Author: Stay U-nique
The middle of august is an exciting time in Barcelona, when the neighborhood of Gràcia turns into a vibrant seven day celebration site and the most popular and colorful neighborhood festival of Barcelona takes place. From the 15th of August until the 21st the charming streets of Gràcia will host this famous festival that attracts many locals from other neighborhoods as well as tourists. The neighborhood is mostly just known for Gaudís Parc Güell, but in Gràcia you can experience a more local atmosphere, as it´s tucked away from the hustle of the centre and consequently the area used to be a separate village and only later connected to Barcelona. The neighborhood has retained a strong sense of identity – alternative, slightly bohemian and very Catalan.
The biggest attraction of the Gràcia festival are the street decorations, when around 18 streets and squares are decorated by the residents. The decorations turn the area into a fantasy world, with changing themes every year ranging from Underwater World to Avatar Cosmos to eccentric PacMan game. The streets are competing for an award for the best decorated street and many hours are dedicated to these decorations which are hand-made by the residents. All the streets are exciting to see, but it if you don´t have unlimited time on your hands, make sure to visit at least Carrer de Verdi and Carrer de Joan Blanques, which are most famous for their decorations.
what to see
During the festival there will be parades daily, but on the first day, the biggest and the most exciting one will begin the festival bonanza. This is on the 15th which happens to be a public holiday, allowing everyone to join the fun fair. The parade starts at six from the junction of Carrer de Santa Àgata and Gran de Gracia, and it features several meter tall giants made of papier mache, dragons, stick dancers and pipers, marching band and more! And of course true to the classic Catalan tradition, the human castle builders (castellers), as well as the traditional folk dancing sardanas. Here you can get a truly Catalan experience with plenty of demonstrations of their traditions. For example the Correfoc, the “firerun”, will finish the festival on the 21st with a bang. It’s a peculiar but popular tradition, where groups of people dressed up as devils chase the viewers and dance to a thrilling drum beat while shooting fireworks off a spinning pole. This adreline-pumping run will start at 21.30 at Plaça Trilla.
the festival feeling
Throughout the festival area there are food stalls, live music performances, dances and workshops. And not does the fun fair only have plenty of intriguing things to experience, it also has a very welcoming atmosphere, with streets filled with long lines of joint tables so that people could all eat and drink together. Some of the main squares will have specific themes, so if you´re going with children, Plaça de les Dones del 36 will have family shows. To see some folk concerts check out Plaça del Sol, or if you´re a swing enthusiast head to Plaça del Diamant which will be the center of swing music and dancing. In previous years during night time the busiest stages have been in Plaça del Sol, Plaça de la Virreina and Plaça Revolució. Plaça de la Vila will also host many different concerts and shows and you can also find Catalan cuisine there along with refreshments from the bars.
As the residents of the neighborhood are welcoming people from all over even though it was originally a festival for residents and neighbors only, it´s important to respect the locals and not make too much noise after the early hours of the night (1am). Also be careful not to break the decorations. On some days during the festival the Barcelona metro extends operating hours, which you can see on their website.
If you´re in Barcelona during the Gràcia festival, consider yourself lucky because you´re in for an unforgettable experience!