Festa Major de Gràcia 2014 – Barcelona’s August carnival

If you’re in Barcelona between 15 and 21 August, make sure you visit the barrio of Gràcia for the 198th 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 117 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.
If you are coming for the fesitval, you won’t want to miss a second! With an apartment in Gràcia, you can easily explore the district during the day, and party throughout the night without the need to travel!

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.

Fiesta de Gràcia by Hector Garcia Gràcia Bcn by Hector Garcia Gràcia by Jordi Masagué

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.

Parading around

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.

Aiming high

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.

Distrito de Gracia by Kedurne Fiestas de Gracia by Photogra Fer Castellers by Chris Ruggles
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
www.festamajordegracia.cat

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.
metroDiagonal, Fontana y Lesseps
metro Joanic
metro Diagonal

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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!

12 COMMENTS

    • Hi Natalia

      Thanks for the comment.

      We couldn’t agree more! The Gracia festivals really are great. Are you going this year? Let us know what you get up to!

      Lucie

    • Hi Hasi,
      There’s always something to do in Gràcia!

      The main attraction is of course Parc Güell, which is an absolute must-see during your stay in Barcelona. Other than that, I would suggest just walking round the area and soaking up the atmosphere. Gràcia is less touristy than the city centre but there are plenty of bars, cafés and shops to visit.
      Another plus is that Gràcia is only a few stops on the metro from the heart of Barcelona where there are even more things to see!

      Hope this helps. If you have any other questions, just ask!

  1. Hi-I’m so excited-we planned our trip to Barcelona not knowing about this festival. We arrive on the 16th. Is it better to go Friday night, or during the day on Saturday? Or both a night visit and daytime visit? Where/when would we see the human towers? What is appropriate attire (so we dont stand out tooo much!)

    Thank you!
    Kathie

    • Hi Kathie,
      You’ve picked a great time to visit!

      If you have time, I would try to get to Gràcia for the early evening on the 16th which will probably be the best time to go. That way you’ll be able to see all the decorations before night falls and the party really starts.
      The human towers seem to pop up at random so while I can’t really suggest the best place to find one, if one starts nearby, you’ll be sure to see it as they can grow taller than buildings like in this cool video.

      As for clothes, comfortable and casual would be the way to go. I wouldn’t worry about standing out as during the week there will be up to 1.5 million party-goers!

      Have a great time!

  2. Hi,
    We leave Barcelona on the 14th of august, just one day before the festa. Can we see already something on the 14th? If yes; where should we go?

    • Hi Jans,
      Although the festival will not have started, you will still be able to see the streets preparing for the big event. In a quick wander around the neighbourhood you will be able to feel the excitement and party atmosphere growing amongst the residents.

      It’s a shame you won’t be here to experience the Festa but I would still definitely recommend visiting Gràcia.

      Have a great time!

  3. Ola,
    I am coming to Barcelona to celebrate a special birthday on 15 August – what a great way to celebrate with the festival. Can you advise what’s the best time to arrive and any extra tips to celebrate my birthday in style!

    • Hi Annette,

      It certainly is a great time to arrive!
      Things usually start to build up from 8pm although the real party won’t begin until the sun goes down.
      Make sure to check out one of the fire runs and be prepared to party throughout the night!

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