Barcelona takes on a new life towards the end of the month, when its streets and plaças become awash with festivities in celebration of the city’s patron saint. According to legend, Our Lady of Mercy (La Mercè) protected the city from a plague of locusts in 1687, and an annual festival has been held in her honour ever since. For six days, every corner you turn seems to take you to another of the 600-odd cultural activities that are held during the seven days. Gégants and dragons in Plaça Sant Jaume kick off the festivities, followed by a week of traditions, performances, parades and competitions, including the famous correfoc (fire run) down Via Laietana, as Barcelona’s residents come together for the city-wide festa major.
La Mercè is more than castellers (human tower builders) and sardanas dancing, however. Barcelona Acció Musical (BAM) is a six-day music festival hosting free outdoor concerts around the city from the 18th until the 23rd. With over 60 concerts and 10 venues, BAM brings together the best independent local and Spanish talent, as well as a few quality international acts. But that’s not all for music; running alongside BAM is another series of free concerts taking place on public stages around the city and spanning a range of different genres. Meanwhile, public spaces are taken over by street performers, transforming the city into a hub of theatre, circus and dance by day, and light, image and fire shows by night. Museums and institutions hold open days and free admission days. To bring the festivities to a close with a bang, thousands gather in Plaça Espanya on the last night to view the final fireworks display, known as the piromusical.
The full programme of activities at La Mercè will be released about two weeks before it starts so keep checking the website in the run up to the event (http://lameva.barcelona.cat/merce/ca/). Lastly, be on the lookout for the tango dancers— this year’s invited city is Buenos Aires.