La Nit de Sant Joan: A Summer Solstice Extravaganza


Every June 23rd, summer erupts on Spain’s second largest city, as noisy revelers take to the streets and the city skyline lights up in a blaze of fireworks and bonfires.  Sant Joan, or Saint John, is a midsummer’s night pandemonium of racket and uproar, as Barcelonians celebrate THE most anticipated party of the year, doing what Catalans do best—eat, drink and be merry.  Although this little soiree is not exclusive to Catalunya, Catalans certainly give the eve of Sant Joan a special “flare” in their effort to pay tribute to the longest day of the year.

In Ancient times, the summer solstice was considered to be the most important event of the year, using fire as a symbol of abundance, purity and fertility.   To this day fire is still one of the fundamental factors of La Nit de Sant Joan, with fireworks and bonfires illuminating the skies of Barcelona.

Barcelona Sant Joan

Barceloneta, La Nit de Sant Joan

In true Spanish fashion, the people of Barcelona set out late, just as the sun starts to set, and the frenzy of fire and fun begins!  This is a night where you’ll find parties EVERYWHERE, from bars and restaurants, to “Revetlles” (open-air fiestas) and, if you’re lucky, a friend’s rooftop terrace. The more adventurous party-goers head to the beach where the shoreline is chalk-full of like-minded roisterers, ready to get down to some serious summer solstice fun.  As part of Sant Joan’s tradition, people haul old furniture, the previous year’s school books, and other things they deem “clutter of the past,” and toss them into fire pits, as a means to “purify” their life. You can also be certain (or forewarned) that many people will be setting off small explosives, sure to rattle the ear drums.

Since water is also said to hold remedial powers, such as curing ailments and disease, don’t be alarmed if you see some people slip into their skivvies, preparing for  a late-night dip.  And how convenient that the Mediterranean is literally at your feet, as the chilly waters are sure to clear your head, allowing you to catch a very necessary second wind.  After all, people typically stay up until the sun rises on this eventful night.

Traditional Catalan Treats

La Coca de Sant Joan

While the nightlife in Barcelona certainly booms on the 23rd, there are other traditions associated with this fiesta extraordinaire, such as eating La Coca de Sant Joan.  This tasty Catalan treat is best described as sweet flat bread, topped with pine nuts and/or candied fruits, and is a delicious pair to the other must have summer refreshment–Cava–Catalunya’s sparkling wine.  For those daredevils looking for a different type of kick, you can partake in the bonfire jumping, where people take turns hurling themselves over smoldering flames 3 consecutive times, which is said to bring good luck…assuming you make it over.

Bonfire Jumping

On top of everything else, concerts and discotecas throb continuously in the city’s central zones, such as Eixample, Ciutat Vella, Sants-Montjuic, and Les Corts, where you’ll hear and see the people until the wee hours of the morning. Watching the Sant Joan sunrise is, in fact,  just as important as the party.

Places to be in Barcelona on Sant Joan:

Moll de la Fusta per la I Festa Major de Catalunya from 10pm
Barceloneta, “Nit de Foc” Party from 10pm to 03.30am
Plaça Rovira. from 10pm
Carrer Fraternitat (between Torres and Tordera st.). from 10pm
Carrer Mozart. from 10pm
Carrer Argentona. from 10pm
Plaça del Nord. from 10pm
Carrer Verdi (betwen Providencia and Robí st.) from 10pm
Sagrada Família. In Marina st and Provença st. Revetlla dinner and them partying and dancing from 10pm
Passatge Pellicer. from 11pm to 3am. Partying and orchestra dancing
Mercat de Sant Antoni ‘Soul & Funk Night II’. From 10pm

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One thought on “La Nit de Sant Joan: A Summer Solstice Extravaganza

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