Traditionally the month of August is when local Barcelona residents take their holidays, the soaring temperatures and saturated humidity levels make work impossible so almost all businesses shut down, many restaurants included, and everyone generally accepts that nothing will happen till the end of the month.
For anyone choosing to stay however and of course the numerous visitors coming to the city during the month, one of the highlights on the city’s summer calendar is Gràcia’s Festa Major, or village fête. The village fête of one of Barcelona’s most celebrated neighbourhoods
Staying in Barcelona during August
One of Barcelona’s most charming neighbourhoods, Gràcia is filled with beautiful squares, quirky shops, interesting architecture, bars, taverns and restaurants, a neighbourhood that retains a village like atmosphere which although adjacent to the Eixample (the grid area of the city) feels like a completely separate place.
Something for everyone
Between August 15th and 21st Gràcia residents compete with one another to decorate their streets with fantastical creations, normally inspired by a theme that feature music, dance, exhibitions, street food and other cultural expressions. Months and months of preparations go into the festival that normally lasts for between 7 and 10 consecutive days, at the end of which the winners are announced with regard to the best street decorations. People from all over the city visit Gràcia during the Festa Major, the activities also include castelleras (human towers that can reach 7 or 8 storeys that represent the solidarity of the Catalan community), the parading of gigantes and cabezudos (papier-mâché figures representing local archetypes or historical persons worn by individuals taking part in dancing processions), correfocs (another local tradition where groups dressed as devils and dragons parade through the streets with fireworks and dancing) and other popular local dances such as the sardanas and bastoners.
A neighbourhood with a separate identity
Gràcia is a Barcelona neighbourhood that dates from the 17th Century constructed around the Nuestra Señora de Gracia y San José convent (known popularly as Josepets), on the gently sloping plain known as the llano de Barcelona between the Collserola mountain range, the Mediterranean and the deltas formed by the Llobregat and Besos rivers. Barcelona’s premier avenue, Passeig de Gràcia which was laid out in 1827 joined the Gothic Quarter with what was previously one of the many separate villages that would ultimately be incorporated within greater Barcelona once the Ildefonso Cerdá city plan was adopted. The 42 metre wide avenue that predates the master-plan is lined with trees and contains many of the city’s most extraordinary architectural gems and world renowned shops.
The 201st edition this year
In 2017 the Festa Major de Gràcia celebrated its bicentenary having been originally celebrated during the month of May but since 1812, coinciding with the relocation of the Josepets convent, the festivities commenced on August 15th the day of the Assumption. In the late 19th Century the population of Gràcia exploded thanks to the industrialisation of the neighbourhood, the Festa Major was adopted by the locals as a secular holiday that was celebrated over a week or ten days. At the beginnings of the 20th Century the street decorations element of the Festa Major began to be overseen by important artists of the day and in 1935 the awards for the most spectacular displays were overseen by the Comitè de Fires i Festes, nowadays known as the Federació de la Festa Major de Gràcia.
A repository of Catalan culture
During the years of the dictatorship (1939 – 1975) the Festa Major de Gràcia was an important expression of Catalan culture that was suffering serious repression under the regime. By the late 70s however the tradition was becoming less popular but just as the neighbourhood itself was revived with the changing fortunes of the city so the Festa Major became more consolidated over the following decades recognition from the Generalitat de Catalunya (Government of Catalonia) of a National Festival status in 1997.
Gràcia is not the only neighbourhood to celebrate its fiesta mayor the city is in fact divided into 10 districts and 73 neighbourhoods (or barrios) many of which have their own fiesta mayor which are held over the course of the year at different times. It is however one of the most renowned and spectacular. However Gràcia is a joy to explore at any time of the year, a fascinating network of squares and streets with something surprising awaiting around every corner, whether exploring its during the spring, summer, autumn or winter.
Gràcia is probably one of the most accessible parts of the city that can be easily reached on foot, by metro, ferrocarril or bus.
Gràcia is a station on the ferrocarril network serviced by the S2 S55 and L7 lines.
The most practical metro line to access Gràcia is L3 (the green line) with three stations Diagonal, Fontana and Lesseps to choose from.
The best buses for getting to Gràcia are V15, V12, V22, L12 or E1
Accommodation and food
The Grand Hotel Barcelona is an ideal base for visiting La Festa Major de Gràcia, not just because it can be accessed by a leisurely 30 minute walk from the hotel but also because everything else worth seeing in Barcelona is literally on its doorstep.
In addition to its location the City Bar & Restaurant presents a wonderful opportunity to savour local Mediterranean cuisine and wines within a beautiful setting where the panoramic windows provide a colourful city backdrop. And to escape the hustle and bustle of the streets the Skybar, one of Barcelona’s most photographed roof terraces, not only provides peerless views over the gothic area and the coast but creative and classic cocktails as well as a snack menu, the ideal recovery after a long day exploring the streets of Gràcia.