For travellers around the world, Barcelona is a bucket list destination. The city has something to offer visitors of all ages, no matter what their interests are. Sports lovers will find themselves at home at Camp Nou, home to one of the best football teams in the world. History buffs will find countless tours that shed light on the city’s ancient, medieval, and modern history.
For fans of architecture, there’s Gaudi. For fans of modern art, there’s Joan Miró, Picasso, and Dalí. For nature lovers, there are breathtaking beaches and mountains. And then, of course, there’s an endless list of culinary treats, outdoor cafes, and local specialities to try out.
With so much on offer, it’s unlikely anyone would have time on their hands during a trip to Barcelona. However, some holidaymakers prefer to visit the city during a big annual event to make their trip all the more special.
If you’re heading to Barcelona and want to attend a once in a lifetime event, here are five the city’s biggest annual events that are worth scheduling around.
European Poker Tour (EPT)
Late August-Early September
Though the city is mostly known for its architecture, beaches, and laid-back lifestyle, Barcelona is also a major hub for poker players. Once a year, the European Poker Tour touches down at the Casino Barcelona, while the tour’s sponsors provide guides covering the most common questions, from in-tournament events to food recommendations
The tournament includes games in several poker variants including Texas Hold’em, Seven-card Stud, and Omaha. Visitors will have a chance to brush shoulders with pros (when they’re not at the table), as well as spend time in one of the city’s busiest and most vibrant areas in terms of nightlife.
La Mercè is one of the oldest cultural traditions in the city—but many visitors may not realize that given the excitement of the festivities. The city streets fill with parades, which include paper mâché giants dressed in traditional garb. Locals set off fireworks, dance the Sardana, and indulge in festivities in areas like Gracia, Raval, and Poblenou.
Though La Mercè is a historical festival, there have been recent updates to how it’s celebrated. New events include a wine festival, pyrotechnic shows, and synchronized firework displays. When it comes to the modern day La Merce, think performance art meets traditional festival.
This world-famous music festival needs little introduction. As one of the longest-running and largest musical festivals in the world, people flock to the city each year just to take part.
While the mainstage acts draw in the crowds, there’s a lot more to do at the festival than simply deciding between attending Sónar by Day or Sónar by Night.
Visitors should keep a lookout for off-Sónar events, which have gained popularity in recent years. These are smaller shows that cater to the Sónar crowd by offering lower ticket prices and more intimate venues. Off-Sónar events are also known to attract older, more relaxed crowds, for those looking to skip out on the screaming
Those visiting Barcelona in springtime may have noticed an unusual amount of green onions (known as ‘calçots’ in Catalan) being sold in the streets. This is part of an annual festival known as Calçotada, during which time families gather together to share a meal.
The focal point of the meal is – obviously – the fresh calçots. Though they may look like they were plucked fresh from the ground, calçots are specially grown to retain a straight, chute-like shape. From there, the raw onions are tossed over a flame, charred perfectly, and then stored away until they’re all cooked and ready to be served.
Most visitor to the city won’t necessarily find their way to a traditional calçotada meal, but trying these tasty treats is a must during springtime.
Spanish Grand Prix
Formula One racing tends to be a niche sport. However, most travellers would factor a day at the tracks into any trip – especially one as revered as the Barcelona Grand Prix, held at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. It’s one of the oldest races in the world, as well as one of the most challenging for Formula One drivers.
Those looking to attend all or one of the three-day events (Friday-Sunday) can check online for tickets. Though some tiers are pricy, many visitors and locals opt to purchase space on the grass, which is much more affordable.