movie being “The Cameraman”, which will have a live jazz and swing band accompanying the movie. Sounds like a winner to me.

Entrance fee is 6EUR if you buy tickets in advance, 6.50 at box office. Lounge chairs can be rented for 3EUR a piece, or you can simply bring a blanket if you prefer. There’s now also an option to buy a picnic for 10EUR.

And if you’re a movie fan and in town for longer, season tickets are available as well! More info on everything, plus the full program, are available on the Sala Montjuic website.

5. Stay around for La Merce, Barcelona’s festival of the year

Correfoc La Merce Barcelona

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 – the city council tends to be quite late with this, but dates are always around the holiday of La Merce, which is the 24th of September.

2018 Dates: Projected dates of festivities 21st to 24th of September
Location: All over Barcelona.
Some highlights:
– Castellers: Usually at Plaza St. Jaume
– Correfoc: Route along Via Laietana
– Concerts and fair: At Forum & other locations
– Fireworks: On the beach

Bonus idea: See Barcelona from the sea

Barcelona things to do Boat

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I’ve really gotten into sailing over the last couple of years. I’ve written about offshore sailing and whale watching, but I haven’t told you much about my coastal sailing experiments yet. Barcelona is a great spot for coastal sailing! Whether you want to get on a party catamaran, charter a private yacht for your family or a romantic sunset cruise for two, or try your skills on a small dinghy, Barcelona’s Port Olimpic can offer you anything you’re looking for.

If you’d rather exercise a bit without getting into sailing skills, there are various spots along the beach where you can rent stand up paddle boards and kayaks. Vela Barcelona, the Municipal Sailing Club, offers rentals of both at a very reasonable price but without much instruction. They also offer sessions on beach catamarans and other small boats with an instructor, a great way to try sailing and see the skyline of Barcelona from the sea! If you want to learn proper paddle surfing technique, Molokai in Barceloneta offer classes which may be a bit more in depth training.

Enjoy your summer in Barcelona!! And don’t forget to have a classic vermouth.
Barcelona Things To Do - Have a Vermouth

First published in 2014, updated with new research, 2018 festival updates and new ideas in June 2018.

6 thoughts on “5 Things to do in Barcelona This Summer That Are Not in Your Guide Book

  1. These are some great tips..! So much more to do in Barcelona than just roam the streets. I love your insider tips about the beaches! Very useful. Now I can’t wait to go to Barcelona again 🙂

    • I can imagine you miss the weather especially 🙂 I’ve never been to Edinburgh but spend quite a bit of time in the North of England and Barcelona sunshine definitely beats the British rain! Hopefully you’ll be able to spend some time back here next year.

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