Barcelona rarely pauses for breath. Year round the city rushes from one party to the next, from international music festivals to traditional street parties. Whether live music, fireworks, parades or alfresco dancing is your bag, its worth checking the calendar before booking your flights.
Dia dels Reis/Kings' Day (January)
The big event of the festive season is Epiphany, known here as Kings' Day, in which a lengthy cavalcade of floats drifts around the city, spreading bonhomie and boiled sweets in equal measure. Children hand in their wishlists to the elves and, if all goes well, wake up to a stack of presents on January 6, a public holiday.
Setmana Santa (Holy Week – March/April)
On Palm Sunday you can see people lining up to have their palm branches blessed outside the cathedral, while on Good Friday you can follow the floats and hooded penitents in processions from the Església de Sant Agustí, reminiscent of southern Spain's festivities.
Primavera Sound (May)
The city's indie festival par excellence, with four days of big-name acts that in 2015 include Patti Smith, OMD, The Strokes, Ride, Alt-J, The Black Keys and dozens more. There are also associated concerts around the city, some of them free outdoors – at the Parc de la Ciutadella and the Passeig Lluís.
Sónar Electronic Music Festival (June)
All the latest names in techno and electronica, along with crowd-pleasing headliners from Chic to Massive Attack, play at the Plaça Espanya trade fair during the day, and a set of huge, interconnected hangars out in L’Hospitalet at night.
The major high-brow cultural event of the year, the Grec brings theatre, music, dance from all around the globe and presents them in venues on Montjuïc, most notably the glorious Greek amphitheatre, at its best on a balmy summer's night.
Festa Major de Gràcia (August)
Of all Barcelona’s summer barri street parties, Gràcia’s is the biggest, noisiest and longest (taking place over about nine days). More than a dozen streets in Gràcia are decorated by their residents as part of a competition for the most imaginative street. People pour in to listen to bands in the streets and squares, fuel on snacks and drink at countless street stands until late into the night.
Festes de la Mercè (September)
Say goodbye to summer in true Catalan style. This is the city’s biggest party, with some outstanding free concerts. There's a swimming race across the harbour, a fun run, ‘video-mapped’ projections on the city hall, and a bewildering programme of cultural events. All the ingredients of a major Catalan festa are here: castellers (human towers), sardanes (traditional folk dancing), parades of gegants and capgrossos (giants and big heads), and a huge correfoc (literally 'fire run').
Festival Internacional de Jazz de Barcelona (November)
For the whole of November, and a few days either side, venues such as L'Auditori, Palau de la Música Catalana and the Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house, as well as humbler joints like the Harlem Jazz Club, host a plethora of international acts. Mainstays of the programme include Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and their ilk. At the same time, a more homespun jazz fest takes place for about a month in bars across Ciutat Vella.