Barcelona is a city that knows how to throw a party and some of its best blowouts are its neighborhood street festivals. The streets are decorated, tables and chairs are brought outside and feasting and drinking with friends and neighbors takes over the weekend.
One of the best is the Gracia Festival held during August. For a week La Fiesta de Gracia takes over the streets of this uptown, bohemian district; and each street competes to win the grand prize for its elaborate decorations. It’s free to go and the restaurants and bars that fill the area are even more festive than usual. If you’re lucky you’ll also see the Castells – human castles where people climb and balance to create the highest structure with children climbing athletically right to the top. It’s a Catalan tradition and very impressive to watch.
The largest street party is La Merce, which happens at the end of September for about five days. It’s held in honor of Mare de Deu de la Merce, the patron saint of Barcelona. There are parades including the Giants Parade where huge effigies of kings and queens are carried through the streets. Other events including Correfoc, literally fire runs, where groups of people dress as devils and run along Via Laietana with fireworks, and the Castells which occurs in Placa de Jaume.
Festa Major del Raval lasts for three days in late July and celebrates multiculturalism on the section of La Rambla closest to the seafront. There are free concerts, kid’s activities, a fleamarket, and food stalls with cuisine from all around the world.
Barri Gotic, the oldest district of Barcelona, also has the oldest festival dating from 1589. The Festa de Sant Roc is all about Catalan traditions: there are parades with the giants and fat heads, sardana dancing and 19th-century street games centered around the Plaça Nova in front of La Seu Cathedral, concluding with a correfoc and fireworks.
The beachside community of Barceloneta has its own festival also in late September and early October. There are fireworks on the beach as well as a 24 hour football tournament. The festivities go on for around ten days of partying and General Bum Bum wheels around a wooden cannon and fires lollies for the children.
Another event occurs in December, thought not exactly a festival but more a Christmas tradition dating from 1786, in which 300 stalls set up outside the La Seu Cathedral for a Christmas market. There’s a nativity scene competition and a life-size nativity scene in nearby Placa Sant Jaume.
January 17 is Saint Anthony’s day and is celebrated with the Festa del Tres Tombs. Animals are brought to the church to be blessed and three horsemen ride a circuit three times around Ronda Sant Antoni, through Plaça Catalunya, down La Rambla and along C/Nou de la Rambla.
Barcelona is a city alive with street festivals. Check what’s happening when you’re there for a taste of true Catalan tradition and celebration.