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Of all the memorable Catalan traditions, which include 'fire runs' and dancing 'giants', it's arguably the human towers that have the most impact on those watching them. To enjoy a true festival of these castells, head to Vilafranca de Penedès for its annual festa major, from the 29th August to the 2nd September, which commemorates the town's patron Sant Fèlix.
The casteller groups that have more participated in the San Félix Day, August 30, have been els Xiquets de Valls (currently, the Colla Vella and the Colla Joves), the Castellers de Vilafranca and the Minyons de Terrassa. Even so, also has participated els Nens del Vendrell, Colla Jove Xiquets de Tarragona, els Xicots de Vilafranca, among others. Each human tower is an exemplary example of team work, from the crowd forming the supporting pinya at the bottom via the columns formed as each level rises and culminating with the youngest members of the crew scampering right to the very top to crown the construction, which is officially completed once the smallest of all (l'enxaneta) raises his or her hand. Cue thunderous applause.
Penedès Grape Harvest Festival
Date not yet confirmedThe grape harvest festival is the period during which the tradition of wine producing is celebrated. During the weeks of the harvest, you can find out all about the vineyards, wineries and their wines throughout the various wine production regions of Catalonia. These celebrations give rise to a variety of activities: guided visits of the wineries, getting to know about and taking part in the wine-making process, wine and cava tastings combined with the sampling of delicious locally produced food and other activities. In addition to wine- and food-related activities, you can also enjoy complementary leisure pursuits suitable for any age group or profile. Below is just a selection of the recommended activities for you to enjoy this thousand year-old cultural experience to the full!
The Festa de la Fil·loxera in Sant Sadurní d'Anoia is a popular celebration that recreates the town's victory, in 1887, over the terrible phylloxera epidemic that wiped out all the vineyards in the Penedès region. The celebrations include fireworks, music and all the traditional festival figures you would expect.
There's also a kids' version of the festival consisting of a processionfrom Plaça de l'Església. It is one of the most eagerly awaited events. The children wear small-scale replicas of the figures seen at the main celebrations: the phylloxera beetle, the figures with large heads depicting the local farmers, the small phylloxera larvae, figures representing the vines and a group of larvae. Because the procession is for kids no fireworks are involved.
La Quinzena Metropolitan Dance Festival
Quinzena Metropolitana the dance festival which will display all styles and genres to a potential audience of 5 million people. The festival will take place all over the metropolitan area of Barcelona, covering the municipalities of Barcelona, Badalona, Santa Coloma, L'Hospitalet, Cornellà, Espluges and others. Programmed in theaters, but also in streets, squares and subway stations, dance at its finest now has a festival that includes classic and contemporary dance, hip hop, jazz, traditional dance and any other style.
Carnival, a festivity based on the lunar calendar and eagerly anticipated by Catalans, always begins on a Thursday (Fat Thursday) and ends on the following Wednesday (Ash Wednesday). Carnival is synonymous with partying, bustling crowds, costumes, parades and so on. In short, it is a week given over to hedonism and having a good time being the forerunner to the period of fasting and deprivation represented by the Christian tradition of Lent.
These days, beyond the excesses, Carnival is a light-hearted popular festival based around the crazy figure named El Rei Carnestoltes (The Carnival King). While carnival is celebrated in almost every town and village throughout Catalonia, the places that historically stand out for their particular traditions are Barcelona, Sitges, Vilanova i la Geltrú and Torelló. However, wherever you may be during the festivities, you will be able to try some of the delicious traditional Carnival dishes: the coca de llardons (flatbread with pancetta) or botifarra d'ou (pork sausage containing egg).
Benvinguts a Pagès (which can be translated as 'Welcome to the Farm') adds a new initiative to the traditional event that this year takes place in June (3 and 4). In this new project, farms from all over Catalonia will open their doors all year round to show their fields, equipment, animals and products such as honey, cheese, olives, fruits and vegetables. You can also meet the fishermen and get on board their boat, and most regions offer a range of complementary activities related to land, products and nature.
Fórmula 1 AWS Gran Premio de España
Those loud engines are getting ready to rev once more at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Over three days in June, Barcelona hosts the ninth event of this year's F1 Championship Season, the Fórmula 1 AWS Gran Premio de España. This is undoubtedly one of the biggest dates on Barcelona's sporting calendar, and an amazing opportunity to see the celebrated drivers and teams taking part in one of the most thrilling sports in the world.
The European Balloon Festival in Igualada is the biggest gathering of hot air balloons in Spain and welcomes around 25,000 visitors over four days the first fortnight of July. It's a meeting point, a competition and a festival in one, with more than 50 balloons taking to the air. Competitive flights take place early in the morning and at dusk, when conditions are ideal, and if you want a taste of the high life, balloon rides can be booked in advance. Fly among a mass of Balloons from several counties of the world.
But there's plenty to enjoy from ground level, whether it's the different skill challenges in the competition, live music, kids' activities and workshops, or the magical Night Glow event, in which balloons are fired up but don't take off, glowing like lanterns and accompanied by a fireworks display.
Every September, the beautiful central Catalan town of Vic hosts an extensive 'market of live music', which this year celebrates its 35th anniversary, aimed at giving both professionals and the public the chance to hear a wide range of different genres and discover new acts, as they enjoy of concerts and related activities. A lot of the focus is on artists from Catalonia, Spain and the Mediterranean area, but musicians from other places can also be found on the programme.
Performances, some of which are free, are given across the city at venues both indoors and out, including the emblematic Plaça Major, and throughout the event the streets are filled with buskers, adding to the musical extravaganza taking place. While there, it's also worth taking the time to explore Vic, a place rich with history, from the Roman temple to the cathedral, ecclesiastical museum, and medieval and modernista buildings. And don't forget to try the local gastronomic speciality, cured meats.
Sitges Festival Internacional de Cinema Fantàstic de Catalunya
Inaugurated years ago as the world's first film festival dedicated to the fantastic genre, today it's become the region's biggest celebration of the moving image. The picturesque seaside town of Sitges, 30 minutes down the coast from Barcelona, hosts hundreds of films from around the globe, including animation, rom-com and gangster as well as its core themes of gore, horror and fantasy.
Running in parallel to the screenings are exhibitions, master classes and Q&A sessions, special events focused on television series, the chance to see films using virtual reality technology, plus a crowded Zombie Walk through the streets of Sitges.
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