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The magical night of Sant Joan

On June 23, Catalans celebrate the Revetlla de Sant Joan, the Catalan midsummer night festival. Sant Joan is one of the most enjoyable holidays in Catalonia and definitely one of my favorites. It’s the shortest night of the year. Summer is welcomed with fireworks displays, magical symbols, and legends. It’s a night filled with fireworks, festivities, and music. Curious about how Sant Joan is celebrated in Barcelona and what to do? Read on here.

What is Sant Joan and when is it celebrated?

Sant Joan, also known as Saint John, is celebrated on June 24th. The evening before, June 23rd, is known as the Revetlla de Sant Joan, the Catalan midsummer night. This festival is characterized by bonfires, fireworks, and parties on the beach or in the streets.

It celebrates the summer solstice and is considered one of the most significant and beloved holidays in Catalonia.

On June 24th itself, most shops are closed due to the holiday.

Catalan Midsummer Night Festival

Sant Joan marks the summer solstice night, when the sun reaches its highest point and then begins to wane. The Sant Joan festival honors the king of the stars as a symbol of fertility and prosperity with bonfires. Besides the delicious coques (cakes), fire, water, and fresh herbs symbolize Sant Joan.

Fireworks

During ‘la revetlla de Sant Joan‘ or ‘nit de Sant Joan‘ on June 23, the Saint John’s festival is celebrated. This festivity prominently features fire: everyone sets off fireworks in the streets, there are fireworks displays on the beach, and bonfires are lit.

Traditionally, fire is the purifying element that frees us from misfortune and wards off evil spirits. On the night of Sant Joan, people feed the fire with old furniture. Students even throw their schoolbooks from the completed year into it.

The most popular fire in Catalonia is the Flame of Canigó, which travels to all Catalan towns and villages each year to ignite the bonfires.

Fireworks during Sant Joan
Fireworks during Sant Joan

Water

Taking a dip in the sea during the night of Sant Joan is also typical. It’s said that on this evening the water has healing powers. In some places, it’s customary to bathe in the sea at dawn.

Fresh Herbs

Herbs are the third magical element of the midsummer evening. It’s a night when the healing powers of plants, flowers, trees, and especially herbs are extraordinarily potent. Some herbs, like thyme, rosemary, or verbena, the herb of Sant Joan, are traditionally gathered on this evening for treatments.

Coques and Cava

Furthermore, on this balmy summer evening, ‘coca de Sant Joan‘ (a special cake with candied fruit and pine nuts) is eaten, and a lot of cava is drunk. After the festive dinner, youngsters usually go out to open-air discos or to the beach.

Coca de Sant Joan
Coca de Sant Joan

What to do during Sant Joan in Barcelona

Sant Joan is celebrated throughout Catalonia, so no matter where you are, you’ll find fireworks and music everywhere. Many people in Barcelona celebrate Sant Joan outside the city, in their summer homes on the Costa Brava and Costa Daurada. But there are also plenty of events organized in the city to celebrate Sant Joan. Below, I’ll tell you about the main events.

Flama del Canigó

On June 23rd at 17:45, the flame from Canigó arrives at the City Hall in Barcelona. It is then revered through various ceremonies. At 18:00, the flame is brought to Plaça Sant Jaume, accompanied by the giants and the eagle of Barcelona.

The flame is then taken to different neighborhoods in the city, where they will light the big fires.

Neighborhood Parties

There are many neighborhood parties and free concerts on the evening of Sant Joan. Residents enjoy a communal dinner outdoors at long tables, there is a lot of fireworks, bonfires are made and there is a lot of dancing. This is known as the revetlla or verbena de Sant Joan.

Tip: If you want to experience this, go to neighborhoods like Gràcia or Poblenou, where there are communal dinners, concerts and large bonfires. Here you really celebrate Sant Joan among the locals!

Bonfires during Sant Joan in Barcelona
Bonfires during Sant Joan in Barcelona

To the beach

One of the best places to experience the night of Sant Joan in Barcelona is of course the beach. At La Barceloneta, large groups of friends always come together and there are real beach parties.

It is also extra busy during the night of Sant Joan in nearby seaside resorts such as Castelldefels and Sitges.

Eat Coca de Sant Joan

Finally, go to the local bakery and get a Coca de Sant Joan! They come in various flavors and shapes: with marzipan, cream, cabell d’àngel (flesh of a special type of pumpkin), or llardons (pork rinds), and decorated with pine nuts or candied fruit peel. Delicious as a breakfast or snack.

If you happen to be in Barcelona or anywhere in Catalonia during the night of Sant Joan, I recommend joining in the festivities, such as participating in one of the neighborhood parties or going to the beach and lighting some fireworks there. That way, you can experience for yourself what ‘la nit màgica de Sant Joan’ (the magical night of Saint John) is all about.

Tip: If you want to know more about Sant Joan and the current agenda, check the website of the municipality.

Good to know

  • Around Sant Joan, the school holidays have already started, so most children are off.
  • Fireworks are only available at specific locations in the days leading up to Sant Joan.
  • During Sant Joan, traffic is heavier as many people go out. Also in the city, such as on the beach and in public transport, it is busier than usual.
  • During the night of June 23rd, public transport in Barcelona offers extra services to facilitate movement throughout the city. The metro runs all night and trams will do the same at intervals of 15 to 30 minutes.
  • June 24th is a public holiday in Catalonia, so most people are off. Enjoy this day off at the beach like the locals or outdoors, at one of the many parks in Barcelona.

These were my tips for Sant Joan in Barcelona. Are you in Barcelona during Sant Joan this year, or have you visited Barcelona during Sant Joan before? Leave a comment! I’m curious about your experiences. Bona Revetlla de Sant Joan!

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Hello! My name is Marta, and I am a born and raised Barcelonian. I love introducing people to Barcelona, especially the Barcelona known to locals. In Barcelona, I am always looking for fun places and tips that I can then share with you, with the goal of helping you experience Barcelona like a local.

Marta Rubio

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