The middle of August marks the beginning of the biggest neighbourhood festival in Barcelona. The annual Festa Major de Gràcia begins on Wednesday August 15th through August 21st and takes place in the streets of the picturesque Gràcia area, as a celebration of the neighborhood. Although the town is best known as the home of Gaudí’s Park Güell, Gràcia typically has fewer tourists than the city centre of Barcelona, and those visiting here can often get a true sense of Catalan life in the smaller districts surrounding the city. Nevertheless, it is a very hip area with a laid-back bohemian vibe filled with students, artists, academics, and families who all come together to put on this awesome neighbourhood fiesta.
The main attraction of the Festa Major de Gràcia is a contest for the best decorated street. About 19 streets throughout the district compete to win the title, and participants take the competition very seriously, designing their alleyways in extremely elaborate fashions. Walking through the area, you will find streets dressed up in great detail, and with a different theme every year such as ‘Under-the-Sea’ and ‘Ancient Rome’, the colourful works of art that are suspended from the buildings are great sights to behold.
Everyone strives to decorate their street creatively with streamers, pictures and artworks, making it as original as possible in order to win the coveted prize of ‘Best Decorated Street’. This hard work does not go unnoticed as thousands visit the neighbourhood every year to take part in the festivities or admire the decorations. The area also comes alive with over 600 events including free workshops, activities and concerts for everyone to enjoy.
Devils, Giants, and Towers, Oh My!
The first day of the festival, August 15th, is also known as the Day of Assumption, when the Virgin Mary’s ascent to heaven is celebrated. Since it is a public holiday in Barcelona, this is often one of the biggest days of partying, and like most street festivals in Barcelona, the Festa Major de Gràcia is rich in Catalan tradition, so you will be sure to see some unusual characters…
From the typical festive dances and music, to the wild Correfoc (Fire Run) where people dress as devils and dance to the beating of drums while shooting off fireworks from their pitchforks, there are plenty of unique traditions to watch out for. Although there will be parades each day of the festival, the 15th sees the largest and most entertaining tour of the streets, with marching bands, Bastoners (stick dancers), Gegants (giants made from papier-mâché and cloth that can be several metres tall), and Capgrossos (big-heads). Of course you will also find the skillful Castellers joining together and assembling their human towers throughout the festival. Watch as these daredevils stack themselves high above the ground, sometimes towering up to 8 stories high!
The Festa Major de Gràcia is a true celebration of the district and its citizens who make the festival possible. It is not uncommon to walk through the streets and see 8 tables put together to make room for the whole block so they can all sit, eat, and drink with one another. Make sure you stop by the squares in the area, such as Plaça de la Vila, which will be packed with various shows and exhibitions, jazz, rock, and classical music concerts, traditional Catalan food, and of course, plenty of drinks, with the party continuing into the early hours on some days. This is definitely not your average neighbourhood block party so make sure you head to the Gràcia district during your trip to Barcelona this year for a one of a kind Catalan festival.
How to get there: Metro station Lesseps (L3), Diagonal (L3 or L5), Fontana (L3)
More information: www.festamajordegracia.cat