How To Spend Halloween In Barcelona

El bes de la mort – Poblenou Cemetery
El bes de la mort – Poblenou Cemetery | © Ferran Pestaña
Tara Jessop

Traditionally a celebration of the dead coinciding with All Saint’s Day on November 1st, in many countries today Halloween has become a celebration of all things ghastly and terrifying. Here in Barcelona, there’s a perfect balance between traditional and modern, as festivities such as the castanyada run alongside lively themed parties in clubs and bars around the city.

The Traditional Celebration

It’s a well-known fact that Halloween with its trick-or-treating, spooky costumes, and ghastly parties is a mostly American export which has become increasingly popular in Europe over the past few years. Here in Barcelona, this modern celebration of Halloween combines with more traditional celebrations of All Saint’s Day, including the very local celebration of the castanyada – a festivity including roast chestnuts and small marzipan cakes. The best way to make the most of halloween in Barcelona is to dabble in both the old and the new, as many young people are accustomed to doing nowadays.

Chestnuts

All Saint’s Day

The 1st of November, also known as All Saint’s Day, is a bank holiday here in Spain, and it’s traditional for family members to visit the resting places of dead relatives to lay flowers and pay tribute to their lost ones. This is a day for remembering those who are no more and showing respect to the cycles of life and death. Why not take a walk though one of Barcelona’s cemeteries or better yet, pay a visit to the Museum of Funeral Carriages to see how locals have made their way to their final resting place over the years. The 1st of November also marks the traditional start of the castanyada celebration, the feast that includes roast chestnuts, marzipan cakes, and a sweet wine known as moscatell. Legend has it that in ancient times mourners would wake on the eve of All Saint’s Day to pay respect to their dead, and to help stay awake throughout the night they would eat roast chestnuts for energy and warmth. Soon the tradition developed, and in addition to roast chestnut sellers, cafés and bars would organize raffles offering small marzipan cakes as a prize.

The Poblenou Cemetery

The Parties

One of the most popular ways to celebrate Halloween in Barcelona, especially with the younger crowd, is to head to where the best themed parties are taking place. In recent years, locals have really acquired the taste for fancy dress, and the costumes have become ever creepier and scarier. While trick-or-treating does take place in some parts of town, it’s very much reserved for children and is not as common as in the USA or UK. Instead those looking to partake in the Halloween party spirit tend to gather in clubs or house parties. In the city center, the area around MACBA – especially the bars on Carrer Joaquim Costa – are a great place to head if you want to be able to wander around from bar to bar. If, however, what you’re looking for is for a mega-party, check out the program at one of the major nightclubs such as Razzmatazz or Apolo, or head to the strip of bars and clubs by the Port Olympic – there you’ll find Pacha and the Ice Bar.

The angel of death

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