Although autumnal days are drawing closing, the summer of partying hasn’t quite finished yet. From the 21st – 24th September, Barcelona celebrates the “daddy” of Festes Majors, La Mercè, uniting each neighbour of the city and attracting talent and tradition from all over Catalunya.
What’s it all about? La Mercè started life as a holiday to honour Our Lady of Mercy, who, according to legend, appeared simultaneously before King Jaume I, Saint Pere Nolasc and Saint Ramón de Penyafort on 24th September 1218. She asked each of the them to create an order of monks to liberate imprisoned Christians.
But, isn’t it just a big party? In short, yes. With hundreds of events taking place over these few days, it is a huge celebration and, more importantly, mostly free! That’s anti-crisis prices for you (I see that term everywhere in Barcelona that I’m not sure if it even makes sense in English anymore. I’m leaning towards a “no”)
What to see
BAM (Barcelona Acció Musical) brings a bucketload of musicians to the city for free! Several venues across Barcelona are hosting live music from the likes of Doble Pletina, La Iaia, Black Dice, The Dream Syndicate, Howlin Rain, The Kooks and many more. See the program for full details.
Sardanes – For those of you who prefer to keep things a bit calmer, don’t miss the traditional Catalan dance, la Sardana. The dance can be seen at avinguda de la Catedral on Friday at 19.00 or Sunday at 11.00.
la Sagrada Família – Every year a guest city is invited to participate in the festivities. This year, Barcelona and guest city Montreal have collaborated with the creative folks at Moment Factory to transform the Sagrada Família with a multimedia illumination spectacular. The 15 minute illumination will take place on Friday 21st – Sunday 23rd at 21.00, 22.00, 23.00 and 24.00. Here’s a little preview.
Diada castellera – Perhaps the most impressive display of human castle building of the year will take place on Sunday 23rd at 12.00 in Plaça de Sant Jaume. Castells are a Catalan tradition that have been classified by UNESCO as part of “intangible heritage of humanity”. If that isn’t a good enough reason to go and see them in action, have a look at this video from last year. The plaça will be very busy so try and get there early to secure a good viewing point! Remember to be respectful towards castellers and be quiet whilst they are constructing the castle.
El Correfoc – or, the fire-run in English, is a serious pyrotechnic event and definitely not for the fainthearted! Beginning at 20.30 on Sunday on Via Laietana, the Correfoc is a wild procession of devils and demons bearing forks with Catherine-wheel style fireworks. As the devils dance down Via Laietana, the crowd gets sprayed with a shower of sparks so sensible clothing is necessary. It’s not a time for vest-tops and flip flops! There’s a scaled down event for children slightly earlier at 18.30.
Piromusical – The grand finale to the festival is an epic firework display set to music and the enchanting waters of the Font Màgica (magic fountain) on Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina (just by metro stop Espanya). I generally feel a little bit bored by fireworks after a few minutes but last year I was blown away by this display. This year the Piromusical will celebrate the 20 year anniversary of the Barcelona Olympic games and it is sure to send the festivities off with a bang!
These are just a few highlights. Many, many more events are taking place over the weekend. Have a look at the full program for details: http://merce.bcn.cat/en