La Merce 2017: Highlights from the biggest festival in Barcelona 22 – 25 September

Welcome to our curated guide to the best events during the festival of festivals – La Merce.

This 200-year-old festival is celebrated around the feast day of the Virgin of Mercy (Mare de Deu de La Merce) on the 24th of September and attracts up to 2 million people. This year, the official public holiday is on the 25th of September so make sure to plan ahead. Also, the guest city is Reykjavik so look out for Icelandic performers this weekend.

Who is La Merce and why are we celebrating in Barcelona?

According to the festival organisers:

“The legend goes that on the night of 24 September 1218, the Virgin appeared simultaneously to King Jaume I, Saint Pere Nolasc and Saint Ramón de Penyafort. She asked all three to create an order of monks dedicated to saving Christians imprisoned by the Saracens. It was the time of the wars of religion.

Centuries later in 1687, Barcelona suffered a plague of locusts, and placed itself in the hands of the Virgin of La Mercè. Once the plague had been overcome, the Council of the City named her patron saint of Barcelona. The Pope did not ratify this decision until two centuries later, however, in 1868.”

Also, make sure to bring an umbrella as legend dictates that there will be a storm during the festival courtesy of Santa Eulalia who became jealous when she was dethroned as the original female patron saint of Barcelona. So far, it has rained every year on at least one of the days. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

By the way, everything is free to join during the festival. Have an amazing time!

DAILY EVENTS (22-25 September)

Iceland 360 (Parc de la Ciutadella)

Experience the land of fire and ice (no, not Game of Thrones) in a film projected inside a dome in the middle of the park. See the beautiful landscapes and northern lights of Iceland. Produced by Eyesberg.

Videomapping: Ritual by UrbanScreen (Germany)
(City Hall facade, Plaça Sant Jaume)

Fri 22: 2245 – midnight
Sat 23: 2030 – midnight
Sun 24: 2045 and 2200 – midnight
Mon 25: 2030 – midnight

An absolute must for first timers to the festival. This year’s light and sound production features contemporary dance as the main theme.

Van Van Market (Parc de la Ciutadella)

There will be food trucks featuring global street food during the festival.



Official Opening of the Festival (City Hall, Plaça Sant Jaume)

A big screen will be set up on the square to broadcast the live event from the city hall.


Opening procession (Route: Palau de la Virreina, la Rambla, Ferran and Plaça de Sant Miquel)

Follow the marching band with dragons, giants and groups in festival attire.

Inaugural Sardanas (In front of the cathedral, Plaça Nova)

Traditional Catalan dance usually performed during festivals


Barcelona Jazz All Stars (Plaça Nova)

Free jazz concert in front of the cathedral

human tower in BarcelonaSATURDAY 23 SEPTEMBER

11:00 – 17:00

MerceDansa (Plaça Nova)

Traditional Catalan folk dancing performed by various groups to live music


Human Towers Procession with guest teams
(Route: Palau de la Virreina, la Rambla, Boqueria, Avinyó, Ferran and Pl. Sant Jaume)

This is the prelude to the main event on Sunday. This year’s guest groups: els Minyons de Terrassa and els Castellers de Vilafranca are featured in a procession from La Rambla to the city hall where they form human towers.


Human Towers (City Hall, Plaça Sant Jaume)


Correfoc / Fire Run (Plaça d’Antoni Maura, El Born)

Dancing devils, fantastic beasts, drums and fire! Get ready for this crazy festival highlight which originated in the 14th century. Make sure you stay well away from the main road or at least wear all cotton long sleeved tops in case you are caught in the middle.

This starts on Via Laietana by the cathedral and ends at the Post Office.

Here’s a preview:


20th International Fireworks Festival, part of “The Festival of Light and Fire (Day 1)
(Espigo de Gas, Platja de la Barceloneta)

This marks the 20th anniversary of the fireworks festival at La Merce.

Tonight, Sigga Soffia, a dancer, choreographer and circus performer from Reykjavik is producing the fireworks display.

Traditional flatbread - coca eaten during La MerceSUNDAY 24 SEPTEMBER

All day

Open Doors

During the festival, many museums are opening their doors to the public, free. Including the Picasso museum.

Here is a list of the best Barcelona museums to visit free this Sunday:


Human Towers of Barcelona (Plaça Sant Jaume)

The human tower groups from each Barcelona neighbourhood will show off their displays in front of the city hall, some of them up to 8 stories high! Not to be missed.

21:00 & 22:30

The colors of the earth (La Pedrera)

‘Els colors de la terra’ (‘The colours of the earth’) at La Pedrera is a rare treat. A video mapping show with singers directed by Lluís Danés will feature music composed by Xavi Lloses.


20th International Fireworks Festival, part of “The Festival of Light and Fire (Day 2)
(Espigo de Gas, Platja de la Barceloneta)

This marks the 20th anniversary of the fireworks festival at La Merce.

The light and sound show on Saturday will be delivered by TFG Producers, a company from Panama which has been creating fireworks displays in Latin America for the past 20 years.

Fireworks on Barceloneta beachMONDAY 25 SEPTEMBER


Closing Fireworks and Music Showcase
(In front of MNAC, Avinguda Maria Cristina, Metro Espanya)

Forget the Magic Fountain. This is like the New Year’s eve countdown with light, sound, fireworks and live music. The much awaited closing ceremony this year will feature the 25th anniversary of the 1992 Olympic Games; Reykjavik, the guest city at this year’s festival and the 40th anniversary of the first LGTB rights march in Barcelona in 1977.

Bring snacks and sparklers to light up at the end.

Additional info:

The official programme from the city hall:

Public transport during the festival:

The good news is that the metro will run non stop from Friday 0500 until Monday at midnight.

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