Half a century of the most thrilling pyrotechnic shows
Blanes, a town that buzzes all year round, is the home of one of Europe’s leading fireworks festivals
Millions of eyes look to the heavens as cameras and mobile phones capture the Blanes night sky lit up by the majestic fireworks set off from Sa Palomera, the iconic rock that juts from the Mediterranean Sea. It’s one of those unforgettable nights at the end of July when visitors flock to this stunning setting to enjoy one of the most thrilling and unmissable fireworks shows in Europe, the celebration of a century-old pyrotechnic tradition.
Blanes, where the exceptional coves of the Costa Brava begin, boasts an endless list of inviting spots. The town’s generous climate will make you feel privileged to be here as you enjoy the peace and calm, and the chance to switch off and explore an extraordinary natural setting. This oasis of peace is lit up from the sky for one week of the year, its skyline outlined by millions of colourful twinkles, accompanied by festive explosions. The Blanes International Fireworks Competition is one of Europe’s leading pyrotechnic festivals, a very special way to showcase the Mediterranean character of the people of Blanes, a lively, dynamic town that takes great pride in this wonderful show.
Although the tradition is more than a century old, the international format of the competition through which it has gained its fame dates back 50 years. To understand how the Blanes International Fireworks Competition came into being, you have to picture the early 1970s, when this town was riding the crest of the Costa Brava tourism wave. In 1971, the suggestion was made to use the occasion of the town’s Festa Major (Main Festival), held at the end of July, to promote one of its most special events: the fireworks display, which until then had been a more traditional affair, with no aspirations for international fame.
That year constituted a test run. A pyrotechnic company from Valencia was hired to produce a much grander spectacle than usual. Unsurprisingly, it was a roaring success, bringing in a huge crowd and proving hugely popular with the local population. This was the birth of the major event we know today.
The first documented fireworks display
The enormous success of the event today has been built on Blanes’ longstanding fireworks tradition. In fact, the earliest references to pyrotechnics in the town date back to well over a century ago, to 1891 to be exact. Thanks to the many articles published in the press, we can imagine the wonderful atmosphere created by those celebrations.
The evolution of the pyrotechnic show seemed unstoppable, until it was interrupted by force majeure in 1936, in the terrible form of the Spanish Civil War. Eight years of darkness ensued. Then, in 1944, Blanes revived its pyrotechnic tradition as part of its Festa Major celebrations, on the occasion of the feast day of the town’s patron saint, Santa Anna, and fireworks displays have been held interruptedly ever since.
Heritage and pride of the citizens of Blanes
Blanes is a city of fireworks and festivities. Its people are Mediterranean, joyful and not shy about showing their pride in an enticing year-round calendar of festivals and events, which reaches its zenith at the end of July. That is when the town dresses up to the nines and celebrates the Costa Brava International Fireworks Competition, the festival of light, colour and smoke that everyone talks about.
Sa Palomera Rock, the emblematic gateway to the Costa Brava and steadfast guardian of Blanes Bay, is the point from where all the pyrotechnic artillery is launched, the place from which millions of rockets have been fired up into the sky. As one might expect, the format of the event has altered over the course of its 50-year history.
A constantly evolving international competition
Over the years, the quality of the shows has improved, while the prestige obtained by the pyrotechnic companies that win first prize has grown. In 1996, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the competition, the number of competing pyrotechnic companies was increased and the event was extended to five days. As the size of the event grew, so did its popularity across Europe and the recognition from pyrotechnic companies around the world, who have seen Blanes as the ideal setting in which to showcase their creativity. The competitive spirit of the participating companies, all eager to get their hands on the Town of Blanes trophy, has made the competition one of the continent’s leading pyrotechnic spectacles.
One million spectators every year
It’s calculated that around one million people (yes, one million!) visit Blanes every year to see these fireworks displays. These figures make the competition one of the most well attended events in Catalonia, approaching the popularity of Spain’s most important festivities, such as the San Fermines festival in Pamplona or the Fallas festival in Valencia.
It goes without saying that a major event like this one, with pyrotechnic elements and thousands of spectators every day, has complex security measures in place. A comprehensive, detailed safety plan is drawn up every year involving the fire service, police forces and healthcare professionals.
State-of-the-art technology ready for launch
Around 20 frenzied minutes of explosions, multi-layered displays, cascades of light and thunderous noise require very complex planning. Each fireworks display involves the use of around 1,200 kilos of pyrotechnic material, distributed over a launch area of close to 4,000 m2 next to Sa Palomera Rock. With all the elements set in exactly the right place, when night falls, the technology and skill of the programmers take over in order to turn gunpowder into pure spectacle. The launching process is fully electronic; the sequences are controlled by computer from the control cabin, located close to the launch platform.
Meanwhile, thousands of people congregate on the beach and seafront to enjoy the sky and the sea lit up by fireworks.
Many visitors have discovered Blanes through its International Fireworks Competition, but whatever time of year you decide to come and explore this town, the jewel of the Costa Brava, you’ll be drawn in immediately by the aroma of its botanic and tropical gardens, when you feel the Mediterranean on your skin.
Blanes is a pioneering family holiday destination. When various generations of the same family choose Blanes for their holiday, it’s because they feel at home here. Throughout its history as a tourist destination, the town has stood out for the warm welcome it gives to families in search of activities, amenities and services suitable for all ages. And this effort has been recognised, since Blanes was the first Costa Brava destination to be awarded the Family Tourism Destination certification of the Government of Catalonia. Every year, visitors get to enjoy the high quality and variety offered by the destination in terms of accommodation, leisure, beaches and culture, etc. You’ll find everything you need for a family holiday as you discover the authentic Mediterranean spirit of this historical seaside town.
There are all sorts of places to have fun, starting with the beach, where plenty of water activities for children are available, before moving on to the playgrounds on the seafront promenade, which is one of the top spots in the town for strolling, running, cycling or simply sitting down on a terrace to enjoy a refreshment.
Blanes boasts an extensive offering of activities and leisure options, with something for everyone, ensuring that every visitor can get the most out of their stay and enjoy an authentic, unforgettable holiday. Beaches, Mediterranean gardens, tourist boat trips, water and active tourism activities, skittles, go-karting, ice cream parlours, afternoons at the cinema or strolls along coastal footpaths, trekking, gastronomy, playgrounds… What more could you ask for?
How about some more action and sports activity? Well, you’re in luck there as well.
The fact is that in addition to being a world-famous tourist destination, Blanes also welcomes a large number of visitors who come to the town for sporting reasons. Blanes boasts fabulous facilities for a wide range of sports and devotes special attention to healthcare services and sports medicine. On top of this, you’ll find an array of specialised sports equipment shops and an ideal climate for training and competing throughout the year. Thanks to all of this, Blanes has been certified by the Government of Catalonia as a Sports Tourism Destination, which means that it’s accredited as an ideal town for enjoying all sorts of sports.
The jewel in the crown of Blanes’ multi-sports offering is this top-class 40,000 m2 municipal facility, which caters for all indoor court sports: basketball, handball, hockey, skating, indoor football, rhythmic and sports gymnastics, badminton, dancesport, twirling, martial arts, tennis, volleyball, instructor-led activities, chess...
The building is split into four floors, thanks to which it can accommodate not only indoor sports but also artistic, social, cultural and corporate events, such as concerts, congresses and festivals, etc. What’s more, it has a covered car park with a capacity for 360 vehicles. The Sports City also has specialised rooms for small groups of sportspeople, in which instructor-led activities are held, such as steps, aerobics, yoga fit and pilates, etc.
The great outdoors, where the best training sessions take place
Blanes is a superb active tourism destination with a stunning natural setting in which to enjoy outdoor sports. The town’s attractions haven’t gone unnoticed by the organisers of various events in the international sporting calendar, such as races, tournaments and triathlons, who’ve discovered that Blanes is an ideal place for staging major sports events.
The destination specialises in running. The Blanes Running Centre, housed in the Sports City, offers runners all the services they could need, such as maps with running routes, showers, a clothes locker service and a bench for cleaning running shoes.
In order to bring the various races held throughout the year under the same umbrella, the Blanes X Runners (Blanes for Runners) calendar has been created. It includes competitive events with different routes, along with fun runs, climbs, mountain races and aquathlon events.
There are several signposted routes in Blanes, along with two Grans Camins de l'Aigua (Great Water Trails) of 8 and 18 km, respectively. In the surroundings of Blanes, various mountain biking routes have been designed, along with three road cycling routes.
In recent years, several routes of between 7 and 20 km long in the natural areas of Blanes have been designed for running, walking or Nordic walking, along with a coastal footpath.
Apart from being a great sporting activity, cycling also adds to our personal wellbeing and quality of life, as well as being an indicator of excellence of the area. Blanes has shown the vision to use its extensive network of secondary roads and the famed mountain passes of the area in order to design a set of cycling routes set in a perfect landscape for enjoying this sport to the full.
Blanes also stands out for its water sports. Thanks to its moderate climate, you can enjoy the sea all year round, and in a very active way. Whether you prefer more relaxing pursuits or something more adventurous, there are plenty of specialised companies that offer water activities and services for all age groups, such as sailing courses, kayaking, SUP boarding, windsurfing, diving, sport fishing and snorkelling. There are also a wide variety of options for hiring boats with or without a skipper and boat trips.
Another traditional event that takes place in Blanes is the historical swim across the port, which has been bringing swimmers to the Blanes coast for more than 70 years.
Blanes is a lively, buzzing town 365 days a year, offering a wide variety of cultural, leisure, gastronomic and sports activities for all sorts of visitors. Its capacity to adapt to changing times, without forgetting its origins and its way of making visitors feel at home have made Blanes a dynamic and modern town.
That’s why we recommend strolling around its historical centre. You’ll be surprised by its bustling streets and busy shops, and you’ll be able to explore the historical legacy of a town that originally comprised no more than a set of small, white houses inhabited by fishermen.
To get a clear idea of how big the town is today, climb to the top of Sant Joan Mountain, where the ruins of the ancient castle and the chapel stand, dating from the 11th and the 15th century, respectively. It’s an exceptional vantage point that offers a panoramic view of Blanes and the southern part of the Costa Brava. It’s also a place that has inspired many artists.
This is one of the best ways to feel that you form part of the thousand-year history of Blanes, gateway to the Costa Brava. You’ll be drawn in by a past that still makes its presence felt today in buildings, gardens and landmark monuments, with routes that will transport you to different periods.
You’ll discover that Blanes is an authentic natural open-air museum. Delve into this natural heritage that stands out for the romanticism of its gardens, endless beaches and exceptional vantage points over the Costa Brava. The town boasts two of the most spectacular gardens in the Mediterranean region, world-renowned jewels and must-see attractions: the Marimurtra Botanic Garden and the Pinya de Rosa Tropical Garden. The former, created almost 100 years ago, is a large garden devoted to the plant kingdom, with more than 4,000 species, while the latter is a spectacular tropical garden that is home to one of the most interesting and plentiful cacti populations in Europe, with more than 7,000 species from all over the planet.
When you visit us, you’ll see that in Blanes we live facing the Mediterranean Sea, a sea that forms an essential part of our character, a sea to be contemplated and enjoyed to the full. We’re lucky to be able to make the most of it all year round and we’re delighted to offer different ways to make you feel it’s yours as well when you visit us.
Blanes boasts four kilometres of coastline, where small, enticing coves alternate with superb, sweeping beaches that offer all the services you need to spend a lovely day on the beach, enjoying all sorts of sports, both in the water and on the sand.
Every day, Blanes’ fishermen offer us gifts from the sea. And, every day, the farmers of the Tordera area bring us fresh produce from the land. So it’s easy to offer the best of both worlds and stimulate the creativity of our food outlets and restaurants. Fruit and vegetables, signature pastries, super fresh fish and seafood, wines, cavas and craft beers… Blanes is a market that’s open all year round, complemented by a rich and varied gastronomic offering. Within the town’s wide range of restaurants, you’ll find dishes to suit every palate, served in premises that combine tradition, modernity and signature cuisine.
So you can see that Blanes is an active town with facilities and services synonymous with a first-rate tourist destination. Add to this its excellent tourist accommodation, in the form of high-quality hotels, campsites and apartments, along with a superb gastronomic, commercial and leisure offering, and what you get is one of the Costa Brava’s leading tourist destinations.