12 Jun Sant Joan in Barcelona, celebrating summer
The Sant Joan festival on the beaches of Barcelona
Sant Joan, which begins on the night of 23 June and lasts throughout the following day, is one of the most important festivals in Catalonia, celebrating the arrival of summer, marked by the summer solstice, the longest day (and the shortest night) of the year. In Barcelona it is also known as Nit edl Foc or Nit de les Bruixes. You will also often hear this festival called “La revetlla de Sant Joan” in Spanish or “Nit de Foc” (night of fire) in Catalan, which describes Sant Joan perfectly. Here we tell you a bit about the history and how this festival is celebrated in Barcelona.
The origins of the Nit de Sant Joan are unclear, but it dates back at least three centuries, originally a pagan festival, celebrated as the veneration of the sun and the beginning of the summer solstice. However, this day also coincides with the Nativity of Sant Joan. It is one of the most symbolic and significant nights in the Catholic calendar. This is why the celebration now takes place on the night of 23 June.
On the night of this celebration the sun reaches its highest point, before it begins to descend. The sun is considered a symbol of fertility and wealth, so it must be given strength. This strength is transmitted through bonfires and fireworks, which is why they are so popular on this day. It is also a festival with widespread symbolic elements, such as the fire that symbolises the purity of the sun and the reason why the sun remains illuminated. It is a common belief that the flames scare away and dispel evil spirits on this night. The other important symbols are water, which symbolises healing and explains why many religious people are found bathing in the sea on this day, and herbs, which symbolise remedy.
People opening the swimming season
Activities in Barcelona for Sant Joan: Where and how to celebrate Sant Joan in Barcelona?
The Flame of Canigó
The most emblematic tradition of 23 June in Catalonia is undoubtedly the “Flama del Canigó“. A week before Sant Joan, a flame is lit on the summit of the Pic del Canigó (2784 metres), on the French side of the Pyrenees. This flame then travels through more than 350 Catalan villages, finally reaching Plaça Sant Jaume in Barcelona on the night of 23 June.
The tradition consists of throwing a piece of paper with your dearest wishes into the fire and jumping three times over the flames to make them come true. It is even said that if you jump over the fire 7 times in a row with your lover, it will be for life! So fire is the protagonist during Sant Joan, and each village launches its most beautiful fireworks to light up the Catalan sky. A real festival of light and sound awaits you on every corner.
Arrival of the Flame of Canigó in Barcelona, 2022 – Barcelona City Council
Festivals and bonfires
As every year there will be bonfires and Sant Joan festivities in the different neighbourhoods of Barcelona. The streets will once again be flooded with people, bonfires, live music and festivities. As well as fiestas and bonfires, some districts organise other activities such as Sant Joan coca and ratafia workshops, havaneres singing or coca and cava raffles.
We especially recommend you to enjoy the Verbena de Sant Joan (St. John’s Eve):
- Barcelona’s high parks: Monjuic, Parc Güell and Parc del Guinardo and enjoy the lights and colours of the city.
- The Gracia neighbourhood, where there are many neighbourhood festivals, with brass bands and popular dances.
- The beaches of Barcelona, between the neighbourhoods of Barceloneta and Villa Olímpica, where thousands of people gather in front of the sea.
Panoramic view of Barcelona with illuminated streets and fireworks
Restaurants, bars and nightclubs
Another way to enjoy the Sant Joan festival is to dine at one of the restaurants offering a special menu. Afterwards, some of these restaurants offer shows and the possibility of continuing to enjoy the verbena on the premises. In this way, you can continue the party until late in some of the bars and discotheques that organise themed parties.
Coca and champagne
On the tables, in the kitchens, in the shop windows of bakeries… As summer approaches, they are everywhere: the “cocas de la verbena de Sant Joan“. They are flat cakes, with a dough similar to that of a light brioche and can be of various types: with marzipan, with cream or cream, with angel’s hair, and decorated with pine nuts, almonds or candied fruit.
To be eaten on the night of 23 June with a glass of muscatel or cava, preferably in the open air for good luck and to follow this age-old tradition to the letter.
The Classic with pine nuts and candied fruit, the Gianduja with chocolate and hazelnuts, and the Crema
with custard, local pine nuts and amarena Fabbri cherries – Boulangerie Mayer
Every year, the night of 23 June fills Barcelona with joy. Between traditions and heritage, we are waiting for you to celebrate Sant Joan. Are you coming?