If you’re in Barcelona between 15 and 21 August, make sure you visit the barrio of Gràcia for the 196th edition of Barcelona’s most popular neighbourhood festival, the Festa Major de Gràcia. The week is packed with celebrations and entertainment, all taking place in the streets and squares which are decorated up to the nines by local residents. People from all over the city and beyond flock to the event, showing that this quaint, thriving neighbourhood, which a mere 115 years ago lay outside Barcelona, can definitely hold its own in the big city.
With hundreds of activities taking place throughout the week, there will be something going on whenever you go. It’s the ideal opportunity to get under the skin of the local culture during your visit, as you’ll be able to mix with the residents and see some typical Catalan traditions. And what’s even better is that it’s completely free. Here are some of the events that are particularly worth seeing.
Deck the halls
Each year there’s a prize for the best decorated street, square and balcony, a competition that is not taken lightly. Neighbours work together for months so that by the time the festival starts, Gràcia looks like a fantasy world. Every year a different theme is chosen to inspire the festival, although this is always a well-kept secret until close to the event.
If you don’t have time to wander around the whole neighbourhood, make a beeline for Carrer de Joan Blanques and Carrer de Verdi, as these streets often win the top prizes. Also, if you want to see the decorations at their best, make sure you go to the festival within the first couple of days. As the winners are announced on the second day, they tend to get slightly dishevelled in the celebrations that take place afterwards.
For more information on the schedule of events, you can consult the official Festa de Gràcia website.
To start the festival off with a bang, there’s a huge parade on 15 August (a local bank holiday). Everyone involved in the Festa Major takes to the streets, including the gegants (giants), cagrossos (big heads) and dracs (dragons), along with many other interesting characters that may make you feel as though you are an extra in Alice in Wonderland.
A very typical Catalan tradition is the colles castelleres or, in other words, human towers, which can reach seven or eight storeys high. These are a big feature of the festival and an incredible sight. But they don’t just stop at building a tower – during the week they also attempt to walk it for 200 metres between two of the neighbourhood’s main squares.
Playing with fire
Another popular tradition in Catalonia is the correfoc, meaning ‘fire run’ which, believe it or not, is literally what it sounds like. Colles de diables (groups of devils) dance to drums and chase people while waving around sparklers attached to the end of pitchforks which spit fire into the crowd. There is even a ‘correfoc’ for children, which is a tamer version of the main event.
If that doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, there is a whole range of other events that are sure to keep you entertained, including live music concerts and performances of the sardana, the traditional Catalan dance.
What’s it all for?
The Festa Major de Gràcia simply celebrates the neighbourhood and everyone who lives there. The spirit of the festival is to get everyone together and rejoice in being a part of the community and its traditions. And it has to be said, they do it in style!
Festa Major de Gràcia
How to get there:
Fontana is the main metro stop for Gràcia. However you can also get off at metro stations Lesseps, Diagonal or Joanic, which are nearby if you want to avoid the hectic crowds.
Diagonal, Fontana y Lesseps
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Are you going to the Festa Major de Gràcia this year? Maybe you’ve gone in previous years? Drop us a line below and tell us all about it!