La Mercè is a bank holiday in Barcelona which means a day off work for many as schools, offices as well as most businesses will be closed on the day of September 24th, though many restaurants and bars remain open.
But of course, because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year the festival will see some changes, with some events requiring reservations and others that have been shifted online.
So what’s dfferent this year?
Barcelona has made several modifications to the festival’s usual format due to current health restrictions, but there’s still plenty to do and see, with over 350 free activities over four days, including concerts, plays, exhibits, and lots more.
The festival is more decentralized than previous years to avoid crowds, with smaller shows and events in all of Barcelona’s ten districts.
Reservations are required for many of the shows, and Catalan station betevé will be streaming part of the festivities on television and on its website.
Instead of a single fireworks show, organizers have decided to hold four simultaneous fireworks displays to avoid crowds, which they say should be visible from most balconies and terraces in the city. Accompanying music will be available on TV3.
La Mercè’s 2020 guest city, La Havana, has agreed to postpone its participation to 2021. Instead, the festival this year focuses on local artists, with more than 150 dance, street art, and circus troupes performing.
Festivities begin Thursday morning and continue through the weekend. You can see the full event list and make reservations here.
La Mercè started as a religious celebration in honor of the Virgin of La Mercè, one of Barcelona’s two patron saints, in 1868.
The festival began in its current form in 1902, when the city put together a series of non-religious special events and shows to celebrate its patron saint. Over the years the festival has continued to grow, and now draws as many as 1.5 to 2 million people for a festival that lasts several days.
This year’s posters were made by Barcelona’s Reskate Studio. The images pay homage to the city’s patron saint, the Virgin of La Mercè—who is depicted as a young girl wearing a mask—and Barcelona’s biodiversity, with images like swallows, sparrows, salamanders, and squirrels.