Guide to enjoying Sant Joan 2023, (not exactly) the shortest night of the year

Where to find bonfires at crossroads, fireworks, parties on the beach, early morning swims, and delicious coques

A little girl holding a 'bengala' during Sant Joan 2022 on Roses beach
A little girl holding a 'bengala' during Sant Joan 2022 on Roses beach / Emma Monrós/Guifré Jordan

Emma Monrós/Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

June 23, 2023 12:40 PM

June 23, 2023 05:41 PM

Bonfires, firecrackers, special desserts called 'coques'… Sant Joan is back for another year of revelry to celebrate the beginning of summer. 

There are documents mentioning this feast in Catalonia dating back to at least the 15th century – it is unclear whether its origins are pagan or religious, but it seems clear that it is linked to the summer solstice, such as many other ancient events held in the northern hemisphere.

Indeed, Sant Joan's eve, on the night of June 23 into June 24, has always been known in Catalonia as the shortest night of the year.

The shortest night of the year?

Yet, this statement has come with a bit of inventive marketing, as it is not exactly the case – the summer solstice usually falls around June 21, the actual shortest night of the year.

While the night before Sant Joan is seven seconds longer than June 21, it was once the one with more daylight hours, at some point before the tweaks to the calendar introduced in 1582 – too many leap years caused a mismatch that was fixed with the introduction of the Gregorian calendar.

In any case, the nine hours of nighttime in June will be very intense in Catalonia this year as usual – here's a guide and interactive map with the main activities and some of the best places to enjoy the action.

Celebrations replete with fire

Fire is present in many Catalan traditions, but especially during Sant Joan. During the 'revetlla', as locals refer to the eve of Sant Joan, bonfires are lit in squares and crossroads in every Catalan town.

Fire represents a way to purify and protect, but also to burn the past and regenerate new energies – also, a lot of people take their old furniture down to the square in order to burn them in the bonfires.

Official licensed bonfires in Barcelona include:

  • Esquerra de l'Eixample district (crossroads between Provença and Rocafort streets)
  • Sant Antoni (crossroads between Floridablanca and Entença streets)
  • Sarrià (Casa Orlandai)
  • Poblenou (crossroads between Espronceda and Ramon Turró streets)
  • Clot (crossroads between Concili de Trento and Lope de Vega streets)
  • Clot and Camp de l'Arpa (crossroads between Corunya and Meridiana streets)
  • Verneda (crossroads between Huelva and Agricultura streets)
  • Barceloneta

In Girona, one of the main bonfires will be set up at Parc de Vista Alegre, while in Tarragona, people will gather around the fire at Plaça Corsini.

Many other bonfires in both the Catalan capital and elsewhere across the country will also be set up during the night, some at beaches.

However, authorities have banned bonfires and firecrackers within 500 meters of forest areas.

While the interior ministry recently admitted that the risk of wildfires is lower than in other years in 2023, they call for caution and common sense.



Firecrackers of all kinds are lit on Sant Joan's eve as one of the most essential parts of the celebration.

Children are typically the ones more excited about bangers, which can be bought in pop-up stores set up in streets and squares across Catalonia, it is easy to find them. The main firecrackers are:

  • 'Bombetes', small bags of gunpowder (they could be translated as 'snappers')
  • 'Xinos', standard and simple bangers
  • 'Bengales', sparkling sticks that light up and sparkle, they are used by children to draw imaginary “fire figures” in the air ('sparklers', in English)
  • 'Fonts', with different colors and fire intensities
  • 'Traques', a line of firecrackers put together in a chain, that explode one after the other
  • 'Coets', firecrackers that shoot into the air some meters, typically whistling before they crack in the air ('screamers' would be a similar concept in English)

In the past few years, a debate on the impact of noisy firecrackers on pets, some children and elderly people, as well as people with sensitive hearing, has led some companies to launch 'low-noise' firecrackers, which vets and animal rights activists recommend to use.

Vets and animal rights defenders have sided against giving certain types of sleeping pills to pets to avoid their distress due to Sant Joan's celebrations, which invariably include loud firecrackers.


Coques de Sant Joan are the only possible dessert for the 'revetlla', with 1.8 million units of artisan ones expected to be sold during the week.

At prices between €18 and €22 if bought in bakeries or patisseries, they are the sweetest and most delicious pastries one can think of.

Sant Joan, the night of June 23 into June 24, is a very special celebration in Catalonia, and any celebration must come with its own special dessert! 'Coques de Sant Joan' are sweet and delicious and come in a variety of styles, but candied fruit is the classic

In order to make them, mix yeast and flour, add sugar, eggs, lemon peel, and milk. Then, mix it with butter and shape the dough into a long oval. Let it rest in the fridge for 15 minutes, add toppings, such as candied fruit, pine nuts, and jam, and bake for 30 minutes.

Types of coques include:

  • 'Classic': brioche, pine nuts, candied orange, melon, and cherries
  • 'Cabell d'àngel': puff pastry, pumpkin jam, pine nuts
  • 'Llardons': flatbread, pork cracklings, pine nuts
  • 'Crema': sweet bread, custard, candied cherries
  • 'Nata': sweet bread, whipped cream

New types of coques de Sant Joan include chocolate and pistachio.

Beach parties

While not usually organized by local authorities, but rather spontaneous, one of the key places every Sant Joan is beaches across Catalonia.

Thousands and thousands of people, typically young people, sit on the sand to eat, drink, dance, and spend all night having fun. The bravest ones will have a midnight swim, and the night owls will wait until sunrise, approximately 6am, to watch one of the star's earliest rises of the year.

If you are in Barcelona, any beach will be fine to have an idea of what Sant Joan entails, but especially Barceloneta and Bogatell – yet, local police will remove you from the area right after sunrise at 6am in order to start a round-the-clock massive clean-up operation so that early beach-goers on June 24 can make the most of their day.

Flama del Canigó

Some of the bonfires actually originate from the same flame: la flama del Canigó, Canigó’s Flame.

This is part of a popular tradition celebrated in all the Catalan-speaking territories.

Canigó is a massif located in Northern Catalonia, a historical part of Catalonia now located in France, and from there, a flame is distributed throughout all Catalan-speaking areas – the mountain has been important in Catalan culture and literature.

This ritual started in the mid-1950s, during Franco's dictatorship, when some communities wanted to spread a tradition that had been banned anyway. Given that Sant Joan is shared among Catalan-speaking lands, la Flama became a symbol of the resilience of Catalan culture.

The night of June 22 into June 23, bonfires are lit in the Canigó mountain before it sets off on a journey to hundreds of towns and villages, which organize a ceremony to receive it in the afternoon of June 23, such as:

  • Barcelona: Plaça Sant Jaume, at 6pm
  • Girona: Plaça del Vi, 7pm
  • Lleida: Plaça de la Paeria, 7.30pm
  • Tarragona: Avinguda Ramon y Cajal, 7pm

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