Barcelona’s biggest street festival, La Mercè, returns this weekend, with an incredible selection of music, dancing and theatre to enjoy for free. Here are our top picks to spend the long weekend, taking in tastes of almost everything the programme has to offer.
Friday 20 September – traditional parade and Catalan rock legend
The festival’s launch, (el Toc d’Inici), gets underway with a parade of traditional and colourful characters marching from La Rambla down to the Plaça de Sant Jaume.
From there, you can then head to your first concert of the weekend. Venues like Moll de la Fusta near the port, Passeig Lluís Companys just outside Ciutadella park, and the Bogatell beach offer a fantastic schedule of gigs and concerts of varying styles and genres.
At 10pm on Friday night, Catalan rock legend Pau Riba takes to the Moll de la Fusta stage for what will surely be a festival highlight.
Alternatively, the Barcelona electro-pop groups La Casa Azul and Dorian are some of the programme’s standout performers, taking to the stage at Bogatell beach. This weekend, the beach will be packed each night with thousands of fans enjoying the music.
Saturday 21 September – Stick dancing, humanitarian clowns, and beach concerts
On Saturday afternoon, you can return to Plaça de Sant Jaume for a display of some of the most authentic and historic Catalan stick dancingand traditional parade, the ‘bastoner i cercavila’.
Each Mercè festival twins Barcelona with a partner city, and aims to include some of that city’s culture into the festivities. One group exemplifying this connection is Clown Me In, a theatre production company based in Beirut, aiming to spread laughter and provide relief to disadvantaged communities all over the world, while also exploring human vulnerabilities.
Clown Me In describe themselves as a ‘humanitarian clown group’ looking to spread laughter ‘wherever it is needed.’ They work both on the street to fight social injustices, as well as visit refugee camps both in their native Lebanon and abroad.
They’re performing at Montjuïc castle, where loads of theatrical shows, trapeze artists, and kids’ workshops are taking place each day. Clown Me In play at Montjuïc at various times over Saturday and Sunday, but in this guide, you can fit them in at 3pm Saturday afternoon.
The theatrical performances are a great way to spend La Mercè with children. You could spend one day at Montjuïc, and another at the old Estrella Damm factory, where this year the old brewery is turned into a children’s paradise of activity. Here you’ll find installations, shows, and workshops that will delight both children and adults.
When the sun goes down, be sure to catch the incredible light show projected onto the front of the Barcelona City Council building in Plaça de Sant Jaume.
Afterwards, make your way to Bogatell beach, where thousands of people will gather for the second night of concerts, highlighted by Catalan ska and rumba group, La Pegatina.
Sunday 22 September – African culture and Symphony Orchestra
At Trinitat Park this year, there’s a huge celebration of African culture. You could easily spend all of Sunday here, enjoying the dance and music shows and workshops, and even clothes and hair workshops taking place through the weekend at four different zones throughout the park.
Close off Sunday in style, with the Barcelona Symphony and Catalonia National Orchestra playing a special outdoor show made for the festival in Plaça Major de Nou Barris, not far from Trinitat Park, starting at 9pm.
Monday 23 September – Catalan bands and artists
Monday is a quieter day of the festival, with most locals working during the day, before heading back to the venues for concerts that night. Check out Avinguda Maria Cristina just off Plaça Espanya from about 8pm for six great Catalan bands and artists of diverse style partying into the night.
Tuesday 24 September – Free museums and world-class fireworks
Finish off your festival by visiting one of the many museums opening their doors for free on Tuesday, such as the Picasso Museum in the old town or the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), before finishing off the celebrations on Tuesday night with the world-class fireworks display at Plaça Espanya.