European Balloon Festival takes to the skies over Barcelona

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Just like fireworks, hot air balloons are a timeless airborne spectacle that audiences across the world never tire of, even centuries after Europeans first conquered gravity with the help of air propulsion. Today, balloon festivals are major crowd-pullers across the globe, with Europe's largest and most famous being in the Spanish municipality of Igualada, Barcelona.

Taking place over four days, from Thursday 8 to Sunday 11 July 2010, the landmark festival features a wide selection of events both on and above the ground, as around 25,000 spectators flock to Igualada to witness competitive balloon races, graceful airborne displays and other festival events, such as market stalls and the chance to sample local Catalonian cuisine.

Visitors of all ages will find much to appeal at the European Balloon Festival, whether attending for a single day or the whole duration. Although the balloon flights typically take place in the early morning and late afternoon to benefit from ideal weather conditions, visitors don't have to head back to their rooms when the sun sets - especially with recreational night glow balloons tethered to the ground complementing colourful fireworks displays.

Naturally, many people will head to the event in the hope of taking to the skies themselves, and balloon rides are available - as long as fliers book in advance. Places are scarce and interest is understandably high, but those who book their rides early can experience the exhilarating feeling of soaring through the clear Spanish skies at the height of summer, in the time-honoured fashion.

The European Balloon Festival is just one of the exciting free festivals coming to Barcelona this summer, allowing holidaymakers to enjoy an active Spanish break without breaking the bank. July also sees the Barcelona Festival of Song showcasing the talents of performers from around the world, in high-profile events held at such significant venues as Ateneu Barcelons and the Residncia d'Investigadors in the artistic city. Not only will Spanish performers demonstrate their skills, but musicians from across the Spanish world will bring a flamenco flavour to the proceedings, beginning each night at 8.30pm.

For those taking their flights to Barcelona later in the summer, the Sants Festa Major brings the summer party atmosphere into the streets of the city's Montjuc district. Whenever you're thinking of heading to the Catalonian capital, you can be sure of an eventful visit in a city steeped in unique history and traditions.

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