The weather is gorgeous and there is a feeling of festivity in the air. From the 21st to the 24th of September we are celebrating La Mercè 2018, the festival of festivals in Barcelona. It is in honour of one of the patron-saints of the city: our Lady of the Mercy. All of you lucky ones to be here, don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to experience some of the best Catalan traditions.
Of course, our scheduled Barcelona Free Walking Tours will be running as usual and we will probably stumble across some of the celebrations, which makes it even more special. You can download now the English programme of La Mercè 2018 main activities to give you a taste of what you can do and see. I have also selected the ones that I think you shouldn’t miss. Check them out!
- Human towers (“castells”)
- Giants, dragons & beasts
- Fire run (“correfoc”)
- Light shows & fireworks
Human towers (“castells”)
Castells is the Catalan word for castles and castellers are the people who form this incredible human towers up to 10 floors high. Like in architecture, there are many styles of towers: with 2, 3, or 5 people on each floor, as a single individual tower… The list goes on. Silently, listen for the music during its construction. Its changing tune gives crucial information to the castellers about what stage it is at. Once the child at the top raises a hand, then you can cheer out loud. The castle has been built! The next part is to deconstruct it floor by floor. Cheer louder!
Guest “castellers” day
Without doubt, the best day to experience human towers in Barcelona. The square will be crowded and hot (bring a sun hat) but the best groups from Catalonia will be performing.
- When: Sunday 23rd (12pm)
- Where: Plaça Sant Jaume
Local “castellers” day
Barcelona, Gràcia, Sagrada Familia, Sants,… Some of the local neighbourhoods have their own group and they will be building their towers this day.
- When: Monday 24th (12.30pm)
- Where: Plaça Sant Jaume
To give you a taste of what you can experience, check out this video of La Mercè Festival where the Terrassa castellers group built (and unbuilt) an amazing 10 storeys high human towers with 3 people on each floor.
Giants, dragons & beasts
Don’t be surprised if you see some dragons and giants on the streets during the festival. This is one of the longest standing traditions of the city. The giants sometimes measure higher than 4 metres, weighting up to 63 kilos. A hot and heavy job for the person carrying it underneath its skirt. You will see kings, queens and biblical figures alongside fishermen, thieves or butchers, all representing their local neighbourhoods. The beasts and dragons are also plentiful and varied and they come alive during the “correfoc” breathing live fire. A spectacle not to be missed.
“Toc d’inici” (start of the festival)
The best way to introduce yourself to the typical dances of the giants and beasts while celebrating the start of La Mercè.
- When: Friday 21st (7.45pm)
- Where: Plaça de Sant Jaume
A totally untraditional parade with fancy dresses for the giants and fun for everyone, including the people who carry the figures.
- When: Sunday 23rd (9pm)
- Where: From Maritime Museum to Plaça Sant Jaume (route: Portal de Santa Madrona, La Rambla, Ferran, Plaça Sant Jaume)
Beasts and dragons parade
To see them breathing fire you have to go to the “correfoc” but, if you prefer a quieter experience, this is the parade for you (no bangers or fire involved).
- When: Friday 21st (10pm)
- Where: To/From Plaça Comercial (route: Plaça Comercial, Comerç, Princesa, Rec, Passeig del Born, Montcada, Sombrerers, Plaça Santa Maria del Mar, Santa Maria, Passeig del Born, Plaça Comercial)
Main giants parade
You just can’t miss the long parade of every single giant of Barcelona dancing down the medieval streets.
- When: Monday 24th (6pm)
- Where: From Carrer Pelai to Plaça Sant Jaume (route: Carrer Pelai, Plaça Catalunya, La Rambla, Carrer Ferran, Plaça Sant Jaume)
In this video you can see the Giants Parade (cavalçata de La Mercé) together with many of the traditional activities at Festes de La Mercè:
Giants, dragons and beasts exhibitions
A wonderful display of the giants and beasts of the different neighbourhoods of the city at 2 different locations.
- When: From September 19th to September 22nd (10am to 8pm)
- Where: Maritime Museum (Giants) and Plaça Comercial (Dragons and Beasts)
Fire run (“correfoc”)
Although quite a modern tradition dating from 1979, this parade has become one of the landmarks of La Mercè 2018. I am sure it would be banned in any other European country but here in Barcelona we just love the fire. The spectacle of hundreds of people dressed as devils and pushing the beasts of the city down the street is something difficult to forget. Not for the faint-hearted but definitely for the adventurous. If you want to be in the front rows, remember to wear a cotton cap and long cotton sleeves as the devils will chase you with their giant whirling sparklers. It is all part of the fun.
The main one. Full on fire, bangers, devils, dragons and beasts. Don’t miss it!
- When: Saturday 22nd (8.30pm)
- Where: Via Laietana (route: Plaça Antoni Maura – Via Laietana – Plaça Antonio López)
A little tamer than the adult one and just because children want to have fun too.
- When: Saturday 22nd (6.30pm)
- Where: Via Laietana (route: Plaça Antonio López – Via Laietana – Plaça Antoni Maura)
Light shows & fireworks
Forget the cinema in La Mercè 2018. Head towards Plaça de Sant Jaume every night and see how the façade of our city hall transforms itself into a giant screen. A quirky light projection show will delight young and old. After that, gaze to the heavens to catch some pretty spectacular fireworks down at the Barceloneta beach while enjoying a candy floss from the fair stands. The closing act of the festival also includes the Magic Fountain of Montjüic with roaring music, competing against the sound of fireworks exploding in the air. You just can not get a more dramatic end to La Mercè 2018!
Piromusical (closing act)
You can come early to get a place in front of the fountain although there is plenty of space to accommodate everyone.
- When: Monday 24th (10pm)
- Where: Av. Reina Maria Cristina
Fireworks at the beach
You will see them from everywhere at the beach. Sit on the sand and soak it all in.
- When: Friday 22nd & Saturday 23rd (10pm)
- Where: Barceloneta beach
Light projection show
- When (show every 15 minutes):
- Friday 21st (from 9.15pm to 11.45pm)
- Saturday 22nd (from 8.30pm to 11.45pm)
- Sunday 23rd (from 10.30pm to 11.45pm)
- Monday 24th (from 8.45pm to 10pm)
- Where: Façade of Barcelona’s Town Hall (Plaça Sant Jaume)
There are many other activities you can participate in. Concerts, theatre, circus,… They all have a slot during La Mercè 2018 and the best part of it is that all of it is for free. To see a list of everything that is on offer you can visit the official website of La Mercè 2018. Go on, have the time of your life!
Main photograph by PhotographYeah!