Every barrio or borough in Barcelona hosts its own annual fiesta. You might as well join in, as the music, drums, noise of the crowds and general celebrations of the festival will keep you awake throughout the night.
My favourite is La Fiesta Mayor de Gracia which is held in August. For a whole week Gràcia reverberates to the sound of music, processions of drummers through decorated streets, and elaborately dressed devils lighting fireworks.
A decorated street in Barcelona.
National Spanish Holidays, Catalan public holidays and Barcelona only holidays
|1 January||New Year's Day / Año Nuevo||x||x|
|6 January||Epiphany / Día de Reyes||x||x|
|19 March||Maundy Thursday / San José||x|
|23 April||Saint George / Sant Jordi||x|
|27 April||Virgin of Montserrat (Barcelona only)|
|1 May||Labour Day / Día del Trabajador||x||x|
|16 May||Whit Monday (Barcelona only)|
|24 June||San Juan / Sant Joan||x||x|
|15 August||Assumption / Asunción||x||x|
|11 September||Catalonia National Day||x|
|24 September||La Mercé (Barcelona only)|
|12 October||Fiesta Nacional de España||x||x|
|1 November||All Saints Day||x||x|
|6 December||Constitution Day||x||x|
|8 December||Immaculate Conception||x||x|
|25 December||Christmas Day / Navidad||x||x|
|26 December||Boxing Day / Sant Esteban||x||x|
La Fiesta Mayor de Gràcia
Several streets are decorated to individual themes containing lights, papier-mâché figures and sculptures in a competition to gain the prize for the best decorated street. It creates a magical feel as you walk through the narrow streets, especially at night.
Catalonia’s traditional castellers (human castles) practice and compete in one of Gràcia’s main squares – Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia. To watch these castellers is nerve-racking and thrilling. One by one people climb onto each other’s shoulders to form a linked tower, topped by ever-lighter people until finally a small child forms the summit.
The dancing devils (correfoc), are made up of different groups wearing decorated clothes. They dance through the Barcelona streets to their own band of drummers, setting off fireworks attached to the ends of their pitchforks as they go. If you want to see the devilish dancers, check out the videos below.
More dancing devils:
The gigantes, or giants, is a parade of huge figures representing kings, queens and nobles. The figures are accompanied by music and dance and twirl through the streets.
Concerts are organised, many of them free, and most streets seems to have some sort of band or music playing. You can collect a free guide to the festival from many of the street stands, or from the Ayuntamiento in Plaza Rius i Taulet.
Sant Joan is an important date in Barcelona and Catalonia and this fiesta is celebrated with fire and fireworks, and lots of them!
With laws banning the lighting of fires in the streets, Barcelona has become a safer place, and subsequently many people head for the beach where fires can still be lit.
However, fire-crackers and fireworks have replaced the fires, and the city echoes to the noise of fireworks all day and night (and most of the preceding and following nights too).
Sant Joan is a great excuse for a party, and everyone seems to join in. The fiesta has its roots in pre-Christian times and is celebrated during the night from 23rd to 24th June.
Sant Jordi is Catalonia’s patron saint so consequently is widely celebrated. The tradition is to buy a book and a rose for your loved one, and apparently book sales for Sant Jordi account for 18% of book sales for the whole year. The rose signifies love, whilst the book signifies culture.
This fiesta is celebrated on 23rd April.
Finally, Sant Mercè is the Patron Saint of Barcelona: Mare de Deu de la Merce.
Celebrated on 24th September, but lasting about three days, Sant Mercè is celebrated with processions and street performances together with the usual correfocs (dancing devils), gigantes and castellers. Certainly not to be missed.
The list of fiestas above are the main ones in Barcelona. There are many more.
Castellers – Catalan Human Towers
The human towers or Castellers are an impressive sight, and they can be seen on many different festivals throughout the year in Catalonia and Valencia region. There are different configurations of the towers – different height levels, and different numbers of people on each level. This video was filmed in Torredembarra in the Tarragona region.