1 of 3
2 of 3
Grec restaurant home
Bar-Restaurante Sifó at the Teatre Grec
3 of 3
by Bartek Molga
Fiesta de Gracia
Fiestas de Gracia 2008
Summer is tourist season in Barcelona, and with good reason. Warm weather, lots of sun, and an ocean breeze enable those who want to experience a metropolitan city and a beach to have their fun. The beaches are the best place to find fresh seafood paella, and nearly every café has outdoor tables. For major tourist sites and attractions, try showing up early in the day or later in the evening to avoid long queues and having to stand in the heat.
• Platja de Barceloneta: Located close to the city centre, offers children’s beach toys and a string of restaurants up on the patio walkway.
• Platja de Bogatell: Popular with tourists and offers several seafood and tapas bars on the beach that get even more crowded at night.
• Platja de Mar Bella: the city’s only official nudist beach also offers volleyball nets, sailing, basketball nets, a BMX half pipe, and water sports.
• Platja Nova Mar Bella: A good place to go to blend with local families.
• Platja de Nova Icària: More expansive than some of the other beaches, good for beach volleyball or frisbee.
• Platja de Sant Miguel: Very popular and very crowded, with a fair amount of young beach-goers.
• Platja de San Sebastiá: One of the closest beaches to the city centre.
Visit the official city website (www.bcn.com) for more information. The Centre de la Platja (Beach Centre) is a handy seasonal service with books for loan, ID bracelets for children in case they get lost amongst the crowds and sports and sand-castle making equipment available.
2. Dia de Sant Joan: Each year, the night before June 24th, the Dia de Sant Joan (St. John’s Day), is celebrated all over Catalunya with bonfires and impressive fireworks displays. The festivities begin as darkness falls with concerts and dance performances tucked amidst the pyrotechnics, which last all night. Traditional coca cake and cava are consumed and many people in Barcelona head to the beach to see the sun rise (although if you're not a fan of crowds, you should definitely give this a miss).
3. Festival Grec: Arguably the biggest cultural extravaganza in Barcelona, the festival starts this year on June 13th and runs to August 1st: the invited country is Japan, with various dance and music performances hailing from the land of the rising sun, while there's theatre in English with Eurydice and musicians Corinne Bailey Rae (July 21st), Dee Dee Bridgewater (July 24th) and the McCoy Tyner Trio (July 23rd) all on stage. The Teatre Grec, a Greek-style amphitheatre on Montjuïc houses the majority of the nearly 50 music, dance and theatrical performances that bring in audiences from all over the world; in addition, a special restaurant is open throughout the festival (including the days when there is no scheduled event at the Teatre Grec) set in beautiful garden surroundings and offering fine views of the city, with food provided by local restaurant Sifó. Various other venues around the city give this cultural festival an all-encompassing feel. See www.barcelonafestival.com for more details of what's on at this year's event.
4. Festes de Gràcia In mid-August, when the rest of Barcelona is too hot and sweaty to get anything constructive done, the neighbourbood of Gràcia goes to town with its festa major (literally main festival; every town and city has one, and in this case neighbourhoods within cities, when locals get out, dance, drink, eat and just generally have fun to celebrate the existence of where they live). Residents around the neighbourhood decorate their streets with imagination and creativity run wild—you could find dinosaurs, fish, flowers hanging from balconies or stretching across the whole road. There are concerts, street bars and food stalls and various activities for all ages. The most fun however, is just to wander around and marvel at the commitment and enjoyment of those who did the decorating. Takes place the week around August 15th; see the city website, www.bcn.cat, nearer the time for details. Find out more about the hard work that goes into decorating the streets of Gràcia here.
5. Late-night museum openings Various of Barcelona's big museums and cultural centres mark the summer with an extended timetable one or two times a week during July and August, and in some cases, into September. This gives visitors the chance to see the exhibits without having to struggle through the heat, although they can still attract serious numbers so don't expect to have the place to yourself. Those giving you an alternative opportunity to visit them include CaixaForum, MACBA and MNAC.
6. San Miguel Mas i Mas Festival Running throughout August, this is a mega-music festival that basically takes over the city's main live music venues with a programme that goes a very long way towards covering the full spectrum of genres. Recent invitees have included flamenco stars Sara Flores and El Duende, Brooklyn Funk Essentials and classical performers giving half-hour concerts in Gaudí's La Pedrera. For details of what's on this year, visit www.masimas.com/festival
7. Outdoor cinema Barcelona's hot summer days make way for warm summer nights that are ideal for al fresco activities including outdoor cinema screenings. This time of year sees various venues hosting regular movie showings: Sala Montjuïc - always one of the most popular, this event is hosted at the foot of the castle on Montjuïc, with the film being beamed on to the historic walls of the castle and always shown in original version with Spanish subtitles. Bring a picnic and rug, or hire a deckchair when you get there (first come, first served though); Cinema a la fresca takes place at L'illa Shopping Centre on Avinguda Diagonal throughout July - it's a smaller set-up than Sala Montjuïc and with less films shown (again in their original language), but it's cheaper and less well-known so you're more likely to get a good view (and a deckchair!); Gandules - hosted each year in August by the CCCB in the centre of Barcelona, gandules means deckchairs, the furniture of choice for all good outdoor cinema-goers! This is the most high-brow of the outdoor cinema options, with a specific theme being chosen for each year's event (last year it was music and musicians, with a list of documentaries about the lives and work of different well-known performers filling the bill).
8. Buskers' Festival Street performers, local and international, take over this city during this annual event that takes place around the end of July, or start of August—in 2010, it will run from August 5th to 8th. The shows, taking place in the evening from around 7pm, are free, but if audiences like what they see, they are free to drop something in the hat of the performer. Find more information about this year's programme at: www.buskersfestivalbarcelona.org
9. Out-of-town summer festivals There are various arts festivals happening around Catalunya during the summer months, which often attract well-known musicians and performers from around the world, although you need to be on the case when it comes to the programmes, because tickets often sell out fast for the most popular acts. In the north-east of Catalunya, close to the coast and inland from Roses, the Festival de Peralada takes place in the grounds of a castle (which is also a luxury hotel, golf and spa resort). The 2010 edition includes Norah Jones (July 16th), a performance of Puccini's Tosca (July 30th and 31st), ballet from French company Béjart Ballet Lausanne set to music of Queen and Mozart (August 3rd and 4th) and Uruguayan singer and Oscar winner, Jorge Drexler (August 14th). Also on the Costa Brava, near to Calella, the Festival Jardins de Cap Roig is another outdoor arts festival in fabulous surroundings. Its gardens are well-known for its exotic and extensive range of blooms and in itself is well worth a visit; every July and August, the Jardins de Cap Roig are the setting for a variety of concerts and arts performances—this year, Canadian singer Rufus Wainwright kicks things off with a special live show based on his 'Judy Garland Show' (July 2nd), while other notable acts on the 2010 programme include The Beach Boys (July 9th), Youssou N'Dour (July 17th), Herbie Hancock (July 24th), Diana Krall (July 31st), Sinéad O'Connor (August 1st) and the apparently unstoppable Julio Iglesias (August 5th). Finally, for anyone who likes their music a bit more modern, and isn't concerned about travelling a bit further afield to find it, the Festival Internacional de Benicàssim (in Valencia), is the place to head. An increasingly important European summer festival, drawing crowds from across the continent (and beyond), Benicàssim has managed to achieve a correlatedly impressive line-up of acts in recent years. More in the mould of Glastonbury (without the mud but with a lot of concrete due to its location and camping is really the only option in terms of accommodation) than Cap Roig or Peralada, Benicàssim, the 2010 four-day programme (July 15th to 18th) is headed by Gorillaz, Kasbian, The Prodigy and Vampire Weekend, with Charlotte Gainsbourg, Lily Allen, Goldfrapp and a whole host of familiar festival faces making up the rest of the bill. Don't forget your suncream!
10. Sónar Now firmly recognised as one of the main electronic music events on the international scene, this festival started in 1993, as things tend to, as a relatively low-key happening by a couple of passionate music fans. As the word spread though about the combination of a few days in the sun listening to fresh sounds and all-night sessions by classic electronic artists, Sónar became the monolithic mid-June event that attendees will find nowadays. Each year, the organisers are on the look-out for new and impressive ways to draw the crowds (in 2010, there will be a simultaneous event in A Coruña in Galicia while back here in Barcelona, 'off-Sónar' features theatre from Sigur Ros frontman Jónsi, and a light show that should be visible from all points of the city: find more info here). Meanwhile, the main 2010 line-up is as enticing as ever for musos, with Roxy Music, Dizzee Rascal and The Pinker Tones amongst the three-day and night programme (June 17th to 19th).