It’s that time of year again here in Barcelona, where each district of the city comes to life for its own unique celebration. The most famous of those by far is from the Gràcia district, the Festa Major de Gràcia (Annual Gràcia Festival) and it’s already in full swing!
This fantastic celebration takes place from the 15th – 21st August each year. Anyone lucky enough to be in the neighbourhood during this time is in for a real treat, as this is one of the most charming, mesmerising, and unforgettable of local traditions that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. So…
What’s it all about?
Community. It’s all about community spirit and putting on a big celebration to revel in all things Gràcia. Local history tours, concerts, dancing, parties, food, exhibitions, and literally hundreds of neighbourhood events are arranged to keep residents entertained for hours. However, there is one thing that makes this event famous in and outside of Barcelona; the Tematicas or “Themes”, in which the residents of the corresponding street will team up to transform their road into a whole new world using only their creativity, local recycled materials, and lots and lots of hours…
Ever wanted to walk through Jurassic Park? Maybe an underwater world? How about a post-apocalyptic future full of zombies? Well, these were all past themes of the festival, so unfortunately you can’t anymore, but that’s precisely the beauty of it all. The ephemeral nature of wondrous worlds created for all to enjoy, which after a week have vanished and become tales that are shared on in the collective memory of their onlookers.
This year’s themes
This year there are exciting themes too, you can discover traditional Japan right in Barcelona, the imagining of Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons, a medieval village, an open zoo, and a walk through the lands of Avatar’s Pandora. To give you an idea of the amount of effort that goes into these works of art, both the Japan theme and Medieval theme took 1500 hours each, over 8-9 months! And in a week… They will be gone!
To keep quality high there is a panel that judges each street and gives out awards to the best works. The categories include “Best entrances”, “Best sides” “Best lighting”, “Best Artistic Detail”, and “Best Re-use”. The big prize though, is of course “Best Overall”, which takes all of these aspects into consideration.
Full of traditions
Another notable part of the festival for visitors include famous Catalan traditions such as Castellers where teams assemble daring and impressive human towers like those of a castle. This activity will take place a number of times through the week on the 18th, 19th, and 20th, so if you haven’t seen it before; take note.
Finally, to top everything all off there is the famous Correfoc, which directly translates into “Fire Run”. You might ask why? Well, it’s a festival in which fireworks are thrown around in the streets, with the main stars being the specially made sculptures that breathe out fire towards brave onlookers. It’s all done according to strict safety standards though, so you’ll have to be wearing cotton, have completely covered hair, eye and ear protection, appropriate footwear, and a respectful attitude to even be considered for going near it. It’s beautiful, thrilling, and completely traditional.
Hopefully you’ve heard enough and are already planning your tour through the streets of Gracia. Remember though, be quick because it’s all over on the 21st. If you miss it, don’t fret, there will always be next year and it only gets better and better.