Barcelona, a city known for hosting some of the best and most vivid festivals in Europe, is yet again preparing for the biggest street party of the year, Les Festes de la Mercè.
This exciting four-day festival, which officially took place for the first time in 1902, is the Catalan capital’s way of saying farewell to the warmer months and ending the summer season with a bang! This traditional fiesta is held in the city centre every September in honour of one of the patron saints of Barcelona, La Mare de Deu de la Mercè (or ‘Our Lady of Mercy’).
Be sure to make your way to some of the most anticipated events including parades, concerts and fireworks shows! Plus, there’s free admission to most activities and events, so you absolutely can’t miss this colourful festival on your trip to Barcelona.
What happened in 2020?
Last year’s la Mercè was a hit, even though it had to be reinvented slightly due to the Covid19 situation. It had a more limited capacity, was more decentralised and had a focus on showcasing fabulous, local talent.
Over 100 artists and 130 companies entertained across the 10 districts of the city. And, so that nobody was left out of the fun, they even broadcast the performances on TV and on the internet!
La Mercè Festival traditions
Gegants & Capgrossos
One of the highlights of the Mercè Festival is undoubtedly the Gegants and Capgrossos (giants and big heads), a renowned attraction and one to be enjoyed by the whole family!
Best described as tall papier-mâché figures worn by ‘giant carriers’, these characters perform dances while the parade makes its way through the streets of Barcelona. Here you’re sure to see an endless variation of creative and imaginative designs! An added bonus is that the Capgrossos often run at the crowds and interact, making for an all-round unforgettable Barcelona experience!
The ‘Fire Run’, also known as the Correfoc, is one of the most anticipated events during the Festes de la Mercè. Dragons, devils and various ‘bestiari de foc’ (fire beasts) perform dances and parades with fire while an estimated 80,000 fireworks are set off!
Don’t worry if you are visiting Barcelona with children as there is a ‘Little Devils’ fire run is especially for younger kids, which usually kicks off a little earlier on the Sunday night along Via Laietana.
One of the events that should definitely not be missed is the Castellers show! Also known as human towers, you are sure to find yourself enchanted by the Castellers as they climb up one another, sometimes as high as 8 stories, finishing off each structure with a small child crossing the top of the tower.
An age old custom reaching back to the 18th century, this particular tradition originated in Tarragona, located just outside of Barcelona. It is a well known fact that the top Castellers teams from all over Catalonia perform at La Mercè Festival, so you are definitely in for a treat!
One of the most Catalan traditions is practiced throughout the region over La Mercè. This dance, getting its name from Sardines, is a fantastic way in which people dance together and express their pride to be from Catalonia. It got the name from the fact that all participants stand in a circle, holding hands and moving in and out of the circle in unison. This tradition is seen all over Barcelona, by people of all ages.
If you’re a fan of live shows, then the concerts that run alongside the Mercè Festival are sure to satisfy your musical needs! Concerts BAM (Barcelona Acció Musical) are a variety of performances by various international music groups, all gather in Barcelona especially for La Mercè, as they have done for years!
More than 60 concerts usually take place over this four-day festival in locations across the city, including Plaça de Joan Coromines, Plaça dels Àngels and Rambla del Raval.
Magic Fountains and more
The celebration usually culminates with a grand finale at the Montjuïc Magic Fountain where a colourful pyrotechnic display awaits you! With different shades and hues, laser lights and a firework display, all accompanied by some cool music, we cannot imagine a better way to say goodbye to the summer!