- Open Air
During August, the neighborhood of Gracia celebrates its major festival, one of Barcelona’s most popular parties.
Declared a Traditional Festival of National Interest, and distinguished by the Cross of Sant Jordi, the Festival of Gracia is a key point of pride for neighborhood residents, who consider the party as the ultimate expression of identity. The unbounded glory of this festival is exhibited right on the city streets, which neighbors delight in embellishing with utmost care and enthusiasm. It takes all year to organize this party, and plan for the meticulous decoration of the neighborhood’s streets, plazas, and balconies, which are bedecked in all sorts of thematic materials, with each street out to achieve the same goal: to be the best in the festival. What on any other day might be a regular stroll through the neighborhood becomes a magical journey during this week, when visitors can view intricate, complex public installations, like a ship straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean, and then turn the corner only to find themselves before the Wall from Game of Thrones.
In addition to the best-street contest, the festival plays host to virtually thousands of activities suited for all ages, from workshops for kids, to informal talks, dinners, and even family sporting events, all designed to entertain visitors and introduce them to this amazing district. Participants can also enjoy meals, parades featuring giants, carnival figures, and astounding pyrotechnic displays. Other crowd-pleasers this special week include up to 200 live concerts offering up some of today’s best musical acts, all enjoyed in public outdoor venues, up until 2 in the morning; that’s the official closing time for the festival’s performances, as decreed by the city’s own residents, so that they can be sure to get their rest!
One of the things that makes this festival so popular is the mere fact of its longevity; the first spectacle held to mark the celebration dates back to 1817, just over 200 years ago. Neither the Spanish Civil War nor the rigidity of the Franco years could get in the way of this vibrant tradition, or keep Barcelona’s population from partying. To top it all off, the Festival received even greater recognition when it was immortalized in Plaza del Diamante, the novel by Mercè Rodoreda, in which the Gracia-born character Colometa takes part in this not-to-be-missed neighborhood fete.