The 24th of June is the birthday of St John the Baptist, and as such is widely celebrated in lots of Catholic countries. It coincides with the older, pagan tradition of celebrating the summer solstice, and in Catalunya it is known as Nit de Foc – «night of fire». A restless energy sweeps through the city and everyone is out on the streets to celebrate the shortest night of the year. But if it’s your first Sant Joan, it can be tricky to know what to do and where to go, so we’ve put together a little guide to some Sant Joan activities for Barcelona newbies!
Head for the beach
Lots of people head down to the beach to party the night away on Sant Joan. Drummers congregate, the chiringuitos stay open all night, and people drink and dance and swim and set off fireworks and firecrackers all along the Platja de Barceloneta. It’s a very chaotic party but if you’re up for it it’s a lot of fun! However, if you’re easily startled by fireworks it’s probably best to avoid the beach!
See the parade at Plaça Jaume 1
The Canigó flame is a tradition which has been going for the last 50 years. On the 22nd of June a huge fire is lit at the summit of Canigó, one of the most eastern peaks of the Pyrenees. Over the next 24 hours torches lit in the Canigó fire are transported by relay all over Catalunya, from town to town and city to city. In this way all the bonfires of Sant Joan are lit with a flame from the same fire. You can see the flame arrive in Barcelona in Plaça Sant Jaume 1 at 7pm, accompanied by a parade of gegants, with locals eating pastries and dancing.
Check out a correfoc in Barceloneta
In Plaça del Poeta Boscà, there’s a bonfire in the centre of the square, as well as the curious Catalan custom of a correfoc. Locals dress up as devils and maraud down streets setting off fireworks and whirling enormous sparklers around their heads. They even push along huge dragon models which shoot fireworks from their mouths! If you’ve never seen a correfoc before it’s a good night to check it out! From 8.30pm.
Party in the streets of El Raval
This year El Raval is hosting its own street party for Sant Joan on Rambla del Raval, the central plaça. The party starts at 7pm with a habandero sung by a traditional group called Grupo Mar Brava. Then you’ll have a second chance to see the Canigó flame, as the Raval torch is lit from the flame and then carried to the Rambla del Raval. In traditional fashion, the youngest and oldest person at the festa will be invited to light the bonfire together at 8pm, and then food is served from 9pm. The DJs will start up at 11pm so you can dance the night away!
Enjoy the fireworks from a distance
If you like watching fireworks but don’t want to be in the thick of the action, why not pack a picnic and head up to the bunkers? Eating olives, drinking wine and watching fireworks explode across the city sounds like a pretty perfect Sant Joan if you want a chilled out evening. Check out this page for detailed directions.
Go to a rooftop event
If you’d rather stay in the city there are lots of events happening to celebrate Sant Joan on rooftops around Barcelona. Hotels are hosting dinners for 50€ if you want to go fancy, or there’s a rooftop barbecue with a view of the beach for 35€.