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Barcelona : The Fiesta Capital of Spain

By Sally Ferguson - Tue 24th Sep 2013

The city of Barcelona is located on the northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula and is home to more than 1.5 million inhabitants. Holding the title of the second largest city in Spain and boasting a tremendous variety of attractions to residents and tourists alike, it is no surprise that Barcelona is one of the most desirable tourist destinations in Spain. The most popular sites to visit include: La Sagrada Familia, a temple built by Gaudi and considered symbolic of the city; Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s best know street which winds through the heart of the city; and Camp Nou, the home stadium of perhaps the best football team in the world, FC Barcelona. Attracting visitors from all over the globe, principally from the USA, the UK, France and Italy, 7.5 million tourists visited Barcelona in 2012, flocking to enjoy what the beautiful metropolis has to offer.

However, putting Barcelona’s more obvious allures to one side, undoubtedly one of the most prominent characteristics of Barcelona is its festivals. The largest festival in Barcelona is the Mercè celebration, which is held annually on the 24th September and is held in honor of the patron saint of Barcelona, Mare de Déu de la Mercè. There are a number of events which form part of the Mercè festival, but the principal events which take place in the lead up to the 24th September and were part of the 2013 calendar are :

* ‘Els Castellers’ : one of the best known festival traditions in Catalonia, this activity is named after the Spanish word for ‘castles’ and involves dozens, sometimes even hundreds, of people climbing on top of one another to form a human tower. There is no mechanical aid given to participants and the castle can often reach extraordinary heights. This spectacle makes for truly mesmerizing viewing.

* ‘El Correfoc’ : perhaps even more hypnotic than Els Castellers, the ‘Fire Run’ takes place at dusk in the Via Laietana and its surrounding area, which is closed for the event. It involves groups of selected people performing the role of the ‘devils’ and ‘dragons’, complete with fancy dress costumes, who run through the streets throwing firecrackers and fireworks while chasing the other participants. In the aid of safety, two Fire Runs take place, one for adults and one for children, and those taking part are advised to wear protective clothing and goggles.

* ‘Desfile de Gigantes’ : one of the most popular events among families, the ‘Giant Procession’ involves enormous dummies of kings, queens and nobles being hoisted onto a platform and paraded through the streets, usually accompanied by small groups of musicians playing percussion instruments like drums and symbols. These huge figures draw much attention from the crowds and the procession continues to be a much-loved event of Mercè.

On the 24th September itself, which is an official public holiday, the streets of Barcelona are filled with processions, fire displays and festivities. Unsurprising, people are advised to leave their cars at home and not attempt to enter the city center during this period. The events which took place in the lead up to this day re-emerge again, including the human tower, Fire Run and Giant Procession, and the day ends with a magnificent firework display; the perfect resolution to nearly a week of pure excitement.

Catalan celebrations are truly irresistible to young tourists who find themselves inevitably drawn to the life and color of the city during festival time. Nowhere else in Spain will you find such original, daring and sometimes downright bizarre festivities as you do in Barcelona.