Fiesta (party) is probably one of the first words that come to mind when thinking of Spain. It is not to be confused with ´siesta´ which means an afternoon nap, though a siesta could be much needed after a fiesta. During summer every neighborhood in Barcelona holds an anticipated celebration but the parties of the district Gracia (in Spanish Fiesta Mayor de Gracia) are by far the most elaborate and popular ones in Barcelona.
Gràcia is a neighborhood in the North West of Barcelona that is connected to the central square of Plaza Catalunya by the iconic boulevard called Paseo de Gracia (the Passage to Gracia) which is also the reason for the name. Gràcia was independent town until the late 19th century and even today has a small town atmosphere with strong community sense.
The history of las fiestas de Gracia goes back for over 200 years when it was organized to commemorate the patron saint of the small town – Saint Isidro. With time the celebrations were adapted and more elements were added. For example, the decoration of the streets started in the beginning of the 20th century. Nowadays that is the most distinctive element of the party that fills the streets of Gracia with color, lights and visitors from all over the world.
For a whole week around late August, the streets of Gracia are converted into to Japanese cherry blossom gardens, art galleries, sets of popular movies or anything that the neighbors’ imagination comes up with. Every detail is organized and executed by the residents who pick the themes, the programs and spend months in preparation for the festivities. On the colorfully decorated streets and squares there are concerts, popular dances, exhibitions, castellers (human towers), gigantic figures, correfocs (fire-runs) and much more. During the fiestas the neighbors can be seen enjoying a dinner and drinks together outside and celebrating the success of their efforts. There is also a competition of the best decorated street and a lot of pride (and beer) for the winning team.
Here are some tips on how to make the best of the Fiestas de Gracia:
- Go at night if you want to party
- Go in the morning or mid-afternoon if you want to see the decoration uninterrupted
- Be prepared for big crowds (and a lot of fun) at night
- If you like street food, affordable drinks and dancing till you drop – then this is the place to be in August when many places in Barcelona are closed.
- If you don’t like big crowds, the rest of the city can be unusually quiet during this period as everybody goes up to Gracia – so that’s a great time to enjoy the city center.
The Fiestas de Gracia are among the most exciting neighborhood celebrations that display the culture, spirit and creativity of the people of Barcelona. After the parties in all the main neighborhoods of the city come to an end, its time for the party to end all parties (literally). In the last week of September the whole city of Barcelona celebrates the Fiestas de La Merce – a commemoration to the patron saint of the city.