Sunshine, sangrias and La Sagrada Familia: there’s just once city to have it all – Barcelona. The second half of September has the city agog with celebrations of its biggest festival, Les Festes de la Mercé or Festival of the Virgin of Mercy, a celebration of the city’s patron saint “Mare de Deu de la Mercé”. As the festival happens towards the end of summer with temperate Mediterranean weather, most of the celebrations takes place outdoors. There’s a lot to do during this period with events and performances popping up all over the city and several activities to watch or take part in.
The festival has a long and proud tradition since its inception in 1687.
One of the oldest traditions here is the formation of the human towers or “Castellers” reaching upto 9 or 10 levels in height, a meticulous exhibition of balance and agility.
A recurring theme throughout the festival is the celebration of fire and one of the most exhilarating experiences of La Mercé is the “Correfoc” (the “Fire Run”) where costumed fire-breathing devils, dragons and beasts run amok through the city streets in a colourful pyrotechnic display. The fire runs are a favourite with the kids, as is the “Dragons and Giants” procession which starts in the Plaza Real next to Las Ramblas.
24-September is Museums Open Day where many of the city’s museums and galleries, such as the Picasso museum, the Museum of History of Catalonia, the Maritime Museum and several others do not charge any entry fee.
The celebrations culminate in the Piromusical at the Magic Fountain at the foot of Montjuic hill near Plaza Espanya with the Palau Nacional in the background. It is a scintillating display of fireworks, water and laser light set to music for a wonderful audio-visual experience.
La Mercé is the perfect setting to experience Barcelona at its best – it enhances the colorful, vibrant atmosphere of this gorgeous city.