La Mercè Festival is Barcelona’s Wildest Street Party (Every September)

With blazing firework displays, dizzying human towers’, parading giants and the explosive Correfoc fire runs, Barcelona’s La Mercè is the festival of all festivals.

Every September Barcelona’s streets explode into life with the sights and sounds of the La Mercè festival. Held in honour of the Virgin of La Mercè, Barcelonas patron saint, this week-long street party bids farewell to the sizzling summer heat and welcomes the cooler autumn months in spectacular style. 

There are many similar events in Barcelona throughout the year, but there’s no doubt that La Mercè is the big one.

Here’s what you can expect to see and do in Barcelona during La Mercè:

The Correfoc Fire Run ~ Devils and Demons at Dusk

Diablo skies during Le Merce's Correfoc (Fire Run) in Barcelona.

Diablo skies during Le Merce’s Correfoc (Fire Run) in Barcelona.

When I first arrived in Barcelona and experienced my first Correfoc(fire run) I couldnt quite believe my eyes, or my ears! This explosive extravaganza sees the city light up as packs of devils brandishing industrial sized sparklers spray dazzling pyrotechnics into the air from their spiralling pitch forks. There are two Correfoc events each evening of La Mercè, the first being the juniorversion, which is a tamer and more child friendly version, and the second is a full-on, flame-firing adult version.

Where to see it: Head to Via Laietana (a long and wide road that they close off for the event) to see the best of the best. You might want to wear a hoody, gloves and maybe some glasses and earmuffs to protect yourself – I’m not joking.

The Giants Parade ~ Rhythm and Royalty

Giants Parade Barcelona La Merce Festival Every September

Giants Parade, Barcelona ~ by ben Holbrook

A firm family favourite, the Giants paradeis a colourful spectacular that sees humungous effigies of royal nobles parading through the streets to the rhythm of thundering percussion groups. These beautiful queens and kings stand at almost 15 feet tall and are made with wire frames and paper mache.

Where to see it: The main procession starts at Plaça de Sant Jaume, but if you follow the beat of the drums, you can follow them on their royal tour throughout the city.

Castellers (Human Towers) ~ Catalan Identity

Castellets (human towers) in the Gothic Quarter's handsome Placa Jaume for the annual La Merce festival (every September)

Castellets in Placa Jaume during La Merce ~ by Ben Holbrook

The highlight of La Mercè and one of the most thrilling Catalan traditions is the heart-stopping castellers’ that can be witnessed throughout the festival. This 300-year-old tradition sees local casteller groups meeting around the city squares, where they climb onto each others shoulders to create human towers in dizzying displays of strength and acrobatic ability.

Revered as one of the most important features of Catalan identity, this tradition is listed in UNESCOs Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Where to see it: Go to Plaça de Sant Jaume to see the best and biggest human towers. Get there as early as possible as it fills up very quickly. Dont clap, whistle or gasp until the last child, the enxaneta, reaches the top of the tower and raises her/her arm to signify its completion.


Where to stay in Barcelona during La Mercè

I would strongly recommend staying near (but not on) Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s most iconic and central boulevard. From here you can stroll to all of the action of the festival and enjoy the best that the city centre has to offer.

Check out my guide (below) for my top picks – everything from budget beds to all out luxury.

Best Hotels Near Las Ramblas, Barcelona ~ An Inside Guide

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