La mercè the cultural event to do once in your life in Barcelona

Le Mercè: Barcelona’s Grandest Celebration

Barcelona, a city known for its vibrant culture, stunning architecture, and rich history, has no shortage of festivals. Yet, among them all, one stands out as the most anticipated and grandest of celebrations: Le Mercè.

A Brief History

Le Mercè is dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy, or “La Mare de Déu de la Mercè” in Catalan. The festival’s origins trace back to the 17th century when, according to legend, the Virgin of Mercy saved the city from a plague of locusts. In gratitude, she was declared the patron saint of Barcelona. However, it wasn’t until 1902 that the festival began to take its modern form, evolving into a grand citywide celebration.

The Festivities

Spanning several days, usually in the last week of September, Le Mercè transforms Barcelona into a hub of festivities, with events scattered throughout the city.

  • Castells: One of the most iconic events is the human tower competition, or ‘Castells’. Teams compete to build the tallest and most complex human tower, a tradition recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.
  • Correfoc: As night falls, the streets come alive with the ‘Correfoc’ or fire run. Participants dressed as devils and dragons dance through the streets, setting off fireworks and bangers, in a mesmerizing display of light and sound.
  • Gigantes y Cabezudos: Giant papier-mâché figures parade through the streets, representing various historical and mythical characters. Children especially love this event as they dance around the giants.
  • Concerts and Dance: From traditional Catalan folk music to contemporary genres, the city resonates with melodies. Dance performances, too, are a significant part of the celebrations, showcasing both traditional and modern forms.
  • Projection Shows: The façade of the Barcelona City Hall and other significant buildings become canvases for spectacular projection shows, blending technology with art.

Cultural Significance

Le Mercè is not just a festival; it’s a reflection of Barcelona’s soul. It brings together the old and the new, the traditional and the contemporary. For the locals, it’s a time of pride, unity, and joy. For visitors, it offers a unique insight into the city’s cultural heartbeat.

Tips for Visitors

If you’re planning to experience Le Mercè:

  1. Plan Ahead: The city is bustling during the festival, so book accommodations and transport in advance.
  2. Stay Safe: While Correfoc is a thrilling experience, it’s essential to wear protective clothing and avoid getting too close to the fireworks.
  3. Join the Locals: Engage with the locals, learn the stories behind the traditions, and immerse yourself in the celebrations.


Le Mercè is more than just a festival; it’s an emotion, a cultural extravaganza that captures the essence of Barcelona. Whether you’re dancing under the fireworks, watching awe-inspiring human towers, or simply soaking in the atmosphere, Le Mercè promises memories that will last a lifetime. If Barcelona is on your travel list, there’s no better time to visit than during Le Mercè.

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