On an average day, Gracia is a peaceful, residential neighbourhood north of the city centre of Barcelona, with narrow streets lined with elegant old balconied buildings and shady squares with historic churches and cafe terraces.
But for one week in August, everything changes. When the week-long ”Fiesta Major” (Gracia Festivities) takes over Gracia. Tranquillity goes out of the window and is replaced by the Catalans' typical exuberant taste in music and mass celebration in the streets. The Gracia festival is a street festival on streets and plazas of Gracia every year from 15th to 21st of August. The Fiesta Major de Gracia is the biggest of Barcelona's neighbourhood festivals with around half a million people visiting and participating. The 2011 celebration will be the 195th edition.
Dating back to the early 19th century, it has become one of Barcelona's biggest festivals, which is saying something for a city that can practically count the year's non-fiesta days on the fingers of one hand.
The main event at Gràcia’s extravagant Fiesta Major is its street competition, where residents transform some 25 streets into pirate ships, rainforests and Jurassic landscapes. Around 17 to 20 streets and squares in Gracia are decorated by residents who spend hours transforming parts of their street with charming homemade carnival style decorations and themes to compete for the prize of being the best decorated street or square of the Gracia festival. The results are amazing! All the decorated streets are worth visiting, but it can take a while, so be sure to visit the streets that often win the top prizes like "Carrer de Joan Blanques" and "Carrer de Verdi."
Usually around 17 to 20 streets and plazas have decorations. It is best to visit streets early in the Gracia festival. The prizes are announced on 16th and after that the decorations start to crumble a bit mainly due to the many visitors. There is also a competition for the best decorated balconies in the Gracia area..
Designs range from the beautiful to the surreal and in all cases are highly elaborate. You are advised to admire their artwork early on the 15th as from then on everything starts to deteriorate as the carnival atmosphere takes over.
The free event kicks off in Plaza Rius i Taulet, with a parade of giant carnival figures and the famous human pyramids known as "castellers". The surrounding streets are lined with tables and benches to accommodate the influx of a million visitors from throughout the city and abroad. On that first evening at 7pm there is a parade of characters from Catalan folklore.
To fuel the atmosphere, live bands take root in different spots around Gracia – prime positions are in Plaza del Sol – to play as long and loud as possible. Like any festival worth its salt, there are loads of food stalls and many local bars open on the streets to provide endless liquid sustinence.
With the summer nights long and hot, the activity is guaranteed to go on well into the next morning. There are said to be 600 events this year throughout the week, including children's games (don´t expect them to be going to bed anytime before 2am), cultural activities and dancing.
When you see devils running down the street and setting off fireworks you know the end is in site with the spectacular closing ceremony, the "correfoc." And come the morning of Monday 23rd, Gracia returns to its usual summer sleepiness.
So if you want to see the beautifull decorated streets of Gràcia, visit Barcelona during the 15th to the 21st of August. Habitat apartments has the perfect Barcelona apartments to stay in this area or near other main attractions. Visit our web to book your holiday apartment online!