The night of ‘San Juan’ (Saint John) is a festival celebrated all over Spain on the night of 23rd to 24th of June to welcome the long-awaited summer, and in Barcelona, it’s celebrated in style!

Beaches, squares and many other parts of the city fill up to celebrate the summer solstice with bonfires, music, dancing and delicious food.

Table of contents

The curious origin of the night of San Juan in Barcelona

The origin is pagan; bonfires were used as a rite to give strength to the sun and also as protection and purification against evil spirits. They say that the flames keep them away and frighten them.

These beliefs were incorporated into Christianity with a completely different version. The Bible records that Zechariah wanted to announce that his son John had been born and did so with a great bonfire. This is how the feast of San Juan Bautista was established on 24 June.

Today, it’s a mixture of both origins and a perfect excuse to enjoy the beginning of summer with friends and family outdoors. It’s also popularly known as the ‘verbena of San Juan’, ‘verbena’ being the Spanish word for an outdoor, night-time festival.

And why do people jump over the bonfires on the night of San Juan in Barcelona?

It’s a tradition, here and in other parts of Spain (dangerous to say the least), which aims to ward off spirits, as well as diseases and misfortunes. Well, if you manage to do it without getting burnt, of course.


The list of activities and events on the night of San Juan in Barcelona

On the evening of the 23rd of June, the celebration of San Juan in Barcelona begins with the ‘flame of Canigó’, a symbolic pilgrimage in which fire is carried down from the mountain by volunteers. Their aim is to reach all corners of Catalonia to ignite the San Juan bonfires, passing the flames from one hand to another. In addition to this, the eagle and the giants of the city, both emblematic figures of many Catalan festivities, also make their presence felt at the San Juan celebrations in Barcelona.

Once the bonfires, which are spread throughout Barcelona, have been lit, the party begins with music, dinners and fireworks.

No San Juan celebration is complete without the traditional dinner

It’s very common to get together with family and friends to celebrate the night of San Juan with a nice meal. This meal includes typical produce such as ‘embutido’ (sausage), ‘chicharrones’ (pork crackling), ‘pan con tomate’ (bread with tomato) or a nice glass of cava and, of course, the ‘Coca de San Juan’.

The Coca de San Juan is a sweet bread that’s a staple dessert at San Juan dinners throughout Barcelona. It’s made with coca dough, a sweet dough similar to puff pastry or brioche but denser and with a slight anise flavour. It’s then decorated with candied fruits, nuts, ‘cabello de ángel’ (thin, candied slices of pumpkin), or other types of custard. You can find all kinds of Cocas to suit every taste. There’s no excuse not to try the most traditional and official sweet of the San Juan festivities!

You can find cocas in bakeries all over the city and also in bars and restaurants. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, you can even enjoy a savoury version.


Fireworks and bangers

During the night of San Juan, it’s a common sight for entire families, communities, and festival committees to set off bangers and fireworks. This creates a mesmerising visual spectacle and a festive, magical atmosphere throughout the city.

While the noise can understandably be a concern, significant efforts are made each year to improve the fireworks displays, gradually reducing decibel levels with low-noise bangers.

A thousand and one ways to enjoy San Juan

There’s more than one way to enjoy the night of San Juan. The most popular is to enjoy this festival on the beaches where you can see mostly young people around the bonfire having dinner, drinking, dancing and enjoying good music.

Another, perhaps more traditional way is to choose one of the many different city districts. There you can enjoy the festivities to celebrate San Juan with street parties, fireworks and lots of atmosphere.

Going to a restaurant or a bar is also a popular option. As it’s a public holiday, the last thing you feel like doing is cooking nd, worst of all, cleaning up. In many places, you can find special menus for that night, a show or simply a front-row seat for the verbena on one of their terraces. And a word of warning: many Catalans also choose to celebrate in their homes, balconies or terraces with a lively dinner. And if it’s got a view of the fireworks, then all the better.


Getting in the mood for San Juan in Barcelona, aren't you?

Now that you know what the San Juan festivities in Barcelona are like, you’ll be eager to come and enjoy the most magical night of the year here. All you need to do is hop in the car, or on a plane, bus, or train and find the perfect accommodation. Why? Because Barcelona already has the party, the atmosphere, and the magic covered.

And without a doubt, one of the best accommodation options is at Key Inn Barcelona. We’ve got the ideal apartment for you to enjoy the San Juan festivities; with or without a terrace, with space for groups and solo travellers, without skimping on quality, but at reasonable prices and in an unbeatable location.

So, in addition to the San Juan festivities, you can enjoy places like the Sagrada Familia or all that the Gràcia district has to offer.

The perfect plan, all wrapped up.