If your travel plans include a visit to the best city in the world (a.k.a. Barcelona) in September, and that’d happen anytime between the 18th and the 24th September, you must be ready to have a blast. La Mercè Festival is the city’s largest street party, and you will feel blessed to be a part of it. Follow our guide to know all about La Mercè and its must-see events!
What does La Mercè officially represent?
It is a celebration held in honor of the patron saint la Mercè (the Virgin of Mercy), every year on September 24th.
What is La Mercè Festival?
It is the largest and most colorful fiesta of the city and the absolute climax of Barcelona’s event schedule. Normally, September 24th is the most important day of the Festival, but activities are planned to start a week prior to that day. The Festival was celebrated for the first time in 1902 and says goodbye to summer while welcoming the cool breezes of the autumn season. Over 1,5 billion people participate in the Festival every year.
The origin of the Virgin goes back to an appearance witnessed by Saint Peter Nolasco, a resident of Barcelona, on 1 August, 1218. It was a turbulent period of time around the Mediterranean, especially in southern Spain. The Saracens and the Turkish were aggressively attacking the Spanish coast and taking hundreds of prisoners to be used as slaves in their territories. St. Peter Nolasco used his fortune to buy these men’s freedom and at the same time he was praying to the Virgin Mary to shed some light upon him.The Virgin of Mercy appeared and inspired him to found a religious order, which years later would come to be known as the Mercedarians, whose purpose was to free the prisoners. St. Peter Nolasco, astonished by his vision, went to tell King James I of Aragon what had occurred. Curiously, the King had had the same revelation and together, they worked to bring to reality what was asked of them. – Don Quijote Spanish Learning School
Is it for free?
Yes. As this is a street, open Festival, you’ll be running into shows and activities all the time while crossing a street, entering a new neighborhood or trying paying a visit to one of the city’s beautiful parks or plazas. There are a few private events that might cost you a little something, but the highlights are always free and celebrated in the most emblematic sites of the Old Town.
Is it recommended to see all the events?
No, for one very simple reason: it isn’t humanly possible. The festival counts with over 500 events and many of them happen at the same time. But don’t worry, we’ve selected the most special not-to-be-missed highlights of La Mercè. We’ll get there soon!
The festival lost some of its exuberance during Franco’s dictatorship, but it came back with style in 1975, after the return of democracy.
Is the Festival kids friendly?
Very much so! In fact, there are several activities for kids and teenagers, especially in Gràcia neighborhood. You’ll also see theater, drawing and circus activities for the little ones happening for free in the city’s squares and parks.
What to see in la Mercè 2015?
Castellers (Human Towers)
One of the most beautiful and interesting Catalan traditions, Castellers want to build a tower. With their bodies. You don’t want to miss what was declared by Unesco to be among the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
When? September 24th, at 12.20pm, at Plaza de Sant Jaume.
Huge figures walking and spinning around at a sound of percussion groups. Majestic, glorious and a lot of fun for the whole family!
When? September 19th, at 6 pm, in front of Palau de la Virreina (Las Ramblas).
Fire, fire everywhere! Correfoc (fire run) is one of the most impressive traditions in Catalunya, and a magic show for everyone to see. There are two types: the normal correfoc, and the “mini” correfoc (yes, that one is for kids!). During the presentations, powerful sparkler fireworks are sprayed into the crowds, so if you want to be close to the action make sure to wear protective clothing and a hat.
When? The main correfoc act will take place on Sunday, September 20th, at 8.30pm in Plaza Antonio Lopez (coincidentally that is also the meeting point for our tours!)
Projection in City Hall
Mapping videos and images projected onto the side of one of the buildings in the City Hall square. It is free for everyone to attend, and a great way to understand a little better what this city is all about 😉
When? Every evening from the 18th to the 23rd. Shows happen every 30 min from 8.45pm on.
See you there!