La Mercé Festival in Barcelona starts

by Lorraine Williamson
La Mercé

BARCELONA – La Mercé Festival in Barcelona is perhaps the biggest party in the city. This annual celebration is dedicated to the veneration of the city’s patron saint: the Virgin of Grace (the Mare Déu de la Mercé). 

Every autumn, the party is the ultimate excuse for residents and visitors of Barcelona to let go of the hustle and bustle of the day and participate in numerous events, music performances or simply get together with friends and family in a festive way. 

The Origin of La Mercé 

The origins of the celebration date back to the 17th century, when the city suffered a series of disasters. The Virgin of Grace was considered the protector of Barcelona against these disasters, which led to the creation of the festival in her honour. The festival officially began in 1902 when the city council organised a series of activities to celebrate La Mercé. Since then, it has grown into a grand spectacle that unites the people of Barcelona in festivities that showcase their Catalan identity. 

Dates and duration 

This year La Mercé will take place between September 22 and 25. September 24 is the holiday of the Mare Déu de la Mercé. The festival usually lasts about a week, with events starting several days in advance and continuing until the following weekend. 


One of the most iconic aspects of La Mercé is the parade of giants (gegants) and big heads (cabezudos). These imposing figures, each with a unique history, walk through the streets and enchant both young and old. 

Human Towers: castells 

No celebration of Catalan culture is complete without castells – human towers that reach dizzying heights. Teams compete to build the tallest and most complicated towers, which requires remarkable strength, balance and teamwork. Thousands of people come together to look at the towers at Plaça de Jaume. 

Correfoc: The Firewalk 

For the brave, the Correfoc, or “fire walk”, is an exciting event. Participants dressed as devils and dragons release fireworks and sparklers, resulting in a mesmerising display of light and sound. 

Concerts and performances 

During La Mercé, the city becomes the stage for musical performances of all genres. From classical concerts to contemporary bands, there is music for every taste. In addition, theatre and dance performances are an integral part of the festival. 

Catalan cuisine and traditional clothing 

La Mercé is a feast for the senses, and that also applies to the taste buds. Traditional Catalan dishes such as paella and crema catalana are enjoyed during this period. Locals often dress in traditional Catalan attire during the festival. The “barretina,” a red hat, is a common item and adds to the colourful atmosphere. Click here for the full program. These are some highlights: 

Friday, September 22: 

19:00: Opening Parade (Palau de la Virreina) 

19:00: Inaugural Sardana Dance (Avinguda de la Catedral) 

20:00: Opening Ceremony (La Plaça de Sant Jaume) 

22:00: Firework Show (Barceloneta Beach) 

Saturday, September 23: 

10:00: Giants (La Plaça de Sant Jaume) 

12:00: Castellers (La Plaça de Sant Jaume) 

18:00: Correfoc for Children (El Passeig de Gràcia) 

20:00: Correfoc (El Passeig de Gràcia) 

Cogesa Expats

20:30: The Xambanga Dancing Giants (Pla de l’Os – La Rambla) 

22:00: Festival Night (La Plaça de Sant Jaume) 

22:00: Firework Show (Barceloneta Beach) 

Sunday, September 24: 

11:00: The Sardana Esportiva Competition (Avinguda de la Catedral) 

11:00: Dance Performance of Giants (La Plaça de Sant Jaume) 

Noon: The Mercè Parade starts, going from Plaça de la Mercè to Palau de la Virreina. 

13:00: Sardana Dance (Avinguda de la Catedral) 

13:00: Castellers (Plaça de Sant Jaume) 

18:00: Sardana Dance (Plaça de la Mercè) 

22:00: Drone Show (Barceloneta Beach) 

Monday, September 25: 

17:00: Sardana Gathering (Plaça de Sant Jaume) 

21:30: Closing Ceremony (Plaça de Sant Jaume) 

22:00: Counter-Dance of the Barcelona Giants (Palau de la Virreina) 

22:00: Firework Show (Plaça d’Espanya) 

I hope you find this helpful! 

Also read: Fiestas, Ferias, and Celebrations inSpain 2023


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