Every year, close to the end of September, the city celebrates its ofﬁcial festival. The festival commemorates the Roman Catholic feast day of Our Lady of Mercy, “La Mare de Déu de la Mercè” in Catalan, patron saint of the city. The holiday is on September 24, and there will be hundreds of activities and events during the week around it.
The ofﬁcial program of the festivity has been published; check http://www.bcn.cat/merce/ . What follows are some highlights of what you can expect.
Open-air music and street performances
From Wednesday to Sunday, the city will ﬁll with street circus, street theater, concerts of all styles, and parades of several types. The peak is on the nights of Friday and Saturday, when tens of bands will be playing simultaneously in various parts of the city, especially the Old Town. Walk around and, in a matter of minutes, move from pop to salsa to world music to electronic music to ﬂamenco.
Castells (meaning “castles”) are the most unique manifestation of Catalan folklore. Casteller troupes build human towers of different heights and shapes, crowned by children sometimes as young as 5-6 years. The record in height, achieved on a few rare occasions, is 10 ﬂoors.
A large castle may involve up to 600 people, and a casteller at its bottom may be holding 450+ kilos on his shoulders. While the construction may seem a bit haphazard and rough to outsiders, no detail is left for improvisation and sheer force isn't the main factor. Every single person in the castell has his/her speciﬁc place and mission. The technique for climbing up and down, including children, is precisely codiﬁed and rehearsed. The music is not for fun, but for synchronizing movements and informing those inside the castle of what is going on.