The Festa Major de Gracia 2018
kicks off this year, as it does every year, on the 15th of August. This week-long celebration is one of the biggest of Barcelona’s Festa Majors and takes place in the Catalonian capital neighborhood of Gracia.
Gracia was once a village and not a part of Barcelona. Before the village was swallowed up, Gracia was an independent municipality. Interestingly, the famed Passeig de Gracia, lined now by high-end fashion shops, was once a dirt road that served to connect Gracia with Barcelona.
In the mid-19th century more and more Catalans were leaving their farms to make their way to Barcelona. By 1850, the city’s population had grown to 187,000 people, a 50% increase since the beginning of the century. A growing industrialized city coupled with a swelling population, poor infrastructure, and low life expectancy, saw the government kick into gear and begin to look for solutions.
As a result, the government expanded the city, building the Eixample district. Over the course of the rest of the century, Eixample pushed the boundaries of Barcelona closer to the independent municipality of Gracia. In 1897, the city annexed Gracia, and the area became a neighborhood of Barcelona.
Festa Major de Gracia
The Festa Major de Gracia, or the Gracia street festival, dates back to 1817. The first edition took the form of a religious procession on the 15th, the Assumption day of Mary. It involved the village marching an image of the Virgin of the Masia of Can Trilla back to its original alter. The image had been hidden away during the French war so as to avoid destruction. Following the procession, there was a celebration with the villagers enjoying traditional food, popular dances, and music.
The villagers repeated the festival the following year on the same day, and slowly, with time, more, and more people participated. They also began to incorporate other elements like richly decorating the streets which is one of the defining features of the festival today.
What to expect: Festa Major de Gracia 2018
One of the most spectacular features of the Festa Major de Gracia 2018, as with the festival every year, are its fantastic street decorations. For the Gracia street festival, many of the area’s streets transform, with beautifully decorative canopies hanging above the streets and falling down building walls. One of the best things to do at this great Barcelona summer festival (a completely free festival) is to just stroll up and down the streets and enjoy the atmosphere. That being said there are also a whole heap of other great activities. Here are a few:
Kicking off the festival on August 15th is the Cercavila de Cultura Popular, the opening parade. It beings at 18.45 and includes all the Catalan festival favorites. Here, catch the gegants (giants), cap grossos (big heads), dragons, pipers, drummers and of course, the castellers (human castles). Join the festival at its starting point, just up the road from Fontana Metro station.
If you miss the opening parade then not to worry. You can catch another parade, with many of the same features the following day on August 16th at 10.30. Head to Placa de Villa de Gracia to join at the starting point.
You can catch the castellers rehearsing their human tower building skills across August 14th and 16th in the Placa de Villa de Gracia at 20.00. And, for the main event head to the same square on the 17th and 18th for 20.15 and 18.00 respectively.
One of the most thrilling aspects of the festival is the Correfoc or, in English, the fire run. A Correfoc is an open-air event. People dressed as devils and demons run around the streets setting off fireworks. This may sound like a health and safety nightmare, but the event is usually safe.
There are two on the 21st of August. The first is at Placa del Diamant and is child-friendly. It begins at 22.00. The second, which starts at 22.45, is for adults and in Placa de Vila de Gracia. It is preceded by a drum parade that kicks off at 20.30.
If you plan on attending, dress appropriately.
Bring your kids
The Festa Major de Gracia 2018 is an excellent event for the whole family. If you are visiting Barcelona and want to give your kids a great taste of Catalan culture, then definitely bring them along. They will be able to enjoy all that the festival has to offer.
So, make your way to the best Barcelona summer festival, you’re sure to have a blast! For a full listing of events check out the festivals official website here