It’s common knowledge that Barcelona knows how to throw a good party, and its annual festival La Mercè proves it. Over the course of a week, Barcelona holds hundreds of concerts, theater performances, art exhibits, lectures, public banquets, and dozens of other events open to the public. The atmosphere is festive and warm, and everyone goes out and has a good time with their friends.
The History of La Mercè
La Mercè dates back to 1687 when Barcelona was attacked by a plague of locusts. The Consell de Cent asked for the Virgin of Grace’s assistance, and she quickly sent the insects running (or flying). After her noble act she was named patroness of Barcelona and La Mercè was born to commemorate all she did for the city.
Its roots are based in religion, where the world merce relates to service, help, and a sense of compassion. These traits are all celebrated during La Mercè in honour of the Virgin (there is even a wooden image of her showcased outside a basilica in the Gothic Quarter as a firm reminder).
What to Expect at La Mercè
As well as a giant feast fit for a king, La Mercè is a hotbed of Catalan culture. There are plenty of art shows to explore, whilst street theatre makes up a large part of the program. You can expect to stumble across dance shows, circus acts, and bands milling around in the streets and performing in the squares, so be sure to take a wander and make sure you get lost in the tangle of laneways.
As well as arts performances, there are plenty of traditional Catalan elements to the festival, including parades dressed up in regional attire, dances that originate in Barcelona and the surrounding areas, and food that’s known for its Catalan roots.
Every year, Barcelona invites a “Guest City” to showcase the talents of its artists and performers alongside the contributions for Catalan groups. This provides an eclectic mishmash of events that caters to literally everyone.
More recently, the festival has introduced extra events. The annual Catalan wine fair takes place during La Mercè, where local wineries bring their produce for people to sip on and sample. There’s also a 10km race through the city streets and a pyro-musical featuring a firework display that’s choreographed to music. The fountain at Montjuic also plays a huge part in the celebrations, giving viewers a show and a half every night during the event.
La Mercè really brings the city to life. The locals bandy together to create an exceptional show for visitors through arts and performance, all of which are expertly tied to Catalan traditions. It’s a time for locals to celebrate their unique identity and bring their traditions and creative culture to the masses. Every single street comes to life during the event, bringing centuries of tradition into the limelight for a few crazy days.