Headed to Barcelona this spring for study abroad?! Well, start planning study breaks because this is a non exhaustive list of festivals to add to your calendar right now for the upcoming semester. Even if you will be elsewhere in Europe you might find yourself in the amazing city of Barcelona and you would not want to miss out. Not going to Europe at all? Read anyway and add these crazy once in a lifetime events to your bucket list.
Here I am almost a year since my spring departure to Barcelona and I can’t help but reminisce on my time in Spain. It seems like everyday living in the heart of the city there was some sort of celebration or parade through the streets. Festivals demonstrate the amazing culture of a foreign country, and the people of Catalonia know how to throw a great party. Here are 5 of my favorite festivals during the Spring semester and when they are happening in 2016:
Carnival- Tuesday, February 9th, 2016 (Fat Tuesday) Sitges, Spain
Rio better watch out because Sitges Carnival may be the wildest party I have ever seen in my life. Just a short 45 minute drive from central Barcelona is the postcard beach resort town Sitges. Famous for its accepting culture and extravagant nightlife, Sitges is the perfect coastal venue for a party you might want to forget the next morning. The idea behind the insane festival is to completely let loose before the forty long days of Lent that follow. Sensory overload is a guaranteed side effect as music, dancing, lights and celebration surround every minute of the night. Many student travel companies in Barcelona offer trips and full transportation to/from Sitges. I attended through Stoke Travel () all for about 25 euro. Be wary though, miss your bus back and the next train to the city isn’t till 5 or 6am.
Tip- The atmosphere and interesting sights will tempt you to celebrate until sunrise, so be flexible and go with the flow if plans decide to change. After all it is Carnival!
Barcelona Beer Festival- March 4-6, 2016 Museu Maritim de Barcelona
Smack dab in the middle of one of the most famous wine regions in the world something else is brewing and making a profound statement; Craft Beer. Beginning in 2012, the Barcelona Beer Festival has grown into a 3-day event celebrating the art and refreshment of beer. The festival now features 300+ rotating beers and numerous food stands to enjoy and pair with your favorite brew. Coming from the craft brewing capital of Fort Collins, Colorado this was a pleasant surprise in my experience abroad. Samples come from all over the world, I even saw some familiar names from Colorado and the United States in the sea of beer options. Museu Maritim de Barcelona is located right off the Drassanes (L3) metro stop so there is no excuse not to go check it out! ()
Tip- If the weather is nice head outside to relax and catch a set or two from local bands playing throughout the festival weekend.
Las Falles- March 15-19, 2016 (La Crema- March 19, 2016) Valencia, Spain
Although not held in Barcelona, do not let this festival pass you by. Las Falles is a Valencian tradition in celebration of Saint Joseph. This festival takes all year to plan and execute. Neighborhoods throughout the city come together to create massive statues (falles or “torches”) in their local square, only for these to be burned to the ground on the last day of the week-long celebration. This last day is called La Crema and makes the 3 hour train ride well worth it! With every turn of the corner a new statue awaits city Bombers (firefighters) to light the fantastic blaze in the town square. Wander through the streets of Valencia and you are sure to see 4 or 5 of these truly amazing bonfire displays. Once it is all done neighborhoods clean up and start all over again, displaying the amazing teamwork of the Valencian people.
Tip- Renfe, the Spanish train company offers discounted round trip train tickets from Barcelona to Valencia on the night of La Crema (March 19th).
Tip- Be sure to bring along or buy a scarf from a street vendor because the smoke can get pretty thick sometimes, making it difficult to breathe. All worth it to witness this amazing cultural event.
Holi Barcelona- Early/Mid-April 2016 La Vall d’Hebron, Barcelona
Holi is a traditional Hindu holiday celebrating the end of winter and the start of a new harvest season. It is also known as the festival of color and love. Holi has spread across the globe and even to Barcelona as a way to celebrate and welcome Spring. Think color run as something similar in the United States. Color powders are flung around and engulf the crowd in what is a carefree celebration of people coming together. Held in the hills behind Barcelona, the area provides amazing views of the city and beach that compete for attention with hours of traditional live Holi song and dance. Ride the L3 Metro to Montbau and walk down toward the sounds of celebration.
Tip- Held on a Sunday so be sure to buy/bring cheap white clothes beforehand as many bazaars and markets will be closed.
Sant Jordi- April 23, 2016 Catalonia, Spain
Sant Jordi, the Catalan version of Valentine’s Day, is a celebration that honors the patron saint of Catalonia. This event is unique to the region and for that day Barcelona erupts in thousands of colorful roses. The idea is for a man to buy a rose for the special woman in his life and she returns with the gift of a book. Every street corner comes alive with rose and book vendors of all ages, kind of like children selling lemonade on a hot summer day. For just one euro, buy a rose for that special someone.
Tip- Go and smell the roses! Take a walk down Las Ramblas toward the beach. Almost every vendor will be stocked with vivid roses and excellent books.
Time flies when you are abroad. Take time to soak it all up and enjoy the culture. Celebrate like the locals and overall enjoy Barcelona and Spain!!
Colorado State University
It’s all about location. From the moment I chose to study abroad I knew for me it would be Barcelona. The city was amazing and so was the beautiful country of España. I am so lucky to have been able to explore such a beautiful area of the world. I experienced so much more than imagined while studying business and Spanish at UAB. I even got the chance to volunteer at a local primary school helping kids learn a little bit of English. From the amazing people to the unsuspecting culture, I was surprised with every turn of the corner. I think that once people figure out exactly what experience they desire they can find that place somewhere in the world. Education abroad was eye opening, wonderfully challenging and absolutely unbelievable. I cannot wait to share my experiences and help people accomplish their dreams to study abroad!