Each year near the end of September, Barcelona holds a large street festival. This year it took place Thursday, September 23rd through Sunday the 26th. We arrived in Barcelona for the very last day of the festival. We didn’t get to take part in all that the festival has to offer, but we did get to enjoy two really unique aspects of it.
La Mercé incorporates a variety of features from Catalan culture including castells (human towers) to cercaviles (music-led street marches with giants) to a fireworks display that beats any fireworks show I’ve ever seen. We missed the castells and the Correfoc (fire run), but we did get to see the giants marching down the streets to little bands playing music on flutes and drums and the amazing fireworks show.
We caught the last parade of the Barcelona giants in the Gothic Quarter around six o’clock in the evening. We didn’t get there at the beginning of the march, but we were able to see many of the giants that were in the procession. The giants are huge effigies of kings, queens and other nobles that tower above the crowds and spin and dance to music. The giants are followed by little percussion groups that play drums and flutes as they march. The kids loved this. You can put them on your shoulders and just follow the giants through the streets. The giants were commissioned by the Societat del Born in 1859 to take place in the various festivals and carnivals held in the city. There are a variety of different giants, but you’ll generally see a king and a queen, as well as some children and a few others that are short like people, but with giant heads.
The festival traditionally ends with an amazing fireworks show. The fireworks were shot over the Magic Fountains at the bottom of the mountain under Montjuic and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. The fireworks show probably lasted an hour or so and was set to ‘80s American rock music. Yes, it’s true and it really did rock. The streets were crowded with people and I imagine nearly every person in Barcelona was trying to squeeze into the area as well as onto the subway afterwards.
We would have liked to experienced more of La Mercé, but perhaps we will be able to next time, as I’m certain we will be visiting Barcelona again.