What to See & Do During Barcelona’s La Mercè Festival (Every September)

 

With its blazing firework displays, dizzying human towers’, parading giants and explosive ‘correfoc’ fire runs, La Mercè is the festival of all festivals – one of Barcelona’s most important cultural celebrations.

Here’s what and where to see the best of the events during the fiestas in Barcelona!

What to see and do during Barcelona's La Merce Festival - Every September - by Ben Holbrook

Words & photos by your La Merce meandering guide, Ben Holbrook.

Understand

When: Every September Barcelona’s streets explode into life with the sights and sounds of the La Mercè festival. 2018’s dates are September 21st to 24th, although you’ll likely find something going on before and after.

What: 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 cultural events and traditions 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 Runs ~ Devils and Demons at Dusk

Correfocs in Barcelona

The crazy Catalan correfocs.

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 pyrotechnics into the air from spiralling pitch forks.

There are two correfoc events each evening of La Mercè. The first is the juniorversion, a tamer and more child-friendly version, while the second is a full-on, flame-fuelled adult version.

See more from my most recent correfoc encounter here.

Tip: You might want to wear a hoody, gloves and maybe some glasses and earmuffs to protect yourself. I’m not joking here.

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.

The Giants Parade ~ Rhythm and Royalty

Giants Parade Barcelona La Merce Festival Every September

Giants Parade, Barcelona.

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 papier-mâché.

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 through the city.

Castellers (Human Towers) ~ Catalan Identity

Castellers during Barcelona's La Mercè Festival (Every September) - by Ben Holbrook

Catalan castellers – all about community. It’s incredible to see people of all ages working together so beautifully.

The highlight of La Mercè, and one of the most thrilling Catalan traditions of all, is the heart-stopping castellers’, which can be witnessed throughout the festival.

Catalan castellers (human towers) in Barcelona during La Merce- by Ben Holbrook

They’re also known as ‘human towers’.

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.

Catalan castellers (human towers) in Barcelona during La Merce- by Ben Holbrook

… or ‘human castles’.

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.

Catalan castellers (human towers) in Barcelona during La Merce- by Ben Holbrook

It’s all about coming together. Community and togetherness. Achieving something as a group that is greater than the sum of its parts.

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.

It's all about coming together. Community and togetherness. Achieving something as a group that is greater than the sum of its parts.

From the top to the bottom, everyone has a role. Everyone is equal. Everyone is vital.

Tip: Dont clap, whistle or gasp until the last child, the enxaneta, reaches the top of the tower and raises his/her arm to signify its completion.


Visit the official La Mercè website for daily itineraries and more info.


Where to Stay in Barcelona During La Mercè

Plaça Reial – Barcelona's palm-filled square/playground (Gothic Guarter)

Plaça Reial, just off Las Rambla – Barcelona’s palm-filled square/playground (Gothic Quarter)

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


More Catalan Cultural Celebrations in Barcelona

Barcelona’s Gràcia Festival ~ A Papier-mâché Playground (Photo Journal)

Sant Joan Festival, Barcelona ~ Explosions In The Sky (Photo Essay)

Catalan Correfocs: The Devils & Fire Runs Of Catalonia ~ Fiestas Del Poble Sec (Barcelona)

Bon Nadal! Visiting Barcelona Over Christmas & New Year’s Eve


 

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