Fiesta de Gracia is Barcelona’s biggest and most colourful Fiesta, celebrating art, culture and catalan traditions…. Over a week, 1.5 million visitors wander the 18 streets and plazas that have been intricately decorated by the residents in a particular theme. At night these giant displays are illuminated bringing with it pop up bars, bands and parades with exceptional fireworks displays, crackers and scary monsters. Fiesta de Gracia has been declared a Traditional Festival of National Interest by the Generalitat of Catalonia. If you travel Spain and are following the Spanish summer festivals, you cannot afford to miss this one!
Arriving in Spain, exhausted from a long haul flight, made longer by being the cheapest we could find, we were wanting a little rest. After spending a month travelling the length of Java in Indonesia we were looking forward to being inconspicuous and slow footed… for a change. That was until Fiesta de Gracia presented itself.
After only a dabble of research into Barcelona Prue yells “Gracia sounds like a nice place to live for a few days, it is central but quirky.”
Accommodation booked we enter this new territory, our first visit to a European country in nearly 2 years but it is not as we had imagined. Despite being 11pm the streets were a mass of bodies and chatter.
“Wow, the Spanish like to stay up late.”
Laughing the hostel chica explains that it is fiesta time, “Fiesta de Gracia is one of THE best celebrations in Barcelona.”
Despite our enthusiasm we beckon the world farewell and climb into bed but the bombardment of noise at our bedroom door interrupted all of our plans to sleep. Bangs and screams, chants and drums dragged us from our bunks and towed us outside. In one tiny moment our World, our perspective was turned upside down, everything had become. Right outside of our window is a herd of drummers banging ferociously in rhythm, drumming harder and faster until an enormous crack steals their thunder and draws the masses away. Fireworks begin screaming in the streets, a masked man carries a firework pole which sheds an umbrella of embers upon the crowd. The masked man is not alone and suddenly there is a riot of youths chanting in a circle, each one twirling fire around and around.
The idea is ludicrous but the crowd pushes ever closer in delight, that is until the monsters of the parade arrive. A dragon towering above us all snorts flames from his nostrils. Then a menacing donkey swings itself into the crowd with its ass ablaze. When red sparks shoot from his nostrils he makes a chase for the onlookers who have huddled in the side streets for protection. I have rarely been so scared and run for my life when the flames belch and scream my way filling the air with smoke and the smell of scorched flesh.
In this way our introduction to Gracia’s Festival was rather startling but as we explored the gauntlet of streets by night a more serene side emerged. Music stages with funky live bands; pop-up bars selling sangria and mojitos from garage doors; streets adorned with giant illuminated papier-mâché characters and a world of underground clubs. Still awesome, still alive yet a little less terrifyingly so.
In the daylight hours, while finding our bearings we frequently encounter more of the giant sculptures that had loomed over us the night before. Equally fun to look at in the daytime we explored several of the 18 streets in Gracia that are dedicated to creating scenes from a story book or horror show. Depending on the residents choice of theme, one moment we found ourselves intoxicated within Alice’s Wonderland while the next we are beside a waterfall cascading down a three story house hidden within the Amazon.
Thanks to some creative locals who are willing to allow their streets to be overrun by nearly 2 million people for five days and nights, this fiesta is second to none. Lazy Gracia usually embodies a traditional Spanish quarter; blocks of short pinched streets and single-lane roads that converge on the occasional open square; tall houses littered with Juliette verandahs above a graffitied garage; a silence lingering in the air throughout the siesta hours.
To the people of Gracia, we applaud you.
When is La Fiesta de Gracia
In 2014 we stumbled upon the 198th edition of this Fiesta which runs from the 15th August to 21st August every year.
Where is La Fiesta de Gracia
North west of Barcelona city centre, a 20minute walk from the Sagrada Familia.
Turning on the decorative lights at 8.30pm on day 1 and the party that ensues.
Wandering the streets and finding some of the 18 streets that transform into a wonderland or horror house.
Scouting out some of the local Spanish bands who rock the squares and side streets every night.
Ordering drinks from street side garages and pop-up bars.
Taking part in the finale parade, dodging fireworks and jumping to the beats of the drummers.
Where to stay in Gracia
To be right in the thick of the festivities, obviously you need to stay in Gracia. Calle Torrent de L’Olla, a street which cannot be any closer to the action, has a few hostels. The Hip Hostel was lovely and one of the cheapest in the area.