Revetlla de Sant Joan in Barcelona 2018 – The most magical night

Come to Barcelona on the eve of the 23rd June and you won’t be able to miss the spectacular celebrations happening for the Revetlla de Sant Joan. Considered to be one of biggest holidays of the year in Barcelona, the streets come alive with people and the constant crack of fireworks spiralling overhead throughout the city.

The origin of the Revetlla de Sant Joan

Whilst the actual holiday falls on the 24th June, a bank holiday in Catalonia, the celebrations all happen the night before. This is in order to celebrate the longest day of the year – otherwise known as Summer Solstice and considered to be the start of summer. Summer Solstice has always been an important tradition dating back to ancient Pagan rituals when people believed in the spiritual importance of both fire and the sun. Here in Catalonia we combined that with the celebration of the birth of Sant Joan, meaning it is still marked by symbolic customs.

As well as fire, people believe in the special powers of water and herbs on this night. For this reason you may see people going for a midnight dip in the sea as it’s thought to keep you healthy all year round. Herbs are also thought to become more powerful in their curative features on Sant Joan, especially Thyme, Rosemary and Verbena.

A night of firecrackers and bonfires

As mentioned above, fire is believed to have an extraordinary power on this night of the year, being thought to chase away evil spirits. This means the city comes alive with loud firecrackers and bonfires going on until the early hours. In fact, each city neighbourhood creates their own bonfire in which they throw old furniture, another old tradition that is thought to bring you good luck over the year. In the days leading up to the Revetlla de Sant Joan, little firecracker stands pop up all over the city for people to buy their supplies.

Celebrate la Revetlla de Sant Joan 2018 in Barcelona

Whilst there are many celebrations happening throughout the city, the neighbourhood of Barceloneta has an especially wide array of activities. Here you will find people partying until dawn, amidst an array of live music, banging firecrackers and bright burning bonfires. Beach bars set up temporary stands for revellers to stock up on food and drink over the night, and you can also find activities around the neighbourhood. These can include anything from fireworks displays with “diables” (dancing devils) and “dracs” (dragons) to beautiful orchestras getting people in the mood for a great night. If you head down to Barceloneta beach you can be guaranteed to find plenty of things to entertain you for the night.

Revetlla de Sant Joan - Where to celebrate it

You can check the program of Revetlla de Sant Joan 2018 in Barceloneta here

Don’t forget to try the Coca de Sant Joan!

To mark the occasion, people eat Coca de Sant Joan, the traditional food of the celebration. A cake that can be topped with a variety of different things including candied fruit, pine nuts or crackling.

Sant joan in Barcelona 2018 - Coca de Sant Joan

There’s no doubt about it, the Revetlla de Sant Joan is one of the most magical nights of the year to be in the city of Barcelona. If you want to make that night even more special why not check out www.bizflats.com to book yourself the perfect accommodation in Barcelona.

 

Read this before making a calçotada at home

’Tis the season of eating onions charred over live fire… In a previous post, we talked about the best places around Barcelona to find a calçotada. Yet, in a quarter century of at least one or two calçotades a year, I probably only have ever had 2-3 in a restaurant. Funny thing was that I would just order off the regular menu while the rest of the party would eat the calçotada menu, like I was purposely avoiding it. More about this later.

From humble beginnings in the “Golden Triangle” of Valls, Reus and Tarragona, the tradition has now spread through most of Catalonia, in restaurants, and more important, at home. It has even reached further afield with calçotades available in Madrid, London or Rotterdam; even Anthony Bourdain featured a calçotada on his “No Reservations” tv show.

A dear friend went as far as to throw a big calçotada party for all his friends in Orange County, USA to celebrate his 50th birthday! Nowadays, every company, social club or group of friends worth its salt has its yearly calçotada – the social aspects of the calçotada are key to its success – if you are a  new arrival in Catalonia, no doubt you’ll get an invite to a calçotada – go for it!

Calçotada

Back to the real calçotada, the homemade – the feast lends itself quite well to doing it at home in an outdoor setting. First time I was ever invited for a calçotada, it was in Sitges at the home of my parent’s friends, and it was a friend of theirs from Valls who came over as the expert – an early sign that the ritual was expanding outside its homeland. He brought the equipment, a large reversible grill with different length legs allowing the grill to be higher for flaming the calçots and lower for grilling meat over coals. However, the most important bit of kit that he brought along was the recipe for the sauce: salsa de calçots. Any veteran will tell you it’s the heart and soul of the calçotada, getting it right is an art, too runny and it doesn’t stick to the calçots, too thick and it takes forever to dip. Starting from the basics of almonds and hazelnuts, roasted tomato, raw and roasted garlic and nyora (a type of slightly hot pepper), each chef adds their own touch, and the recipe becomes a closely guarded secret. 

Just last week, with a group of friends we had a calçotada out in the country, very near my hometown of Artesa de Segre, just under the village of Montsonís with its castle looming over us. It was a perfect spring day, kids roaming freely all over the  fields, making friends with random dog who just appeared, adults poking fun at a neighbour who was air-drying her multi-coloured thongs, and of course, grilling those calçots on a very original barbecue pit. It was a perfect day, but I still couldn’t get Agnès to tell me the (secret) recipe for the salsa de calçots.

Calçots: Ranking of the best restaurants in Barcelona

Perhaps you don’t know yet what calçots are, but you’ve almost certainly smelled them if you’ve been walking in the streets of Catalonia lately and caught a whiff of burnt onions. Don’t worry, nobody has left the stove on, we’re just cooking calçots! It is known that us Catalans love any reason to host a get-together with friends and family, and in the winter months, calçots are why people come together and eat. To visitors of Barcelona, this may seem baffling: how can there be so much excitement behind a scorched onion? Well, read on to learn more about this distinctly Catalan tradition!

Calçots

What are calçots?

Calçots (pronounced: kal-SOTS) are a Catalan delicacy originating from Tarragona, and is somewhat of a cross between a scallion and a leek, that can grow to about 25 cm long. The annual harvest is during the winter season, from January to April, and is celebrated with “calçotadas”, where friends and family gather around to eat this wildly popular dish.

The calçots are bundled tight onto an open-fire grill, and charred for about five minutes on each side until blackened, then wrapped in newspaper to keep warm and served on a red terracotta roof tile – an absolutely humble and no frills dish, and oh so tasty.

Calçots - How to eat them

The ritual of eating calçots is messy business, but that’s half the fun! Roll up your sleeves, put on your paper bib (yes you’ll look a bit funny but so will everyone else) and get started by peeling the charred black layers of the calçot off piece by piece, until you get to the tender sweet pearly white center. Dunk it generously into the bright red romescu sauce, dangle it over your head, open wide, and chomp right into it. By the end of it, you’ll smell of onions, and have dirty black hands, plus a messy red-stained bib to wear as your badge of honour!

Find your Menu Calçotada in Barcelona 

To make a full “calçotada” feast out of it, some restaurants offer a “Menu Calçotada” option, here you get calçots with romescu, plus a choice of barbequed meats like “butifarra” sausages, lamb or veal. Some establishments include toast, white beans, potatoes, and maybe even desserts like catalan cream, or honey with cottage cheese. All of the above is usually offered for a very reasonable price of 25 – 35 euros per person, which will leave your belly full and satisfied. Wash it all down with a “porró” or two of local red wine too.

Menú calçotada barcelona

Best restaurants near Barcelona to eat calçots – Countryside farms

The most authentic way to enjoy calçots is at rural restaurants or countryside farms, which also makes for a fun mountain getaway. Be sure to book ahead as it can get busy. Here are our top three recommendations:

  1. Masia Can Vilallonga (Carrer Oceà Atlàntic, 80, 08173 Sant Cugat del Vallès, Barcelona)
    Located off the beaten path near an equestrian club in Sant Cugat del Vallès, this family farmhouse dates from the 14th century and has a wonderful mix of modern and rustic design, with a backdrop of beautiful green fields and countryside. Outdoor seating available.
  2. Can Carbonell (Carrer Muntanya, s/n, 08960 Sant Just Desvern, Barcelona)
    Offering rustic and hearty Catalan fare, this typical Masía catalane specializes in calçots. It’s charming fireplaces and wooden ceilings will transport you back in time to the 13th Just a 15 minute drive from Barcelona.
  3. Can Borrell (Carretera d’Horta a Cerdanyola BV-1415, Km 3, 08171 Cerdanyola del Vallès, Barcelona)
    Catalan cuisine with an idyllic setting in the heart of the Collserola National Park. Oak embers are used in their open-fire grills to give the calçots a wonderful smoky flavor.

Best restaurants in Barcelona to eat calçots – Restaurants in Barcelona

If you haven’t got an entire day to spare, there are some great restaurants in Barcelona city center which offer calçots too. Here are our rankings:

  1. El Jardí de l’Àpat (Carrer d’Albert Llanas, 2, 08024 Barcelona)
    Their elevated terrace offers a magnificent view, and is surrounded by ancient trees and garden, giving a sense of privacy and serenity in the hustle and bustle of the city. Park Güell is nearby for an after dinner stroll.
  2. Taverna El Glop (Carrer de Sant Lluís, 24, 08012 Barcelona)
    Opened since 1970s, their checkered tablecloths, and wooden chairs will have you feeling just as if you’re in the countryside, with the convenience of being located in Gràcia neighbourhood.
  3. L’Antic Forn (Carrer del Pintor Fortuny, 28, 08001 Barcelona)
    Just two blocks from Las Ramblas, this is a wonderful little restaurant tucked away in a side alley, with affordable prices and friendly service the establishment is frequented by locals.

Have you tried calçots yet? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

 

Things to do in Barcelona in December 

Which are the best things to do in Barcelona in December?  The Christmas agenda is jam-packed with fun and interesting things to do and see.  Below we select a few things to do you can’t miss:

Things to do in Barcelona in December: Christmas Concerts

As you’d expect, Barcelona has many open-air concerts during the festive season. Plaça del Rei hosts some of the best ones on a medieval square.  It is situated in the Gothic Quarter and you will also find the Palau Reial (Royal Palace), Tinell Salo, the Chapel of St. Agatha and the Torre del Rey Martí.  Also most of the city’s churches have things to do in December such as traditional religious events and classical music recitals. We recommend the St. Stephen’s Day Christmas concert at the magnificent Palau de la Música concert hall in Barcelona. A beloved annual Christmas event in Barcelona by The Orfeó Català choir and other choirs.

Things to do in Barcelona in December 

If architecture and music is your thing during your stay, then you must include this a visit to El Palau de la Música.  Designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, El Palau Música Catalana is styled in a similar theme to that of Gaudí’s work, but more functional in contrast to many other buildings built in the modernism style throughout the city.  The design of the Palau is typical of Catalan modernism.

Visit the most important Christmas Markets in Barcelona

Barcelona organizes many traditional and not-so tradition Christmas Markets (Mercats de Nadal).  They’re excellent places to get some great Catalan traditional gifts, Christmas themed decorations and artisan food products.  They are one of the most important things to do in Barcelona in December and are open throughout the holiday period.  We recommend the oldest market, Fira de Santa Llúcia at Barcelona Cathedral or the largest one, Fira de Reis a la Gran Vía, which run along this main road between its junctions with Carrer Calabria and Carrer Comte Urgell.  For more information read our article about the oldest Christmas Markets in Barcelona

Things to do in Barcelona in December 

New Year’s Eve Celebrations

If you are lucky enough to be visiting during the city’s busy New Year Celebrations, then your things to do in Barcelona in December list must include a visit to Plaça Espanya to fully experience the Catalan New Year traditions.  Get there early as the crowds will be massive as they wait for midnight to come and see in the New Year with grapes and cava – when the midnight bells toll you must eat a grape with every dong, and simultaneously take a sip of cava, 12 times in total, to ensure you have a lucky and prosperous 2018.  There will also be the best fireworks show the city has to offer.

New year's Eve in Barcelona - Plaça Espanya

Christmas Shopping

If you are here in the search for the perfect gift for loved ones, then a visit to one of Barcelona’s shopping hotspots has to be among the things to do in Barcelona in December.  We recommend the luxury shops all along the Passeig de Gràcia for top-end items.  If you have time, there is the famous La Roca Shopping Village located just outside the visit for more top brands and luxury gifts at factory outlet prices.  Plaça de Catalunya is also a great place to discover traditional Catalan Christmas themes and high street retail brands situated around the city’s largest square. 

Christmas Shopping in Barcelona

Barcelona Michelin Star Tapas Walking Tour

Things to do in Barcelona in December has to include Tapas, and what better way to experience the best tapas with Barcelona’s Michelin Star Tapas Experience.  Your guide will take you to two very different restaurants, which are owned by Michelin-starred chefs and that represent different regions of Spain to try various tapas dishes and wines.  The tour last for three hours and whilst also getting to sample some the best tapas in the city, the guide will also share some other culinary places of interest to discover during your stay.

So If you are choosing Barcelona as your Christmas destination this year, then there is no better option for your stay than renting one of our cozy apartments.  Please see our selection here and book your accommodation with us.

La Mercè 2017, the main event on Barcelona’s festival agenda

La Mercè 2017 is the main event on Barcelona’s festival agenda, uniting all of its neighbourhoods and serving as the city’s Festa Major.  This year it aims to extend further throughout the city by adding even more new venues and activities.

Every year, Barcelona invites a city from around the world to jointly celebrate the festival.  This year Icelandic capital Reykjavik has been invited to be this year’s special guest city and will be honoured throughout La Mercè.

Overall, it is a religious festival that has been celebrated since the Middle Ages and observes the holy feast day of Our Lady of Mercy.  It is the biggest weeklong festival in the city and an age-old tradition, but there are very up-to-date activity items as well, such as specialty markets, art displays and musical performances for example.

Gegants & Capgrossos – La Mercè 2017 

Catalunya has a great tradition for processions of giants or bigheads, which are tall, hollow structures with very large papier-mâché heads, each with a unique identity and character.  They are carried on top of people’s shoulders in a parade as they dance and run at the crowds.  Also, there are the Bestiari – which are figures of medieval, folkloric creatures.  This parade happens on the first day of the La Mercé celebrations.

Gegants Procession, September 22, Palau de la Virreina on La Rambla, 99, at 19:00h

The Correfoc – La Mercè 2017 
The famous fire run is always on September 24 – the actual saint’s day for La Mercé.  Performers dressed as devils and fiery dragons dance in a long procession through the city.  Hordes of “diables” hoist pitchforks, or forquilles, above their heads, with spinning fireworks attached that spray in all directions.  If you’re going to get a close-up photograph, then protective clothing is advised.  There is also an early fire run for children.

Correfoc (Adults), September 23, Via Laietana at 20:15h
Correfoc (Children) September 23, Via Laietana at 18:30h

Castellers – La Mercè 2017 

The Catalans are very good at building human structures. In fact he last few world records – 10 persons high – have been have been set in the region.  Participants, or Catsellers, climb on top of each other, interlocked into a delicate balancing act to get people to reach into the sky as far as possible.  The human tower is supported by a large number of people at the bottom, and then it’s a race to reach the highest point in strict formation before the structure breaks.

Human Towers, September 23, Plaça de Sant Jaume at 11:30h
Human Towers, September 23, Plaça de Sant Jaume at 12:30h

 

BAM
Barcelona Acció Musical has been running for over 20 years and hosts more contemporary rock and pop music concerts.  It runs in parallel to the main festival, and as Reykjavik is the partner city for this year’s La Mercé, then a contingent of its artists will perform, as well as national and internal artists.  Concerts usually take place at Plaza Real, Plaza Catalunya and at the MACBA, among many other intimate places and open-air venues around the city.

BAM, September 22-25, various venues
http://lameva.barcelona.cat/bam/en

AMICS DE LES ARTS CANET ROCK. FOTO: DAVID BORRAT. 04-07-15. CANET DE MAR. DIARI ARA

Piromusical – La Mercè 2017 
This is a critically acclaimed, professional fireworks display that takes place on the last night of La Mercè 2017 on Avinguda reina Maria Cristina.  You need to arrive early for the big finale, as thousands of people gather to watch this spectacular show.

Check the official agenda for more firework displays and digital light mapping events throughout the festival, at http://lameva.barcelona.cat/merce/en.

Piromusical, September 25, Avinguda de Reina Maria Cristina (Plaça Espanya) at 22:00h

The La Mercè Festival is a great way to see Barcelona at its best.  Your stay could be much more convenient with your own apartment.  Check our website for an excellent selection of short-term holiday rentals so that your stay in the city is as comfortable as possible.

Check the official agenda for more firework displays and digital light mapping events throughout the festival, at http://lameva.barcelona.cat/merce/en.