Location: Museum of Contemporary Art, Barcelona, Spain



Dates: 14–16 June

Billing itself as a festival of progressive music and multimedia arts, Sónar began in 1993 as a hobnobbing opportunity for the music industry and now attracts 80,000 electronica lovers. The cutting-edge festival is an appropriate excuse to visit Barcelona, where Gaudí built psychedelic buildings in the early 1900s and the Spanish Civil War inspired great literary accounts.


By day you can discover musical genres such as ‘digital concretism’ by checking out the showcases in the Museum of Contemporary Art and Centre of Contemporary Culture. The buildings, not far from La Rambla in central Barcelona, also host technology demonstrations, record and clothes fairs, multimedia art, and film screenings.


By night the chin stroking is replaced by flailing arms when the action shifts to a clubber’s nirvana, with four stages of live acts, DJs and VJs. No wonder the day’s programme starts at midday. The rollcall of international artists who have swung by the Catalonian capital for the event includes Aphex Twin, Björk, De La Soul, Richie Hawtin and the Chemical Brothers.

Essentials: Swot-up on what terms like ‘post-rock’ mean for conversations with electronica enthusiasts.



Local Attractions: If you have any energy left after climbing Gaudí’s modernist basilica, the Sagrada Família, Barcelona has galleries devoted to Picasso and the surrealist Miró, who both spent periods here.



More Info: www.sonar.es

Location: Barcelona, Spain

Dates: Four days around 24 September


The Catalan capital’s festa major, a final burst of prewinter madness for the Mediterranean city, is dedicated to its co-patron saint, the Virgin of Mercy. Nostra Senyora de la Mercè, whose image lies in the church of the same name on Plaça de la Mercè, was named co-patron after she single-handedly beat off a plague of locusts in 1637! Then in 1714, as Barcelona faced defeat in the War of the Spanish Succession, the obviously desperate town elders appointed her commander in chief of the city’s defences.

Some 600 events take place, most of them in the city centre. There’s a swimming race across the harbour, a fun run and a series of free concerts. Adding to the local colour are the essential ingredients of all self-respecting Catalan festivals: sardana (folk dancing from northern Catalonia) and parades of gegants (giants), dancing in synch with the costumed groups carrying them. Brave combatants known as castellers compete to form the highest human pyramid; the towers rise up to eight storeys high. The correfoc (fire run) is a pyromaniac’s dream. Crowds hurl themselves along Via Laietana before ‘devils’ and other fire-spurting beasts, not to mention kids armed with firecrackers.


Local Attractions: Take the opportunity to visit Barcelona’s museums for free and to sample the local Cava (sparkling wine).


More Info: www.bcn.es/merce



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