When the decorated streets are so packed with people they have to be marked as one way walking streets; every bar, restaurant and shop sells take away beers and cocktails (mojito anyone?) or snacks on the street, and on every corner, there’s live music or some other kind of event going on – from 10 in the morning to 4am – it can only mean one thing: It’s festa major time. Every barrio (district) in Barcelona has its local festival, the festa major. Amongst the most famous is the Festa Major de Gracia in August.
Weeks and months ahead, local neighbourhood associations plan the themed decorations for their street – made entirely from recycled materials – to win the coveted prize for best decoration. Individual families and flatmates decorate their balconies, and restaurant and shop owners plan special menus and cocktail booths. Local bands apply to play on one of the many stages throughout the neighbourhood and every little club plans some kind of event. There’s everything from chess tournaments to paella cook-offs to free dance classes, and obviously the obligatory Castellers day at the Festa Major de Gracia.
And then, around the 15th of August, everything gets a little crazy. For a week, the streets turn into a big party scene, almost 24/7. If you live there, as I did for several years, you get really excited about it, but at the end you’re so glad it’s over too, as it’s impossible to get any sleep, and there’s a point where you just get sick of drunk people on your doorstep. This year, living at the other end of the city, I enjoyed just going for a walk through the decorated areas and being able to leave the craziness at the end of the day.
Here are some impressions of the decorated streets at this year’s Festa Major de Gracia.
The Joan Blanques de Baix de Tot neighborhood went for a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory theme
There’s at least one under the sea themed street every year
Calle Tordera went for what looked like a slightly chaotic Mexican theme. It was definitely bright and colorful!
Not every street went for happy plants and animals: Carrer Progrés went for a Zombie theme and won second prize in the street decoration competition with life sized zombies, cemeteries and a grim reaper.
Paella party: A home made paella cooked on wood fire for Sunday lunch on one of the many plazas in Gracia
Slightly scary looking umbrella mushrooms
“Psychadelic Perla” on carrer de Perla with freaky giant eyeballs
The entrance to carrer Verdi, around the corner from my old apartment proudly won the 1st prize in the street decoration competition with an Amazonas theme. They went all out with trees, a waterfall and actual rain to the joy of all kids – most adults were worried about diluting their drinks.
The rule for decorations is that they have to be made from recycled materials, nothing can be new. Carrer Verdi found damaged trees to build its rain forest.
As if it wasn’t sunny enough in Barcelona!
Have you been to the Festa Major de Gracia? What was your favorite street?