La Mercè: Barcelona Celebrates its Patron Saint

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How to party like a Catalan:

It seems that Catalans have an endless enthusiasm for festivals and parties, making it difficult to go a week without finding yourself in the midst of at least one celebration.  But with so many fiestas exclusive to Catalonia, how does one keep them all straight?  Especially when the main ingredients are essentially the same:  Els Gengants (Giant Papier Mâché characters that march down the street), Carrefocs (Dancing devils and fire breathing dragons that whirl down the street in a frenzy of pyromania), and Castellers (Daredevils that mount each other in an effort to create the tallest human tower) .

September’s ‘Festes de la Mercè,’  Barcelona’s major celebration in honor of it’s  patron saint, will deliver all of this and more.  If there’s one thing that separates this ‘festa’ from the others, it’s the free concerts.   And I’m not talking about the reedy tunes that old people jive to in ‘La Sardana’ (Catalan Folk dance that is also a crucial component to every Catalan festival).  This year’s La Mercè will boast 106 concerts throughout the city during it’s five day celebration. With its wide variety of events and infinite concerts, making this weekend worthy of a ‘puente’ (an extra long weekend), you’re likely to find yourself in the middle of something.

Highlights and Places to be

Friday, September 20th:

*This year Ferran Adrià will step out of the kitchen and into Plaça Sant Jaume to deliver the opening speech ( pregó) at 7pm.   As usual, the façade of the Ajuntament will be transformed, this year by a impressive 3D map, with the theme ‘pioneers of early cinema,’ featuring George Meliès, brought to you by Franc Aleu.

*Throughout the five-day celebration, the city will  host 106 concerts, with some of the major openers being Manos de Topo (Plaça Reial, 11pm),  Sanjosex & Chicuelo (Av de la Catedral, 12.30am) and the concerts in the Fòrum by Miss Caffeina (10.30pm)Supersubmarina(1.30am) and Dorian (3am).
*Parc de la Ciutadella  will not only be a historical re-creation of 1714 Barcelona (when the battle for Barcelona came to an end), but also the heart of the preforming arts.

Saturday, September 21st:

*This year marks the 20th anniversary of Mercè Dansa (traditional dance)  playing in Plaça Sant Jaume (11am-6pm). You’ll be able to see some of the most traditional activities of the festival on this day, including the falcon parade as well as a procession of fire-breathing dragons and other beasts that will set out from Plaça Sant Jaume at 9pm.

Montjuïc Castle will transform into a circus on the 21st, 22nd and 24th with nearly 20 companies from around the globe, featuring a combination of top international circus performances on stage 1 Fossat de Santa Eulàlia.

*Parc de la Ciutadella will have Dei Furbi’s Magic Flute (4.30pm & 8pm)HototMarcel Tomàs(1.30pm) and electronica versions of operas (from 4pm), seeing as Vienna is the special guest of La Mercè this year.

*Don’t miss the firework show that starts at 10pm in Barceloneta.
Sunday, September 22nd

*Sunday is another big day for traditional peformances: ball de bastons (a type of dance incorporating bamboo sticks or canes) (Plaça Sant Jaume, 10am); a competition of the traditional Catalan dance, the sardana (Av de la Catedral, 11am); the festa castellera (Plaça Sant Jaume, noon); and the big event, the Correfoc (Plaça de Antoni Maura, 8.30pm).

* This week admissions to Piknic Electrònic, at the Joan Brossa gardens are free (1pm-10pm).
Monday, September 23rd:
*Music from the BAM festival in Plaça Catalunya and other squares nearby.
Tuesday, September 24th:

*Ending the show  will be the Piromusical de la Mercè, kicking off at 10pm. This year’s fireworks and music show will of course include nods to music from special guest city Vienna as well as to the tricentennial of the siege of Barcelona.  You’ll also be serenaded by  Catalan pop and rock songs, as well as contemporary symphonic compositions.

For the full list of programs, visit the official site:


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