Western Europe Summer 2011

Sant Joan – Barcelona’s Biggest Party of the Year

(During this post I mention that I didn’t bring a camera along with me. At the bottom of the post I’ll link to some more information on the celebration, as well as a few other sites that have photos of the parties.)

I love Spain, and I love Barcelona. Having been on some Barcelona tours on my last visit, I was stoked to be hitting up round 2 this time around. The first week and a half of this trip has been a whirlwind. This is easily the least amount of planning I’ve ever done for a trip, and although we’ve shown up in a few cities and had to spend an hour or two finding a good (good = cheap and at least somewhat clean) place to spend the night, things have worked out. Actually, the original itinerary has all but gone out the window as we’ve headed into northern Spain instead of going south, and we probably won’t make it to most of our potential stops even once we do get to the south. This lack of planning though, has landed us in the right place at the right time on multiple occasions, for instance, we arrived in Barcelona just a few days shy of their annual Sant Joan (????) festival, aka, the largest party of the year! So, basically, if you can find some barcelona cheap flights, then be sure to come during this party!

When we first arrived in Barcelona we were fortunate enough to have found a last minute host through the couchsurfing website for our first night in town. It is always good to get a local or expats opinion on the city, what to see, and what isn’t really worth the effort or money, so we like to start our stays at least talking to someone from the area. Even better than that, these people can normally tell you about things and places you never would have seen or heard about had it not been for them. Like our host in Barcelona (we’ll call her Ivey) who just so happened to be planning a gathering of other travelers later that week to celebrate the annual Festival of Sant Joan in Barcelona. We didn’t even know it was going on when we arrived, and here we were, just two days away from the biggest party night, in possibly the biggest party city in Spain. Yea, we were excited!

The Festival of Sant Joan is held once a year on the 24th of June to celebrate the summer solstice and the parties happen the night before on the eve of the 24th. We were told by our host to not bring our camera unless we wanted to deal with keeping track of it the whole night, and we were definitely more interested in drinking and enjoying ourselves, so we opted not to. I regret it a little bit, but having even Danielle’s small camera damaged or pick pocketed would have ruined the night, so I’m glad we didn’t’ bring it.

We emerged from the metro stop we were told to get off of with three liters of beer and two bottles of wine, and entered the streets of Barcelona. It looked and sounded as close to a war zone as I hope I will ever be. M-80 firecrackers were going off left and right, literally rattling the buildings. Roman candles, bottle rockets, and fireworks that were far too large to be being handled by a bunch of drunks, were being launched in every direction in the streets. Every now and then you’d see them skid across the pavement or bounce off of the sides of buildings as people ran and ducked away for cover. Danielle and I were alone at this point, and definitely a little intimidated as we made our way five or six blocks towards the beach and the meeting point for our group.

A block or so down the street and another partier asked if I was going to use the ice I had in the bag with my beer. I said no and gave him a few cubes for his drink. I asked him if we were going to be ok bring glass bottles onto the beach, his reply was simple, straight-forward, and truly represented the theme of the night, “It’s Sant Joan man, anything goes.”

As we neared the beach with our new friends we actually realized that all of us were meeting up with the same people, small world right? We rounded the final corner and I was taken back by what lie in front of me. I honestly have no idea how many people where on that beach, but for as far as I could see, in both directions, lay an entire sea of people all celebrating the night. If you told me there were 250,000 people on that beach that night, I would completely believe it. Within that sea of maybe 100’s of thousands of people the beach literally rocked and moved with the life of the party. Fireworks were launched in every direction, drinks were shared by all, music was blasted so loud I’m sure the speakers were useless the next day. People danced, swam in the ocean, relaxed by bonfires, and damn well did whatever they pleased. I was at what was probably the best party of my life. Better than any spring break. Better than any tailgate at any football game. This was a celebration with no rules, a celebration full of life, and a celebration I will never forget.

We got back to the place we were staying at around 4am, a good three or four hours before the fireworks stopped and the partygoers abandoned the beach.

Information in the Sant Joan Festival
A photo of the crowded beach.
A Beach Bonfire Photo
A photo of the Barcelona skyline lit up with fireworks.
People on the beach during Sant Joan.

    1. Matt

      It was an amazing time.

  1. Andrea

    What an incredible party! I have yet to attend a beach party for a solstice but they always sound brilliant.

    1. Matt

      It was our first, and hopefully far from our last!

  2. InsideJourneys

    I’m a little jealous. I had Barcelona on my list for this year but had to change plans.
    The party sounds fabulous. Wish I could have been there!

    1. Matt

      This is a pretty good point, I guess I’ve got to agree with that statement 100%

    1. Matt

      Amen to that.

  3. robin

    San Juan is a big deal all over Spain – I’ve yet to experience it in Barcelone.

    1. Matt

      Yea, it is a different animal in Barcelona from what I’ve heard about the rest of the country. Although while I was in Santiago de Compstela I saw photos from another place that looked pretty amazing.

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