A Guide to the Gràcia Festival in Barcelona, Spain

A Note From Greg: At one point, Carrie and I planned to be in Barcelona, Spain, this summer. Plans have changed, so instead of celebrating the Gràcia street festival in person, we’ll have to read about it in this week’s guest post by Aleix.

Orgasm of forms and colors -- Gracia Festival photography by Sergio Alvarez -- http://www.sergio-alvarez.com/
Orgasm of forms and colors — Gracia Festival photography by Sergio Alvarez — http://www.sergio-alvarez.com/

(above photograph by Sergio Alvarez)

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“One of the most highly-awaited festivals of the city of Barcelona is back this August. The Gràcia street festival is a whole week of celebrations, music, parties and fun in the streets of this emblematic district of Barcelona. A favorite among locals and tourists alike, this is an event not to be missed by anyone!

August is an exciting time to be in Barcelona. Not only is the city buzzing with the summer and its visitors day and night, but it’s also the time of year that one of the most awaited festivals takes over the beautiful and quiet neighborhood of Gràcia.

The Gràcia Festival (Festa Major de Gràcia in Catalan) lasts a whole week, and this year’s edition will run from the 15th until the 21st of August, 2012.

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The Gràcia Festival: a 24-Hour-a-Day Party

Barcelona's Gracia street festival
Barcelona’s Gracia street festival

The festival turns this quiet neighborhood into a 24 hour party location. First of all, all the streets of this district are decorated with different themes, chosen and produced by the neighbourhood associations of each street, so walking down one street will be like walking in a tunnel of decorations and sculptures that make for a truly amazing photographic opportunity.

(image courtesy of Travel Nauta)

During the day, the many squares in Gràcia – Plaça del Sol, Plaça de la Virreina, Plaça del Diamant, Plaça del Nord and Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia to just name a few – will be buzzing in the sunshine. Bar terraces will be completely full with people eating and drinking and enjoying the festive atmosphere.

At night however, the festivities turn into a downright huge party. In every square, concerts by Catalan-speaking bands take place and everyone gathers around to drink from the Estrella Damm terraces that have been put in place and enjoys the music. The music genres go from rock, pop, ska, punk and folkloric Catalan music, such as the rumba.

Old and young dance until the early hours of the morning in streets and squares rammed with people. And, because there are no cars allowed to drive in the streets, it’s also a very safe festival.

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Gràcia Festival Parades

Gracia Festival performers
Gracia Festival performers

During the day, there are also many parades in the streets with folkloric elements. The Catalans call these capgrossos, which are people wearing huge paper-mache masks that cover their whole head. The gegants, which quite literally means giants, can reach 15ft in height and are carried by a person underneath.

(street performers photo courtesy of El blog dels Gegants de Maó)

The dimonis, or devils, set off fireworks and pyrotechnics. Meanwhile, the castellers form human castles that are so typical of this part of the world. Taking place in the Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia, it’s definitely something not to miss if you’ve never seen one before. Few things if any at all are more impressive than seeing 6 or 7 people standing on top of one another with nothing but air between them and the ground.

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All in all, this is a great festival. The atmosphere is unbeatable, the food and the drinks flow, the weather is always good and the events are entertaining day and night. If you’re lucky enough to be able to find Barcelona accommodation in this area you’ll be right in the heart of all the festivities, although it’s not recommended if you want to sleep in peace and quiet since the streets start to die down when the sun rises.

Don’t miss out on this event if you’re staying in the beautiful city of Barcelona this summer. Barcelona accommodation is a great alternative to hotels, where you’ll feel like a local and live the city like a local. Priceless.”

About the Author: Aleix Gwilliam is a 24 year old from Barcelona who looks English but thinks like a Catalan. He enjoys traveling, especially on old Czech trains, and trying to start conversations in Hungarian with people at Pecs station, even though his Hungarian is as good as his Bulgarian, in other words, not very good. He’s a trier.