La Mercè is a unique festival in Barcelona is what we call the Festa Major, every city and town has a festivity week and in Barcelona is thanks to the Virgin Mercy in September every year, the week of 24th September.
It is a good opportunity to get to know catalan traditions such as castellers and gegants, see fireworks and enjoy a different Barcelona for a week full of free activities from dance performance to music concerts etc...
Mercè - the patron saint of Barcelona
The Patron Saint of Barcelona it was originally Saint Eulàlia but Pius IX declared the Virgin Mercy the patron saint of the city and in her honour festivities started every year in September. In 1902 the festivities for Virgin Mercy were turned into a major festival thanks to the politician Francesc Cambó that serves as a model for other festivals in Catalonia.
The legent says that on the night of 24th September in 1218 the Virgin of Mercy appeared to King James I of Aragon, Peter Nolasco and Saint Raymond of Penyafort. She gave the order to the three of them to liberate the christiaan monks who were captive by the moorish occupants. Centuries later in 1867 Virgin Mercy shielded Barcelona from a plague and freed the city of pestilance. This is when the city council made her the patro saint of Barcelona.
Typical activities in La Mercè
Check out the full Mercé program here.
Barcelona Acció Musical (BAM)-Barcelona Musical action
It is a festival to discover new trends in music, it started in 1993 and it is a famous festival that discovers new talents in dance, electronic, pop or rock in Catalonia and the world.
Every season more than 40 groups fill in different scenarios around the city with original sounds and always at the same time of La Mercè.
Mercè Arts de Carrer (MAC) - Mercy arts on the street
La Festa de la Tradició (traditions)
This one is my favorite, apart from the music concerts is where catalan traditions arise and you are able to see castellers -human towers-, capgrossos -literally big heads-, gegants etc... If you want to get a taste of what are traditions in Catalonia is the perfect time to get involved.
La festa del Foc - Fire party
La Mercè could not be what it is without the mytical Piromusical, on the last day of the festivity for la Mercè, the closing of the party is done with fireworks that can be seen from the street Avinguda reina Maria Cristina.
Cursa de la Mercè- Mercè Race
Mercè race has a 10km run that goes around the most important monuments in the catalan capital, the race is a classic to be done in la Mercè after 30 years of tradition. There is a 5 euros voluntary fee to join the race, the money collected is given to NGO's.
What you need to know to go to la Mercè
Everything you need to know is in the website dedicated to La Mercè, you will find the day to day program with times, locations and details of the activities. Every year the poster for la Mercè is designed by a different artist so there is expectation on who will be the one, in 2015 the artist was Sean Scully.
Mercè Announcement and Guest city
Every year the festivity of la Mercè starts with the announcement that kicks off the party, evey year a person is cosen to do it from actors, comics, writers etc... In 2015 is Andreu Buenafuente, a catalan is a journalist, comic and television producer.
Another typical event that happens during la Mercè is that every year there is a guest city, and consists in having talents from that city performing in la Mercé, in 2015 the guest city was Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires in Argentina is known to be the place where tango was born, but it is not only known by that but also about their exceptional musicians, dancers, circus artists etc... You will find them on the different scenarios in la Mercè.
Venues for La Mercè
It is important to know where is the concert being held or where is the activity you want to join. Once you know what is it that interest you, make sure to see where is located. Every year there are more venues for La Mercè, you can almost find one in every neighbourhood.
- Antiga Fàbrica Damm
- Ajuntament de Barcelona
- El Parc del Fòrum
- Plaça Catalunya
- Parc de la Ciutadella
- Avinguda Reina Maria Cristina
- Avinguda de la Catedral
- Plaça dels ÀngelsPlaça de la Mercè
- Plaça de Sant Jaume
- Castell de Montjuïc
- Palauet Albéniz
- Plaça Joan Coromines
- Moll de la Fusta
- Platja de la Barceloneta
- Palau de la Virreina
Tips for la Mercè
My recommendation is to wear comfortable clothes and shoes, in concerts you will be standing as the majority of venues are outdoors. Bring pocket money to buy drinks or snacks, in every activity their will be bars for you to order a drink bu they normally don't accept credit cards.
La Mercè is very popular in Barcelona, expect to be in crowded places, bring the minimum to survive the night, I wouldn't carry my reflex camera for example. The less you have on you less risk to get robbed in Barcelona.
Every time there are more and more concerts done by catalan groups, if you are not familiar with catalan rock and pop, give it a go and listen to their music.
Catalan music groups: Mishima, Miquel Abras, Blaumut, Antònia Font, Obeses, Txarango, Els Catarres, Manel, La Gossa Sorda, Gossos, Terapia de Shock, Whiskyn's, Els Amics de les Arts, Gertrudis, Anna Roig i l'ombre de ton chien etc..
How to get there
Public trasport is the best solution, think that all the city moves at the same time so don't even think about getting your private vehicle, it will be difficult to park and you don't want to be worried about that. Check the Mercé transport to know the details, but TMB -underground and buses- have every year non stop service during the weekend and the day before the end of the party -24th is the last day-.