This year's events will kick off on Friday, Sept. 19, and the party will last until Wednesday, Sept. 24. La Merce - or La Festa Major, as the Catalans call it - is the biggest city festival of the year, with free concerts, fire runs, fireworks, human towers, parades and plenty of activities for kids as well as adults.
La Merce is the celebration of the Patron Saint of Barcelona - the Virgin Mary - who is called María de las Mercedes, meaning "Mary of Mercies." She is also called La Mare de Deu de la Mercè, meaning “Mother of God of Mercy” in Catalan, or Nuestra Señora de la Merced (in Spanish), which means "Our Lady of Mercy." The festival signifies the end of summer and beginning of fall.
La Merce Festival in Barcelona — Photo courtesy of Barcelona.cat
This year, in addition to the usual events and festivities, the city has spearheaded a street food initiative, where over 100 restaurants will be able to showcase their food and sell it out of trucks on the streets and in Park Ciutadella. This is quite new for Barcelona, since there have been several laws and plenty of red tape banning the selling of street food in any form. But this year, the city's jumping on the bandwagon, with government support.
Be sure to stop by Park Ciutadella and check out some of the city's most innovative new food initiatives. One in particular to keep your eyes open for is the Rooftop Smokehouse, which has started doing popup restaurants throughout the city. This eatery will use the opportunity at La Merce to gain exposure for it's delicious smoked food.
In addition to the food twist, the city's live music concerts are not to be missed. Plaza Sant Jaume, Plaza Espanya and Plaza Catalunya will all be hosting stages for bands, including Plaza Reial right off La Rambla. The concerts are completely free, so they will be packed. If you want a good "seat," then get there early.
And if you have children, the festival has a full schedule of activities for youngsters, starting at 9 a.m. and going until the evening. Be sure to check the official schedule for exactly what's happening and where.
This is a wonderful event in Barcelona, and if you're lucky enough to be here during the festivities, La Merce Festival is not to be missed.