Each district or barri in Barcelona has its own festa major or major festival, but one of the best and most anticipated is that of Gràcia. The Gràcia festival takes places every year in August and is one of the city’s biggest summer events, complete with decorated streets, bands, workshops and cultural events.
Gràcia is one Barcelona’s most interesting barrios or neighbourhoods. Once a slightly dodgy area, it has now become the city’s trendiest district and one of its most sought-after too. It’s filled with hip bars, many Asian and international restaurants, as well as independent boutiques and unique shops.
The main part of the festival is when the district’s neighbours come together to decorate their streets in the most creative way possible. This takes place a few weeks or even months before the beginning of the festival. During the event itself, visitors head to the district to discover these artistic decorations and prizes are awarded for the best. Previous year’s amazing decorations have featured a ski station with moving ski lift and fake snow, a zombie street, a Ghostbuster’s themed street, and a jungle street.
The Gràcia festival is not only about decorated streets however, a big part of it is music. Local groups from across the city come to the festival to perform each evening during the event. There’s every type of style represented here from indie and rock to Cuban, local folk music and popular Catalan songs.
Gràcia is a rabbit warren-like maze of tiny streets opening out onto quaint plazas, and while you can explore as much as you like, there are always some parts of it you’ll never find on your own. Follow the festival maps around the creative streets or simply follow the crowds to discover more.
Most of the decorations of the streets are amazingly made out of recycled materials. Think cut up plastic bottles, egg boxes, cartons and cereal boxes. It’s truly amazing what these Gràcia residents can make just out of trash from their kitchens. It may even inspire you to become more creative with your rubbish too.
At nights during the festival, most of the district’s bars and restaurants open up small stalls on the street, selling everything from beer to caipirinhas. One of the most popular drinks however are the mojitos, which are sold for just €3-4 (USD$3.50-4.60) each. Also look out for traditional Galician queimada, a drink made from aguardiente spirit, lemon peel, sugar, coffee beans and cinnamon sticks, which are set on fire.
The festival is of course a cultural event and is not only about art and music, it’s also about celebrating the local culture of Catalonia. The festival also features classic Catalan cultural events such as castellers and correfocs. Castellers are the human tower builders, while correfocs are fire runs where people dress as devils and spray fire through the streets, while people dance under the glowing rain.
The festival offers visitors a great chance to mix with the locals and party with them, instead of just going to other touristy bars and restaurants. Make sure to be respectful to the locals though, as this is their neighbourhood festival and the event takes place right outside their apartments and houses.