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Embrace the joyous chaos of La Mercè, Barcelona’s four-day street festival at the end of September every year, when partygoers can experience hundreds of artistic gems from mind-(and body)-bending circus acts to incredible live music performances. Day and night, the streets reverberate with a jamboree of colour and sound.
Locals and visitors alike love to immerse themselves in this wild Catalonian arts festival with a 200-year-old history, with around two million people visiting Barcelona during La Mercè each year, and thousands of talented artists from Spain and around the world taking part.
Each year, a special guest city is given a place of honour in the festivities, as diverse as Dakar, Montreal, Buenos Aires and Reykjavik, further adding to the fusion of La Mercè’s folk culture, international flavour, and impressive line-up of modern entertainment. And best of all, the concerts and street performances are free of charge.
Dance and street theatre extravaganzas
People get their bodies moving during La Mercè—named for the Patron Saint of Barcelona, the Virgin of Mercy—in lots of different ways. The famous Castellers go straight up, building human towers in the Plaça de Sant Jaume; entertainers don enormous costumes with papier-mâché effigy heads (capgrossos) resembling royalty and other famous figures for the Gigantes Parade, and street venues throughout the city showcase innovative, cutting-edge theatre and dance.
Acrobatic acts, dance troupes, Catalonian Sardana folk dancers (holding hands and hopping around in circles), theatre companies and visual artists (both traditional and modern) stage performances in neighbourhoods across the city. To see what’s on offer in this part of La Mercè’s imaginative programme, check out Mercè Arts de Carrer, the driving force behind an amazing mélange of the arts. Some acts are rooted in festival traditions; others vary from year to year, but Barcelona’s Festa Major promises a near-overwhelming barrage of spectacle, vibrant design and frenetic movement.
Fire and music
On the musical side of the celebration, Barcelona Acció Musical puts on a killer independent music festival, ranging from traditional artists to pop and rock performers, delivering sonic displays on stages around the city.
You’ll also hear plenty of noise from the Grallers (pipe players) and the Trabucaires (folks who fire blanks out of their trabuc blunderbusses), as they wander the city streets, contributing to the general symphony of sound.
If you love pyrotechnics, the Correfoc won’t disappoint. Revellers dressed up as fiery creatures from dragons to devils zigzag around the streets and squares with sparklers and fireworks in their hands. It’s a truly dazzling sight to behold, (although probably best avoided if you suffer from pyrophobia).
Stay at the Hotel Indigo Barcelona – Plaza Catalunya and enjoy the festivities over the four days. With such a spectacular array of creative performances to enjoy, La Mercè is likely to enthral even the hard-to-please and leave you wondering what you missed. All the more reason to return, year after jubilant year.