Annually on June 23 the summer solstice is celebrated in Barcelona with the Fiesta de Sant Joan. Sant Joan is also referred to as “Nit de Sant Joan”, “Nit de foc” and “Verbenas de Sant Joan” and is the longest day and shortest night of the year.
There are three symbols of Sant Joan; water, herbs and fire. Water symbolizes healing. On this night water is said to have curative powers and healing properties and many people believe that a dip in the ocean can cure illnesses. Herbs symbolizes remedy. All around Catalonia people collect herbs during the day to eat on the night of Sant Joan, in healing purposes. Fire symbolizes purity. The most important element of Sant Joan is fire, with all the bonfires on the beaches and the many fireworks on the Barcelona night sky. It is said that burning something on Sant Joan is going to clear you from past sins. Around midnight it is not uncommon to see people throw old belongings into the bonfires. Another thing that many do on this eve is to write down a wish on a piece of paper and then put it in the fire to make it come true.
In many other countries the food during the summer solstice is of great importance. However, in Catalonia, the only customary food of Sant Joan is the coca bread, a sweet bread that is topped with candied fruit, sesame seeds or sugar. The coca bread is sold in almost all cafés and bakeries the entire week before Sant Joan and is very popular!
How to celebrate Sant Joan?
Sant Joan is not only celebrated all over Barcelona, but also in cities all over Catalonia. Therefore, instead of going to one specific place at one specific time, there will be lots and lots of different parties and events to chose from.
All over Catalonia over 3000 bonfires are lit every year from the same Canigó flame. Since 1967 the flame has been carried down from the mountain of Canigó to Barcelona. Representatives from different neighborhoods all meet at Plaça de Sant Jaume to light their torches and then bring them back to light their own official bonfires. This year will be the 50th anniversary of this tradition! Sant Joan officially start at 19:30 when the Canigó flame arrives in Plaça de Sant Jaume. After this the celebrations will carry on throughout the night all over the city!
On the beach
Usually more than 70 000 people go to the beaches to eat, drink and dance. If you want to be where the action is, we recommend Barceloneta beach for your Sant Joan celebration. If you are planning to go to the beach, it might be a good idea to get there early to make sure you get a good spot.
On the streets
Street parties are also a common way to celebrate Sant Joan in Barcelona. Chairs, tables and often times live music and small bars is set up in different neighborhoods for everyone to enjoy.
With a view
For a more calm Sant Joan celebration a tip is to go to one of the mountains in Barcelona to watch the fireworks from there. Bring cava, some traditional coca bread and a blanket and go to either Montjuïc or Bunkers del Carmel for the best possible view of the festivities.
The day after Sant Joan is a public holiday, so the celebrations doesn’t begin to fade out until the sun start to rise over the horizon!
A few Sant Joan tips for you!
– The metro and tram are open all night of June 23. – Taxis in Barcelona charge extra between 00:00 and 06:00. – Dont bring anything valuable with you when celebrating. Sant Joan is an ideal night for pickpockets. – If you are planning to go out for dinner on June 23, make reservations first! – Remember to stay safe around all the fireworks! Never light broken fireworks, don’t carry fireworks in your pockets since they can catch fire and never launch fireworks at anyone.
No matter if this is your first time celebrating or if you are a Sant Joan veteran, the celebrations of 2017 will be very special, being the 50 year anniversary since the first time the Flama del Canigó came to Barcelona. In other words; even more reason to enjoy this crazy night!