Barcelona City Guide: catch these events in the Catalonian capital
Barcelona makes being a desirable destination look as easy as ABC — art, beaches and cuisine, that is.
It’s no wonder that 32 million people from around the world journey to the Catalan capital, known for its combination of year-round Mediterranean sunshine, legendary attractions like the Sagrada Familia, the architecture of Antoni Gaudí and world-famous music festivals and sports teams.
With a metropolitan population of over 5.4 million people, Barcelona is both the capital and largest city in Spain’s northeastern Catalonia autonomous community. The region has its own distinct language, culture, and flavourful seafood- and meat-heavy dishes. Fans of live music, sports, comedy and theatre will certainly have plenty of options to keep their itineraries full when not wandering the city’s cobblestone streets.
Keep reading to explore our events guide to the Catalan capital, or jump straight in here to find tickets to the events happening in Barcelona.
What’s happening in Barcelona in 2019
- Sports: MotoGP Barcelona, Nitro Circus, Barcelona International Show Jumping Competition
- Concerts: Hombres G, Billie Eilish, Red Bull Batalla de los Gallos
- Festivals: Sònar Festival, Brunch in the Park, Cruilla Festival
- Theatre and Comedy: Messi 10 Cirque du Soleil Barcelona, Barcelona International Comedy Festival, Jim Gaffigan
Barcelona: a brief history
Barcelona’s history stretches back to Neolithic times and the city has been ruled by Romans, republicans and the repressive Franco dictatorship since then. Following the Spanish Civil War in 1939 and stretching until 1975, the latter regime put the city under a particularly high amount of pressure as its Catalan language and culture were neither taught in schools nor tolerated in most public settings.
Fortunately, since the return of Catalan autonomy and Spain’s joining of the European Community in 1986, Barcelona has reinvented itself as a sports, cultural and tourism hub. It found itself in the spotlight of the world’s stage hosting the 1992 Summer Olympics and has since gone on to welcome a number international and annual events that continue to make it a popular destination for a variety of fans.
Among the largest events that happen in Barcelona annually are
- Barcelona Open
- Barcelona Marathon
- Cursa de Bombers
- Spanish Grand Prix
- Barcelona Carnival
- Festa de Sant Medir (Sant Medir candy festival)
- Feria de abril (flamenco festival)
- Sònar Festival
- Primavera Sound Festival
- Circuit Festival
- Barcelona Pride
Sports in Barcelona
Barcelona has hosted numerous international sporting events and is home ground to a variety of sports teams. Chief amongst them is FC Barcelona, nicknamed ‘Barca’, one the world’s most famous, successful and wealthy football clubs that plays at Europe’s largest stadium, Camp Nou (capacity: 99,354) in the Les Corts neighbourhood. Pro tip: be sure to show up early if you are going to a match as it can take a while to get through the massive crowd.
Traditionally, FC Barcelona fans will gather at the Font de Canaletes fountain on La Rambla if their team wins, so be sure to head around there for the game’s after-party. Fancy a nibble after all that cheering? There are plenty of little tapas bars to pop into around Camp Nou, though space is often tight.
The city is also home to another football club that plays in Spain’s La Liga, with the other being RCD Espanyol. While the team may be overshadowed by FC Barcelona, it has a fiercely loyal fanbase at its home ground of RCDE Stadium in the Cornellà de Llobregat suburb. FC Barcelona tickets often sell out quickly (particularly for highly anticipated matches), so it may be worth venturing to a RCD Espanyol for a taste of local football culture.
Other teams that play under the FC Barcelona banner include FC Barcelona Bàsquet (basketball, playing at Palau Blaugrana), FC Barcelona Handbol (handball, playing at Palau Blaugrana), FC Barcelona Ice Hockey (playing at Palau de Gel), FC Barcelona Hoquei (roller hockey, playing at Palau Blaugrana), FC Barcelona Futsal (playing at Palau Blaugrana) and FC Barcelona Rugby (playing at La Teixonera). The city additionally has two American football teams, the Barcelona Dragons and the Barcelona Bufals, playing at Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys and Estadio Narcís Sala respectively.
Annual events in Barcelona include the Barcelona Marathon and Cursa de Bombers road running races, the Barcelona Open tennis competition, and Formula 1 and MotoGP in car racing. The city has also hosted international sporting tournaments including the 1992 Summer Olympics, 1982 FIFA World Cup, European Champions League, European Cup Winners' Cup, UEFA Cup, European Super Cup and many others.
Music and festivals in Barcelona
Live music is as integral to Barcelona’s culture as its distinctive architecture and Mediterranean cuisine, with its Bohemian attitude encouraging performers to set up shop there — often for free on the side of La Rambla or during one of the city’s innumerable street festivals. Besides the thriving alternative scene found in bars, the city is also home to a number of more formal venues including the Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house, which has hosted more than 440 performances of Verdi’s Aida since it opened in 1847 and is known for its concerts, ballets and international symphonies.
There are a variety of venues to see live music in Barcelona, ranging from the stunning stain glass of the Palau de la Música Catalana (be sure to catch a Barcelona Guitar Orchestra there) to the more modernist L’Auditori. Today, the sunny city also boasts two of the world’s most celebrated festivals: Sònar and Primavera Sound.
Both have expanded into international locations, with Primavera Sound announcing this year that it will launching a Los Angeles event from 19-20 September 2020. Notably, this year’s edition in Barcelona featured a line-up that was more than 50% women. Sònar is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2019 and similarly now has outposts Bogota, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Reykjavik and Istanbul.
Theatre and comedy shows in Barcelona
Barcelona’s theatre scene also deserves its share of the spotlight. The city has more 60 venues, hosting everything from international touring shows to local Catalan creations. Amongst the most prominent is the government-supported Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, which opened in 1996 with a performance of Angels in America.
Opened in 1923, the Coliseum Theatre on Gran Via was one of the city’s best-known cinemas until it was renovated into a theatre in 2006; fans of architecture, cabarets and musicals should definitely make this a stop. One would be remiss not to catch a flamenco performance whilst in Barcelona and El Molina sets the stage perfectly, having been modelled after Paris’ famed Moulin Rouge. Other celebrated local theatrical venues include the open-air Teatre Grec with performances from June to August, the indie Teatre Lliure On Montjuic and the Mercat De Les Flors, which houses experimental and contemporary dance productions.
If you’re looking to laugh your best life in Barcelona, it will not disappoint. The city is often a stop on most major comedians’ European and world tours, and boasts its own thriving scene as well. Amongst the most prominent English-speaking bars and clubs are Barcelona Comedy Club, Guiriness Comedy Club and Just Kidding Barcelona.