Festa Major de Gràcia
It’s that time of year again. The festivals of Gràcia have returned to the streets and with them, the decorations, visitors, and fun. Last year’s 200 year Bicentennial celebration was cut short by the attacks on La Rambla, this year the festival is back and seems to be bigger than ever. 21 streets and plazas are taking place in this year’s annual competition for best decorations. 995 activities have been planned for the week long festival that will take place once again from the 15th-21st of August. Both Friday the 17th and Saturday the 18th, the metros will be running all night as part of the festivals a plethora of cultural ceremonies will be in display for everyone to enjoy. The festivals in the neighborhood are the best in the city and you are in for a real treat if your trip coincides with them.
A bit of History
Gràcia itself was founded in 1626 by group of Carmelite monks known as the Josepets, when they founded a church known as La Nostra Senyora de Gràcia (Our Lady of Grace). Gràcia was incorporated into part of Barcelona officially in 1897 as part of Barcelona city’s expansion outwards. The festival itself was first documented in 1817 in the book Muralles enllà, by Francesc Curet as part of his collection, Visions de Barcelonines 1760-1860. After the Napoleonic wars, Antoni Trilla opened his chapel to the religious objects of the Franciscan monks who needed a place of storage as they built their new convent. The transplantation of the image of their Mare de Deu (Mother of God) was met the following year with a large dance by the citizens of the area and is celebrated every August 15th, which coincides with the Assumption of Mary to heaven, a holiday through Spain. In 1862 the first streets started to be decorated during the festivals, a tradition that while it was slowed down and marred in the years under Franco, has made a full recovery and now sees a very ambitious competition amongst the locals to see who can best dress their streets.The Festival is, today, a seven day event that sees many natives and visitors alike flock to Gràcia during the event to partake in the festivities.
What to do
The festival is filled with activities for all ages throughout each day. Here are some suggestions to see while you are in town to take part in some Catalan culture. Various concerts will also run all week so be sure to check those out as you make your way around the neighborhood. As with last year, sustainability is a main objective and resuable cups will be offered. These can only be purchased along the streets that have been decorated. The cost is one euro initially, which will be returned to you whenever you decide to return the cup.There is an official cup for the festival as well as special cups for some of the streets.
13:00 The Parade kicks off the opening day of the festivals starting at the Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia
18:00 The Cercavila de Cultura Popular will be all over Gràcia, and will be a good opportunity to see all of the traditional Catalan characters in action.
18:30 Traditional Catalan Sardana dances in the Plaça del Diamant
10:30 Cercavila de Sant Roc will start in the Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia and travel around the neighborhood
19:30 Diada de les Colles in Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia
20:00 The Castellers will be in display in Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia
20:00 The Castellers with a twist, will be not just building the traditional human towers, but walking versions of them. Starting in Plaça del Sol and ending in the Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia.
10:00 The parade of the Giants (Gegants) throughout the village
18:00 The the most important day for the Castelleres is the Diada and some of the best teams from all over Catalunya will be in town to put on a really nice show in the Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia.
9:30 La Convidada will be an early one but a chance for you to see all types of Catalan folk figures, especially in the Gegants (Giants).
10:00 Passejada de Gegantons. The traditional characters will be dancing around the village
22:45 The closing event is the Correfoc, a must see event if you have never seen or been apart of one. The demons come out with sticks topped with fireworks spewing embers as they run around the streets while the onlookers dance under the flames. Dress for the event and wear long sleeves and pants if you want to get involved.
The activities going on always add some fun to the Festival, but the tradition of decorating the streets is what really makes the Festes de Gràcia the toast of the town. This tradition goes back to 1850 when the Town Hall of Gràcia asked the citizens to decorate their balconies and streets with branches and flowers. Each street and square’s theme is always a well kept secret until just before the festivals. The residents work very hard to put together an entertaining display and fight for the prize each year of most creative and safest street decorations. Definitely get around and check out the exciting decorations awaiting for you. This year there are some anniversaries being celebrated along the streets: Carrer Verdi is celebrating its 40th consecutive year of decoration, Llibertat its 20th, and La Perla its 10th! While walking around and taking pictures, you can upload your favorites to Instagram, with the hashtag #RespectemElGuarnit, until the 21st of August and the winner will win some merchandising.
The best par of the festival is seeing the street decorations. it is not just the creativity and the detail in each of the streets, but the passion the residents put in to the competition that make the Gràcia fesitvals the most visited in the city.
Here are the themes for 2018 (personal favorites carry an asterisk*)
Carrer Berga Jungla Berga Berga Jungle
Carrer Ciudad Real Totoro i els seus amics (El món de Miyazaki) Totoro and friends (Miyazaki’s world)
Carrer Fraternitat de Baix e=v·t
Carrer Fraternitat de Dalt Vi Fratern My Friend
Carrer Jesús El món dels somnis Dream World
Carrer Joan Blanques de Baix Món d’abelles Bee World
Carrer Joan Blanques de Baix de tot* La Lello a Baix de Tot Lello Bookstore (Porto)
Carrer de la Perla* Barcelona parc d’atraccions Barcelona Amusement Park
Carrer Llibertat* Els son Rurals Farmland
Carrer Maspons Viva México Maspones!
Carrer Mozart Mozart invaders
Carrer Perill Vídeojocs Perill Videogames
Plaça Poble Romaní Ederlezi
Plaça de la Vila de Gracia La Vila dels monstres divertits Fun Monster Village
Plaça Rovira i Trias Sastreria i confeccions Rovira&Cia Rovira & Cia: Tailors and confectionary
Carrer Progrés* Progrés és el més vital Progress is the most vital (Jungle Book)
Carrer Providencia Providència i els seus amics Providence and friends (Pepa Pig)
Carrer Puigmartí Aloha
Carrer Tordera La tardor Autumn
Carrer Travessia Sant Antoni Olimp 54 Olympus
Carrer Verdi del Mig* Ave Verdi Verdi Way (Rome)
So that you can find the streets, I have included the Mobility Map of the Festivals published by the town hall to help with the movement of the visitors through out the festivals. Keep in mind that, as many people have come to see the streets, the evening is the busiest time of day. Best times to see the streets are in the morning or afternoon to avoid the traffic. The lights do come on at night so if you want to see the streets then, the map below will help direct you through the correct entrance and exit of the streets. The security at each street will guide you at the same time. Have fun and enjoy!