Celebrating La Mercé in Barcelona, Spain!
We found one more reason you should visit the Mediterranean Metropolis of Barcelona: The Festival of La Mercé.
If the world-class architecture, beautiful beaches, and delicious food of Barcelona don’t warrant a visit themselves, visit at the end of September and celebrate the patron saint of the city with a week full of free food, concerts, and events! For centuries, Barcelona has celebrated and paid tribute to The Virgin of Mercy (La Mercé) with the Festival of La Mercé. While the official day of celebration is always September 24th and boasts the best itinerary, the days before and after are full of events you don’t want to miss!
Over 500 events fill the cobblestone streets during the festival and it is nearly impossible to see them all. I recommend that you grab the official La Mercé itinerary and/or app and choose your absolute must-sees! Some of the events that La Mercé are famous for include:
Grab some long sleeves and your fireproof garb for this event. Located on the Via Laietana (Metro: Jaume I) locals dress up in dragon and devil costumes and run around with fire. Yes, you read that correctly. Large sparklers, flamethrowers, and bangers of all kinds used to scare onlookers and passersby just for the fun of it! Definitely worth a spot on your itinerary but make sure you are at a safe distance or take the necessary safety precautions!
Possibly the most traditional event on the list, it is also one of the most popular. Head to Plaza San Jaume (Metro: Jaume I) on September 24th and 25th to watch the various Barcelona neighborhoods compete in a human castle competition. Each neighborhood, or barrio, has a professional team and stacks layers of people on top of each other until they create one large human castle. The towers can get anywhere from eight to ten stories and are absolutely incredible to witness. Make sure you get to the plaza at least an hour early to ensure a good view of the Castellers (and their possible fall).
Parades de Gigantes
Traveling with kids? This event is perfect for the whole family! On September 24th, giant depictions of royalty, trolls, and elves take to the streets to throw candy and confetti to everyone in the streets. While you can see the parade from many locations, I recommend heading to Plaza Cataluña (Metro: Catalunya) and snagging a spot near the end of La Rambla. While it will be busy, it is also the heart of La Mercé and there is sure to be live music and good food surrounding you.
Last but certainly not least is the magic fountain of montjuic. You can enjoy the fountain during scheduled night showing throughout the summer and fall. However, on the last day of La Mercé it becomes a spectacle unlike any other. For almost an hour, enjoy the music and lights of the fountain with a continuous stream of fireworks as a backdrop. There is also a moment during the show where the entire crowd lights sparklers together and the whole plaza is full of light. I can honestly say that I have never seen anything quite as stunning and if you only get to do one thing during La Mercé, make it this! Make sure to head to Plaza España (Metro: Espanya) an hour or two early to get the best spots! The closer, the better!
While these are the main events of La Mercé, make sure to take advantage of the other free events around the city in between! I recommend walking from place to place if you can – you never know what free concert or treat you’ll stumble upon!
During the day
Barcelona is still in the 70 and 80 degree range at the end of September – perfect festival weather. Take advantage of the warmth and your time between main events to pack a picnic and hit the beach or one of Barcelona’s many parks. La Parc de la Ciutadella boasts many of La Mercés free concerts and also has incredible fountains, food trucks, and wine tasting events for the festival! It’s perfect for people watching and right next to Arc de Triomf!
Many people don’t realize that during La Mercé almost all of Barcelona’s best museums and attractions are free! While hours and accessibility may be shortened, take advantage and hit up La Sagrada Familia, La Catedral, Park Güell, and the Picasso museum just to name a few. I recommend visiting later in the afternoon/evening to avoid a lot of the crowds.
To finish off the evening right, there is almost always a light show or fireworks going on. One of my favorite events was the Colorama Projections on the Ajutament de Barcelona. In Plaza San Jaume (Metro: Jaume I), an incredible light show is projected onto the Ajutament building. The lights move, entertain, and appear to change the structural concept of the building itself. Come early enough and you’re sure to also catch a traditional dance performance happening in the plaza as well!
Insider Tip: If you are planning to stay for all of La Mercé, I recommend buying one of the BCN metro day passes; you can buy them at any metro stop and they give you unlimited metro and bus access from 1 – 5 days. The metro also runs 24 hours during the festival so don’t worry about staying out all night sipping on that sangria and watching a concert – you can come home at any time!
La Mercé is a festival that is perfect for all ages, nationalities, and walks of life. It is a way for Barcelona to celebrate their heritage and an even better way for visitors to experience the true Cataluña culture! If you are planning a trip to Spain anytime soon, make sure to add Barcelona and La Mercé to your list! You won’t regret all of the amazing events, spectacles, and culture that this beautiful city has to offer!