Experience La Mercè festival like one of the locals
If you're thinking of heading to Barcelona for a break in September, there are five key dates on the calendar when the city opens its doors and celebrates its festivals in style. The Catalan capital dresses up for the occasion to pay tribute to the Mare de Déu de la Mercè, patron saint of Barcelona since 1687.
The first festival took place in 1871 and since then it has kept on growing. Concerts, activities, entertainments and a real party atmosphere fill the streets. There's so much to see that it's impossible to fit it all in, so here are a few tips so you can experience the festival like one of the locals.
During the day
Before the concerts and night-time partying, you mustn't miss the traditional festivities throughout the day which are part of the different events organised under the name "Arts de Carrer" (Street Arts). You'll be able to get a close-up look at the famous "gegants" (gigantic figures representing famous characters from history, carried by people in a parade), run among the sparks and flames during the "correfoc" (a procession of dragons and devils that run through the streets setting off fireworks and crackers) and see the "enxaneta" (the youngest member of the human tower team who climbs to the top of the tower when it has been completed) touch the sky, or learn to dance the traditional Catalan folk dance, the "sardana". These activities usually take place in Plaça Sant Jaume or on Avinguda de la Catedral.
A bit of art is always welcome. Barcelona's museums also get into party mode and open their doors free of charge. So it would be a great idea to visit them during the day… and not have to pay a penny.
The youngest members of the family are also invited to Barcelona's big party. The city organises theatre workshops, storytelling sessions, children's concerts and a whole host of activities where fun is guaranteed. The best-known ones are held in the Los más famosos se organizan en el Parc de la Ciutadella.
Night falls, it's getting darker and the lights come on. Before dinner, or while you're having it, you can see some of the projection mapping shows on the façade of City Hall and other important buildings. There are also a number of firework displays. These are usually held on the public holidays during the festival and we recommend you see them from the beach.
Music and dancing
There are so many concerts and live music events during the festival that you'll be spoilt for choice. The Parc del Fòrum has a series of performance stages. It closes the latest of all the festival venues and attracts some of the top bands from around the world. Plaça Reial usually attracts jazz, soul and funk bands, as well as other styles of music. Plaça de Catalunya, in the city centre, usually stages important concerts with well-known groups from Spain and abroad. There are other venues too, such as Plaça dels Àngels, Plaça del Rei, Plaça de Sant Jaume, Arc de Triomf and the former brewery, the Antiga Fàbrica Damm. And if you're looking for alternative music, you should visit the BAM stages in the squares near the CCCB.
Time to say goodbye
After five event-packed days, when you'll have met new people, discovered new bands and learned a few words of Catalan, it's time to say goodbye. You can't leave La Mercè without going to see the Piromusical, the spectacular and colourful water, fireworks and light display set to music centred around the Montjuïc Magic Fountains. It's hard to describe… so that's why you have to go and see it for yourself.
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