Festival of La Merce
Virgin of Mercy © Francisco de Zurbarán
The Festival of La Mercè is dedicated to the patron saint of Barcelona, the Virgin of Mercy, and involves a fabulous assortment of popular Catalan traditions and mythology. The festival takes place every year on 24 September, but it has become a multi-day event, with festivities in the three or four days before the main celebration. The city celebrates by hosting one of the biggest parties of the year with street music and dancing, fairs, theatre, concerts and parades. Firework spectacles light up figures of dragons and devils, and gigantic folklore icons of Catalonia ('gegants') are paraded through the city centre, while traditional teams of 'Castellers' build human pyramids in St Jaume Plaza. One of the highlights is the Correfoc fire runs, which usually take place at dusk around Via Laietana, when 'devils' run the streets with hand-held fireworks, spraying the crowds with sparks (there is usually a safer and more sedate children's version before the main fire run). St Jaume Plaza is a good place to be, because apart from the human pyramids there are famous projection shows during the evenings, using the walls of buildings surrounding the square as a screen. For more information contact the Institute of Culture on +34 93 301 7775.
Venue: Various squares and open places around the city