La Mercè Festival: The Highlights

Author: Isabella Hardie

Moved from Bournemouth to Barcelona for the year. Learning all of the wonders of the city, and sharing them with you one blog post at a time 🙂

Lover of red wine, tapas and all things artistic <3

La Mercè Festival is the annual festival of Barcelona and has been an official city holiday since 1871. In 2016 it will run from the 22nd of September till the 25th of September, and it is thrown in honor of Barcelona’s patron saint, the Virgin of La Mercè.

With over 2 million people attending it is important to book your accommodation in advance to avoid missing out on a festival that truly encompasses Catalan culture. The festival itself has over 500 free events and performances for you to enjoy so we have created a guide that highlights which ones are not to be missed!


Correfoc (Fire Run)
Photo Credit: tourismwithme

Photo Credit: tourismwithme

This is one of the landmark traditions of La Mercè, hundreds of people from 40 different special Catalan community groups dress up as devils and parade the streets. They run up and down Via Laietana  with fireworks and bangers. If you are of a nervous disposition, the front rows may not be for you as the devils chase and spray the crowds with sparkler fireworks! Dragons and other “bestiari de foc” (fire beasts) take part in this festival of fire. The event takes place twice, with one of the Correfocs being more tame and therefore aimed at children and families. The ‘adult version’ takes place later on in the evening. This is definitley an unmissable tradition and probably nothing like anything you’ve ever experienced before!


Castellers (Human Towers)
la merce castellers

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This event takes place in Plaça de Jaume and is one of the most well known Catalan traditions. The castellers who build the castell are well trained and each casteller has their own position and function within the castell – even if to the untrained onlooker, everyone seems to join at random! The strongest are at the bottom and have to carry most of the weight and the last level is when a young child must climb to the top of the tower and stand up. When this happens everyone cheers. There are two seperate casteller events, one where the best groups in Catalunya perform, and the other when some of the local neighbourhoods of Barcelona that have their own groups (Gràcia, Sagrada Familia, Sants) perform. This tradition requires a tremendous amount of skill and teamwork and is therefore a magnificent sight to see!


Gigantes (Giants Parade)
La Mercè Festival: The Highlights

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The parade of giants is one of the longest standing traditions of Barcelona! It is very popular with children but adults will also appreciate the amazing hollow papier-maché figures.The giants typically stand about 4 metres high and depict kings, queens and nobles. From the Maritime Museum to Plaça Sant Jaume there is a parade of giants called Xambanga where the parade is less traditional as the giants are dressed in fancy dress. From Plaça de Catalunya to Plaça Sant Jaume there is the traditional, long parade of giants where every giant in Barcelona parades down the streets, often there are small percussion groups making rythms for the passing giants. 


La Merce: The highlights

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The famous light projection show in Plaça St Jaume takes place during the evenings and moving images are projected onto the town council facade in the square. The show has a repeated viewing each evening and is free for anyone to attend. One the finale of La Mercè Festival, there is a Piromusical which takes place at the Magic Fountain near Plaza Espanya. The Mercè Piromusical is an amazing music, water, fireworks and laser light display centred around the Magic Fountain. It’s recommended to get there early (around 21:00) as people fill the entire length of the Maria Cristina avenue. There are also firework displays every night at Barceloneta beach!

Be sure to check the schedule nearer the time of the festival to know at what time and day these highlights take place!