Spanish travel guide - Stripped Back Travel

Sonar Barcelona – THE place to party

Key 1: Book your accommodation as early as possible. The hostel option can be fun, and you will meet lots of people. However, for a similar price, if you are in a group it is well worth booking an apartment. After all, who doesn’t want their own party management station?

Key 2: Don’t be fooled into thinking you need a Sonar festival ticket. There is so much more to Sonar than the official arena party. Get informed.

The opportunity to hand weave your own festival, taking into consideration the labels and artists you want to hear

With Sonar 2013 crunch time looming, let us strip back the crap and give you the real lowdown on this electronic music mecca.

As Easter approaches the wiser of the rave community start to tweet, state, and yell about presales and line-ups. On one hand, there is so much going on that you could happily turn up to Barcelona with nothing. Yet, for the cheapest entries and tickets to the best parties, it is probably best to get on it early or at least have a good idea of what is about to cook.

The first thing to mention is that there are three parts to Sonar Barcelona. The first is Sonar by day – a relatively (in perspective) laid back affair, the second Sonar by night – a not-so low key affair with up to 20,000 gathering each night in some type of festival arena, and the third and by far the most interesting – Sonar off. Sonar Off consists of the main players in the electronic music industry taking the city into their own hands and putting on label parties in venues far, wide, and wonderful. This provides you disco dancers and rebel ravers with the opportunity to hand weave your own festival, taking into consideration the labels and artists you want to hear.

My 2012 experience surpassed all expectations. As I stepped off the plane and strode into Barcelona’s El Prat airport, it was obvious just why everyone had come along. A handful of bemused tourists stared in horror as Ryanair flights from Liverpool and Gatwick emptied. They gasped as 300 hipsters attacked passport control armed with booze, miniature skirt top combos, and almost certainly hiding plenty of things the Guardia Civil would rather not know about.

My highlight of 2012 has to be the W hotel party headlined by Theo Parrish, Cobblestone Jazz and Mark E. Set on an incredible terrace overlooking the rolling bay of Barceloneta, the W hotel stands out as a flagship piece of architecture on an otherwise surprisingly undeveloped piece of sea. Ibiza priced drinks, and scantily – clad girls set the scene for what is a fairly unpretentious party given the circumstances. Cobblestone jazz, a live (dj grade live that is) four-piece provided an eclectic soundtrack of percussiony synthy rhythms for the afternoon session before Mr Parrish took the reins as day turned to eve. Don’t snooze on tickets as they go, fast.

The 2020vision vs Pokerflat party down at the Boo Beach Club was also straight up good fun. Big names Ralph Lawson, Steve Bug, Deetron, Vincenzo, and Huxley all set the tone for a good boogie and shuffle. And although the dancing terrace is a bit of a squeeze, and the drinks are again overpriced, when you’ve taken a good look around and remembered your dancing outside on a Mediterranean beach, its hard to not think that life is good.

Notorious Off Sonar parties also include Half Baked, Warm & Electric Minds & Fina Records, Innervisions, plus a load of free beach parties. My advice is to keep a keen eye on the resident advisor page as well as the facebook pages of your labels to get informed.

The Saturday we went to take a look at Sonar by night. Having spent a little too long boozing we fought for a taxi for about 45 minutes before otherwise smoothly entering the venue. A space unlike any I have seen before – an urban monstrosity, twenty thousand people packed together, and fairly unappealing. Perhaps Leeds haunt Mint club has driven my need for intimate rave settings, but I really struggle to get excited about this scale of party. That said, Laurent Garnier with his L.S.B project provided a decent soundtrack to the sunrise, and Julio Bashmore rolled out some deep grooves to finish the session.

I left Sonar smiling, exhausted, and five hundred euros down. The sun, city, and beach make it such a desirable destination, and the quality and sheer spread of music on offer firmly place Sonar in the top three party destinations on this planet. Never before have I seen so many enticing musical offerings – which means only one thing… time to start saving!

Stripped Back Says…

Say YES to:

  • the beach
  • the Metro – however much it feels like you don’t have time, you do, and its worth it
  • the party planner – check your times and turn up to your parties with plenty of time – the day parties are exactly that, and so many great acts play early
  • sneaking in water – If really on a budget squeeze a few bottles down yer pants Ibiza style – even if you do get caught it was worth it.
  • Packing out the apartment – Sonar week has its own rules and even though parties are forbidden pretty much everywhere (!) its unlikely someone’s going to check there is only four of you.
  • Gaudi’s park Güell – its stunning, and otherwise embarrassing when people ask.
  • €1 street beers – what you want and when you want it… support this trade.

Say NO to:

  • Conceding to taxis as standard mode of transport – that €20 can be much better spent.
  • Being the sun burnt one.
  • Staying just the weekend – make a week of it, you flat prices wont really change and flights will probably be cheaper.
  • Turning up to sold out parties – organize and execute.
Come here if: You love house music, day parties, hot sweaty naked bodies
Don’t come here if: You’re more Magaluf than Mobilee
When? 12 – 17 June Where? Barcelona!

No official websites but you keep your finger on the pulse with


Stripped Back Travel

Spanish travel guide - Stripped Back Travel

Stripped Back An online travel guide with the superfluous stripped back.

Back to Top ↑