Head to the beach to celebrate the San Juan Festival like a local
Light the bonfire, gather with friends and rustle up something tasty to eat, the start of summer is calling and the San Juan Festival is the best way to celebrate
Every year, on the night of the 23rd of June, Spain’s beaches are set ablaze as crowds gather to celebrate the Summer solstice, also known as the San Juan Festival. The sound of crackling firewood, laughter and merriness fills the air and the beach becomes the ultimate hotspot for revellers keen to enjoy the festivities. Locals love to mark the occasion by throwing parties steeped in ritual and superstition. Keen to join in the fun? Discover our recommendations for the best places across Spain.
What is the San Juan Festival?
San Juan’s, or St John’s, feast day falls on the 24th of June every year, but it’s on St John’s eve, the 23rd of June, that the celebrations take place. Just a few short days after midsummer, it’s a Spanish festival celebrated on beaches all over the country that welcomes the summer ahead.
Most Spanish people consider the bonfires of St John to mark the true beginning of summer, which is the season when Spain comes into its own. So, as you can imagine, it’s a fantastic excuse for a party.
Most Spanish people consider the bonfires of St John to mark the true beginning of summer
This is very much a fire-focused celebration and the bonfires of St John that burn on the country’s beaches are legendary. The bonfires of San Juan are said to purify and protect, warding off evil spirits.
How is San Juan, Spain celebrated?
Some people celebrate the bonfires of San Juan with family, some with friends, and some make new friends on the beach, but there’s always food, drink and music involved.
Some places are busier than others for these celebrations, one of the most popular festivals in Spain, but you’re pretty much guaranteed an excellent atmosphere wherever you go. If you opt for any of Spain’s big coastal cities, expect crowds.
San Juan Festival is a great plan for families and couples alike
What superstitions are associated with the San Juan festival in Spain?
Some people still believe that Midsummer in Spain is a magical night in which ancient pagan gods are closer to humans. That’s the origin of many of the rituals that people still take part in on the night of the San Juan festival.
Traditions vary all over the country, but fire-jumping is widespread and is meant to strengthen the sun or to burn your problems away and bring good luck. It’s traditional to jump at least three times, but some people jump up to nine.
For example, if you are enjoying the San Juan Festival during a long weekend in Malaga, you will see some people make wishes at midnight. They write down their wishes for the months ahead and the things that they want to say goodbye to on the night of San Juan on pieces of paper.
Wherever you are, the rituals linked to San Juan in Spain are all to do with fire and water
They then burn them in the bonfires of St John, symbolising liberation from the past and hope for the future. After that, they run into the sea for a swim, picturing those wishes coming true.
Wherever you are, the rituals linked to San Juan in Spain are all to do with fire and water. People might burn something old to represent a new start, swim in the ocean to purify their soul or drink from fountains, which some believe take on magical healing properties at night.
What to take with you for summer solstice, Spain, San Juan party
If you’re celebrating the bonfires of Saint John on a beach that has bars and restaurants, then they’ll be open and selling food and drinks throughout the evening. So, just turn up and have fun.
You will, however, need your swimming costume and a towel. Make sure to take a warm layer with you, as although Spanish nights are typically very warm by this time of year, you’d be surprised at how chilly it can get on the coast.
If you’re heading outside the city, then you won’t be able to rely on beach bars or ready-made bonfires, so you’ll need your own supplies of food, drink, firewood and music.
Wherever you spend the night of San Juan in Spain, make sure you bring along bags that you can put all your rubbish in, so that you can recycle it later, as there have been big problems with plastic waste from the festivities being washed out to sea.
Where to celebrate “La Noche de San Juan” in Spain
As we’ve mentioned, beaches all around the country fill up on the “Noche de San Juan” in Spain, and traditions vary slightly everywhere you go.
You’re bound to have a good time wherever you end up, but if you want to make a trip of it then there are certain hotspots that are worth planning your holiday around.
Join in the San Juan party in Barcelona
For example, if you are celebrating San Juan in Barcelona, the beaches of Barceloneta and Nova Icària are the best places to join in the party and are just a stone’s throw from the top hotels in Barcelona. In Catalan culture, this evening is also known as the ‘Night of Fire’, and the main focus is on fireworks. Arrive early to catch a spot on the sand and the celebrations usually kick off with bonfires followed by live music performances and traditional rituals. Locals believe that jumping over the bonfires will bring about purification and renewal. At the end of the night, the celebrations are brought to an end by a spectacular fireworks display overlooking the sea.
When in Barcelona, the Barceloneta is one of the best places to enjoy the San Juan celebrations
Discover the Alicante San Juan Festival
If you are travelling to Alicante in June, don’t miss the San Juan Festival. The city takes the celebrations to a whole new level with a 9-day festival of San Juan on Alicante’s beaches. The festivities, which take place on the beaches of Postiguet and San Juan, run from the 20th to the 29th of June.
The festivities, which take place on the beaches of Postiguet and San Juan, run from the 20th to the 29th of June
One of the eye-catching attractions of the Alicante celebrations is the ceremonial burning of effigies, known as the parade of the “hogueras'' or bonfires which are large wooden sculptures burned on the bonfires. There is also a fireworks competition every night to bring the evening to a close.
Don’t miss the burning of the effigies in Alicante during the San Juan celebrations
Join in the fun at the San Juan Festival in Valencia
If you are looking to enjoy a San Juan holiday in Spain, booking into one of Valencia’s city hotels is a fantastic way to be up close to the action. The San Juan bonfire festival in Valencia is famous for its incredible firework displays which last for up to an hour and light up the night with their neon colours. The beaches of Malvarrosa and Las Arenas are favoured meeting spots by the locals and here you can see many groups of people enjoying picnics around bonfires, jumping over the flames and throwing flowers into the sea as an offering.
Party and celebrate San Joan in Ibiza
The San Juan Festival is an important date for your diary when visiting Ibiza. Beach parties, live music and bonfires make up the must-have elements for this unforgettable evening. The best place to enjoy the fun is Benirràs Beach, one of Ibiza’s top beaches, where people gather together to dance, drum and welcome the sunset with traditional rituals typical of San Juan day in Spain.
Travel to Tenerife to celebrate St Juan in Spain
Tenerife is also a fantastic place to spend the unique Spanish San Juan Festival. So, grab your swimsuit, kick off your shoes and get ready to dance the night away on the Spanish sand, saying hello to summer. If you are staying in Tenerife, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to places to celebrate. In the North of the island, locals love Las Teresitas, a golden sand beach outside the Santa Cruz city centre.
In the North of the island, locals love Las Teresitas, a golden sand beach outside the Santa Cruz city centre
Yet if you are in the south, beaches like Playa Enramada are an idyllic and tranquil spot to connect with nature and soak up the lively ambience of the evening. If you feel brave, join the locals and jump the flames or simply wash your face in the ocean to celebrate the beginning of summer.
Tenerife’s San Juan Festival celebrations finish with a bang that lights up the sky!
Experience the San Sebastian festival of San Juan
If you are travelling to San Sebastian this summer, schedule the San Juan Festival into your agenda as it is a festivity that is not to be missed. Zurriola and La Concha are the most popular beaches chosen for the celebrations. Locals and visitors alike mingle together and light bonfires, make wishes and sing songs. Jumping over the flames is a tradition that is also carried out here and it is believed to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. This ritual is followed by consuming traditional San Juan cakes and txakoli, a sparkling white wine from the Basque Country.
Head to Almeria to enjoy the St Juan Festival in Spain
If you are looking for a unique way to celebrate the San Juan Festival, head to Andalusia and check into one of Almeria’s top hotels and hit the beach. The top choices are Playa del Zapillo, Playa de la Garrofa, and Playa de San Miguel thanks to their proximity to the city centre. Here, as night falls the beaches are transformed into a lively, open-air party with music, dancing and fireworks. Yet what makes Almeria unique is their tradition of the "Battle of the Flowers'' where people throw flowers at each other, which is believed to bring good luck and happiness.
The “Bathing of the Goats” is also another popular tradition during the San Juan Festival in Almeria. People bring their pet goats to the beach and bathe them in the sea at midnight, believing it brings good luck and protection for the coming year. So, as you can see, Spain’s San Juan celebrations really are a great way to start the summer.