Barcelona loves Summer celebrations. The annual Gracia Festival is, together with La Mercè Festival in September, one of the main ones of the city. Every August, the streets of this charming neighbourhood change colour and it welcomes visitors to its delightful squares. This year it will take place from the 15th to the 21st of August (dates for 2016. Dates and programme for this year available in July 2017) I have summarized the best of the Gracia Festival 2016 so you can stop researching and enjoy the celebration.
- 1 Gracia Festival 2016: top 5 things to do
- 1.1 Walk through the decorated streets
- 1.2 Enjoy the liveliness of the street parades
- 1.3 Marvel at the human towers (“castells”)
- 1.4 Brave the firerun (“correfoc”)
- 1.5 Dance the night away at the many live concerts
- 2 …and to not miss anything of the Gracia Festival
Gracia Festival 2016: top 5 things to do
There are way too many things to do in Gracia during the festival: you can join a parade, watch modern dance, listen to some rock band or even participate in a treasure hunt. The best way to enjoy it is by strolling around and being surprised at every corner. However, there are some activities you definitely shouldn’t miss.
Walk through the decorated streets
The one thing that sets the Gracia Festival apart from any other in Barcelona is its decorated streets. For months, the neighbours spend hours preparing these wonderful creations made with recycled elements. You can see a giant dinosaur, enter the world of Alice in Wonderland or just travel to an underwater paradise. Want to know what they have prepared for us in 2016? You can download this map showing where every decorated street will be. Prepare your own route and tell us which one is your favourite this year.
Don’t focus only on the streets. There is also a competition for the best decorated balcony! It is the turn for each neighbour to display their imagination.
OUR TIP: visit the streets at twilight (when the lights of the decorations are turned on) and early in the festival as, unfortunately, some of the creations will be damaged after the long rowdy nights.
When and where:
- The street decorations will be ready on the 15th of August but the neighbours will be working outdoors for a few days beforehand. Even if you are not here during the actual Gracia Festival, it is always worth it to visit and see the work in progress
Enjoy the liveliness of the street parades
You can find parades anywhere in the world but in Catalonia they are something special. Here you will see giant figures, people with big heads, dancers with sticks, dragons, devils and blunderbuss firing. These are the “gegants”, “capgrossos”, bastoners”, “dragóns”, “demonis” and “trabucaires” that can not be missed on any Barcelona festivity. During the Gracia Festival there are 5 parades to choose from.
OUR TIP: the one parade you shouldn’t miss is the “Cercavila de Cultura Popular”, on the first day. Here is where you will see all the different characters, from the giants to the noisy “trabucaires”.
When and where:
- Matí de Festa Major: Monday 15th at 1pm (Plaça de la Vila de Gracia)
- Cercavila de Cultura Popular: Monday 15th at 6pm
Route: Santa Ageda, Gran de Gràcia, Travessera de Gràcia, Torrent del’Olla, Diluvio and Plaça de la Vila de Gracia
- Cercavila de Sant Roc: Tuesday 16th at 10.30am (Plaça de la Vila de Gracia)
- Diada de les Colles de Cultura de Gracia: Wednesday 17th at 7.45pm (Plaça de la Vila de Gracia)
- Giants Parade through the decorated streets: Sunday 21st from 10am to 2pm
Route: Plaça de la Vila de Gracia, Martínez de la Rosa, Bonavista, Peligro, Luis Vives, Libertad, Fraternidad de abajo, Fraternidad de arriba, Tordera, Progreso, Libertad, Milà i Fontanals, Siracusa, Plaça del Poble Romaní, Milà i Fontanals, Puigmartí, Penedès and Plaça de la Vila de Gracia
Marvel at the human towers (“castells”)
This is one of the main events of the Gràcia Festival and a world-famous Catalan tradition. Groups of very dedicated people will climb on top of each other to form a human structure known here as “castell” or human tower. The brave participants are called “castellers”. Although the main day is on Saturday (including “castellers” from other areas), you can see training on the main square for some evenings beforehand.
There are many different types of human towers depending on the height, number of people on each floor or even the way that it is constructed. But I am sure you won’t expect them to also walk. This is exactly what will happen in the Gracia Festival on Friday. The “pilar caminant” (literally, walking column) is formed by 4 “castellers” on top of each other plus a supporting base of people. Together they form a column that walks from one square to the next.
OUR TIP: if you want a very close experience, arrive early and hang around the “castellers”. You might be asked to help pushing and help a bit on the building process.
When and where:
- Main human towers Day: Saturday 20th at 6pm (Plaça de la Vila de Gracia)
- Walking column (“pilar caminant”): Friday 19th at 7.30pm (Plaça del Sol to Plaça de la Vila de Gracia)
- Castellers de la Vila de Gracia tests: Sunday 14th, Tuesday 16th & Thursday 18th at 8pm (Plaça de la Vila de Gracia)
Brave the firerun (“correfoc”)
This is one of the staples in any big Barcelona festival. Dozens of people dressed as devils will take their huge papier-mâché dragons out and parade them around the streets. What makes the event more spectacular is that sparkling fireworks are thrown on the air and towards the crowd by the devils. If you like noise and fire, this is one that you can’t miss.
Are you travelling with children? I am sure they will love the firerun but, for the younger ones, there is also a Children’s “correfoc”, not so… challenging.
OUR TIP: if you are going to be close to the “correfoc”, wear cotton clothes and be sure you don’t mind being “sparkled” a bit.
When and where:
- Adult “correfoc”: Sunday 21st from 9.30pm to 11.15pm
Route: Plaça Trilla, Gran de Gràcia, Maurici Serrahima, Torrent de l’Olla, Bellver, Plaça del Norte, Verntallat, Rubí, Torrent d’en Vidalet, Teruel, Torrent de l’Olla, Diluvio and Plaça de la Vila de Gracia
- Children “correfoc”: Sunday 21st from 6.30pm to 7.30pm
Route: Plaça del Diamant, Astúries, Plaça Virreina, Astúries, Torrent d’en Vidalet, Terol, Torrent de l’Olla, Diluvi and Plaça Vila de Gracia
Dance the night away at the many live concerts
Most of the decorated streets and squares will have live music until late at night. There is music for every taste, from folk, rock or hip-hop to “habaneras”. This is a very Catalan tradition brought directly from Cuba and always enjoyed with a glass of burnt rum.
OUR TIP: Walk from stage to stage to check what live music you like and don’t forget to have a mojito each time to refresh in the summer Barcelona heat.
When and where:
- Everywhere, mainly at night.
…and to not miss anything of the Gracia Festival
For a day to day schedule of all the activities, you can also visit the official website of the “Festa Major de Gràcia”. In Catalan only but a good online translator will do the trick.
And to plan your visit on the go, you can download the app of the festival:
- Download the “Festa Major de Gràcia” app for ANDROID
- Download the “Festa Major de Gràcia” app for I-PHONE
I hope that, if you are lucky enough to visit Barcelona on these dates, you enjoy this very special activity. Don’t forget that our scheduled walking tours are not affected by the festival and they will be running every day. Have a fantastic time!
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