Barcelona’s September Bash: La Mercè Festival
By Regina W. Bryan in Barcelona—
Throughout the summer Barcelona neighborhoods throw local bashes which are something like a block party on steroids. Everyone from the barri, or “neighborhood,” gets involved in the festivities. Usually these parties will go on for a weekend or in some cases an entire week.
It’s now too late to celebrate the barri of Gracia’s famous August festa, as well as the street parades and live music in Sants and La Barceloneta. Aside from paying for food and drinks, these neighborhood parties, called Festa Major, are free and worth a trip to Barcelona in August. I adore these local festes, and relish in the celebratory spirit in Spain where any reason is a good reason to have a party.
La Mercè: September 22-25, 2011
While these smaller August bashes were a good time, they all pale in comparison to the “Big Mama” of all Barcelona festes, La Mercè, which is held late September after all the neighborhoods have finished their local celebrations. La Mercè is not just a party for the city, but a party for the whole county of Barcelona, and man oh man, do they ever roll it out!
For a week, expect multiple stages set up all over the city with several concerts every night plus large concerts at mammoth venues such as El Forum. Many times, the city brings in well-known musicians to play the event from Spain and abroad. It’s all free, and therefore at times crowded depending on who is performing. There’s something for everyone: Jazz, hip-hop, classical, rock, Indie, and world music fills the air in Barcelona from September 22 to 25, 2011.
There are also games and activities for families in the parks and squares, parades in the streets featuring Barcelona’s “giants,” fireworks displays at the beach, events in the museums, and fire runners doing the crazy correfoc most nights to the beat of hundreds of marching drummers!
In fact, it’s all a bit overwhelming, but definitely a party not to be missed.
Tips for enjoying La Mercè
Get a schedule of events online or at a tourism information office and plan ahead.
If there is a band you really want to see, go early to get a chair.
La Mercè is especially crowded at night, so if you’re not into dealing with the masses, go instead to the daytime activities offered.
If you decide to go to the correfoc (and you should), be prepared for lots of noise, smoke, ash in the air (in your eyes?) and the possibility of getting burned.
Wear a coat or long sleeves to the correfoc and something to cover your hair, like a hat or scarf.
La Mercè party goes all night long and is a bit of a free-for-all, so if you’re not going to stay out until 6 a.m., consider booking a hotel out of the center of the city, which will be noisy and crowded during the week of La Mercè.
In many ways, the week of La Mercè is an excellent time to visit Barcelona, as it is not tourist season, the weather is still warm, and many of the city’s top sites are open for free and offering interesting cultural events. Enjoy the party!