Sonar Festival: Sounds of Summer

Get ready kids for the big one. Sonar Festival is Barcelona's biggest and best contemporary music event, and one of the city's bona fide highlights of the cultural calendar. Dubbing itself 'the international advanced music and multimedia art festival' (translation: rave up), Sonar brings the very best of electronic music to Barcelona, for three days every year in June.

The inaugural event took place in 1994, and since then the festival has blown up in terms of popularity and international acclaim. Amongst the legendary artists that have taken to the stage/decks/laptops are Orbital, Chemical Brothers, Kraftwerk, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Bjork, Pet Shop Boys and (in an unannouced appearance in 2006) the Scissor Sisters. Despite the appearance of these giants, Sonar is as much about new and relevant music, and the mainstay of each year's programme is given over to quality acts, that may not be household names, but most musos would give their right arm to hear play - think Four Tet, Justice, Hercules & Love Affair and Richie Hawtin. Then of course there's plenty of scope given to local bands and artists whose talent merits a much wider audience - Cabo San Roque and The Pinker Tones spring to mind!

Above: Things get blurry at the Sonar Village by day

Sonar by Day

The action is split temporally and geographically into Sonar by Day and Sonar by Night. For 19 years Sonar by Day took place right in the heart of the Raval district in the open and enclosed spaces around MACBA museum and the CCCB, however in 2013 the organiser announced they are moving the daytime shows to Fira Montjuic, just by Placa Espanya. The main advantages of the new venue being a lot more space, and the fact that is now a fair bit closer to Sonar By Night as well! The new space will still be a mix of outdoor and indoor areas. Although the big names tend to be reserved for the night time shows, the vibe during the day fantastic with a good-looking crowd in hipster threads sipping mojitos and cheering on the DJs who play at the Sonar Village and other stages.

Sonar by Night

By night things get eveb more raucous. A chemically enhanced crowd make their way to the Fira Gran Via, a vast state-of-the-art exhibition centre in the suburb of LíHospitalet de Llobregat. Here the venue is split into three major zones, Sonar Park, Sonar Pub and Sonar Club covering a whopping 100,000 metres squared. Safe to say that if you like electronic music, and you like raving, you're gonna have a good time.

Meanwhile special concerts, with separate ticketing also take place during the festival at the L'Auditori.

Getting to Sonar

Getting to Sonar by Day presents no problems. Simply hop on the green or red line of the metro to Placa Espanya and from there the pounding beats and a chain of fashion-conscious music freaks should signpost the way. Two Venetian style towers are a handy landmark. Getting to Sonar by Night requires a little bit of effort, but thanks to the organisers throwing on a regular bus service from the city centre is still a cinch. Sonar Bus leaves from Placa de les Drassanes near the bottom of Las Ramblas (metro: Drassanes) and shuttles uninterruptedly Friday and Saturday from 8:30pm to 8am. For more transport options and info head to the relevant page on the official site.

Buying Tickets for Sonar

There are three Sonar By Day events and two Sonar by nights, and a ticket to all costs, as of 2013, 175 euros. (Nb. each year you can save a few pennies by buying in advance... usually before mid-February). You can also buy separate tickets to each day and night event, at 40 and 66 euros respectively, or a two-night ticket for 115 euros. The official site has more ticketing info, including up to date prices and official list of online vendors.

Sonar Accommodation

Accommodation is not hard to come by in Barcelona, although you won't be getting any discounts during Sonar weekend. Check out our Sleep section for a wide variety of Barcelona accommodation and hotels, or head straight to our apartments or hostels page if you're decided on what type of digs suit you best already.

Sonar 2013

The line up for 2013 looks sexier than ever with the Teutonic godfathers of electronic music, Kraftwerk, returning to the festival once more to headline, alongside pioneering British pop duo Pet Shop Boys, dubstep guru Skrillex and electro-maestro Paul Kalkbrenner. Justice, Soulwax, Diplo, Laurent Garnier, Two Door Cinema Club and Major Lazer are amongst the other big names. Of course there's plenty of lesser known, but equally great acts, playing such as Breakbot, Gluteus Maximus and Fantastic Mr. Fox, plus they will also be celebrating the 10th anniversary of legenary Paris record label Ed Banger records. Full programme on the official site!

Sonar 2012

Right, who's up for 2012? New Order, The Roots, Deadmau5, Hot Chip, Modeselektor, James Blake, Fatboy Slim, Richie Hawtin, Amon Tobinís ISAM, Squarepusher, Nicolas Jaar, Luciano, Azari & III, Jacques Lu Cont, Friendly Fires, Metronomy, John Talabot, Mouse On Mars, Simian Mobile Disco, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, James Murphy and more!

Sonar 2011

There's never a quiet year at Sonar and 2011 is no exception with plenty of familiar names and faces to get musos salivating and counting down the days 'til June. Here are a just few of the acts we're excited about: James Murphy, Cut Copy, Trentemoller, Aphex Twin, The Human League, Magnetic Man and Shackleton... the rest you can read up about you know where: 2011.sonar.es.

Sonar 2010

So what's the story in 2010? Well the dates for the diary are June 17th, 18th and 19th and confirmed headliners so far include Chemical Brothers, Air, LCD Soundsystem and UK rap superstar Dizzee Rascal. Should be bonkers! What's more, for the first time in Sonar history there will be a concurrent event running in 2010 named Sonar Galicia, taking place in A Coruna (still waiting for more on that one!). No doubt there will be plenty more announcements to be made on the line-up as June gets nearer, so keep an eye on our news, Facebook and Twitter pages for the latest info.

Naturally Sonar's official webpage - www.sonar.es - is a handy resource for all your festival-related questions too! (Hint: you can switch to English at bottom right hand of page).

And finally...

Off Sonar/Anti-Sonar

Tickets to Sonar Festival are considered quite pricey for many of the city's residents so perhaps it's no surprise that virtually all the bars and clubs in Barcelona will attempt to cash in on the Sonar vibe by throwing parties of their own - some in the spirit of Sonar with cutting edge house and electro DJs... others not. Invariably there will also be a number of cheap raves, beach parties, fringe events and other shindigs, so keep your eyes out for posters and flyers around town. Right through the week leading up to Sonar things will be kicking off! The biggest unofficial event is called Anti-Sonar, although we've heard mixed things about it... go with locals if you wanna check it out. Users may post parties in the comments below.

Ok, due to popular request we're also bringing you a guide to all the Off Sonar parties!

add your comments

hello! Do you know where it is possible to find the official sÚnar bus route (to travel between Fira Montjuic and Fira Gran Via), and its timetable?

reviewed by Eugenio from Italy on Jun.03.2017

can anyone tell me a good hostel and cheap to stay in near the festival?

reviewed by Nicola Scullion from United Kingdom on Apr.14.2016

can anyone tell me a good hostel and cheap to stay in near the festival?

reviewed by Nicola Scullion from United Kingdom on Apr.14.2016

Hello. Can anyone tell me if you can buy tickets for the 'off sonar' parties on the door? I've made a last minute decision that I want to come but all the tickets are sold out on resident advisor so i don't want to fly over if I won't be able to get in anywhere

reviewed by rachel peel from United Kingdom on Jun.03.2013

Hi! Is it someone who knows how I can get a sons 3- day pass now? Do someone know if itīs people outside who sell them?

reviewed by Nino from Sweden on Jun.12.2012

Hi Colin. Check out these apartment providers and search for a flat in Raval area for Sonar by Day... www.barcelona-life.com/barcelona/apartments Sonar by Night takes place a little way out of town. Best way to get there is by train from Placa Espanya if my memory serves right. Placa Espanya is not that far from Raval. Avoid areas of Born and Barceloneta which are cool but wrong side of the city for you!

reviewed by Editor from Spain on Feb.10.2012

Sonar 1st timer...

Any accommodation tips?

reviewed by Colin from United Kingdom on Feb.09.2012

Can't wait for Cut Copy and Magnetic Man!

reviewed by Anna from United States on May.25.2011

We hosting a party for Off Sonar @ club Mondo Djs >> Joshua Iz, Coyu , GIOM , Rhythm Plate , Tres Manos, Steve Ferrand, Pete Dafeet, Luke McKeenen
& more... best way to wrap up Sonar!!
http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=102997346415286&ref=ts

reviewed by katia from United Kingdom on May.27.2010

Can't wait for Sonar 2010! Already booked my tickets. I LOVE the Chemical Brothers

reviewed by Karina from United States on Apr.12.2010