La Mercè draws over 1.3 million

Concerts at the Barcelona festival saw attendance of 346,150 people

Gegants perform in Sant Jaume square on September 24 2018 (by Aina Martí)
Gegants perform in Sant Jaume square on September 24 2018 (by Aina Martí) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

September 25, 2018 01:30 PM

La Mercè, Barcelona's city-wide 'Festa Major' party, saw 1,311,697 people participate from the 21 to the 24 of September, according to City Hall data.

Attendance numbers are lower than that those of last year, when almost 4 million people took part in the festivities; however, 2018 data does not include those who watched the Piromusical music and fireworks end-of-show performance.

As usual, one of the most sought-after parts of La Mercè was its concerts and musical performances, which brought together 346,150 people. Meanwhile, cultural and traditional events drew some 243,480 people while the street art section of the festival, the Mercè Arts de Carrer (MAC) saw some 297,408 spectators.

Highlights for 2018

Some of the most notable events from this year's edition included the iconic 'correfoc' celebration, a time-old devilish Catalan tradition which sees participants cavorting through Via Laietana, one of Barcelona's main avenues, wearing demon costumes and brandishing pitchforks spewing fireworks, sparklers, and bangers. This, not to mention various parades featuring 'gegant' statues, and the Catalan human tower 'castells.'  

The recurring video projection and digital mapping on the Barcelona City Hall and the Catalan government seat building façades provided a love letter to Barcelona, for those walking throughout the city, from one event to the other. Rife with futuristic images, based on the poem 'Odas des del cel' by David Castillo but read by a woman, the piece was centered around the Catalan capital – without once mentioning its name.

Music took the center stage, as well, with an emphasis on Afrobeat, afrofunk, and the continent as a whole – including Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, Orquestra Baobab, Nakani Kanté, and Kokoroko – also showcasing much talent from the UK, Portugal, and the United States. And, while the international took the festival by storm, so too did the Catalan: this was an opportunity to see La iaia, Love of Lesbian, and Els Catarres, as well as to say goodbye to Dr. Calypso on their farewell tour. 

What is La Mercè?

Each year, Barcelona’s own 'Festa Major' sees the city transformed into a festival site, with concerts all over the place (courtesy of BAM) and street performances (courtesy of MAC), as well as cultural activities. This year, the guest of honor was the city of Lisbon, although acts from all over the world took to the stage – with a focus on both the feminine and the continent of Africa.

For those feeling hungry or, especially, thirsty, the 'Mostra de Vins i Caves de Catalunya,' taking place on the side, showcased some of the best wines and caves the country has to offer. Throughout the four days there were also stands and foodtrucks throughout the city, most notably in the Ciutadella Park.

The cultural heritage of Catalonia always gets a moment in the spotlight, too, with spectacles from 'correfocs' to human towers, dances from the 'sardana' to 'bastoners,' and of course, parades filled with traditional 'gegant' and 'nans' statues.

The recurring lightshow and video projection on the Barcelona City Hall took place all four days, with a special pyrotechnics show held on Friday and Saturday to kick off the event. On Monday, several museums and monuments opened their doors for free, the same day of the iconic end-of-show fireworks in Montjuïc, Piromusical.

While many of the festivities will be taking place on the beach or in downtown Barcelona, as is usual, this year there was an ongoing effort to de-centralize the festivities, with some activities happening in Nou Barris and by the Besòs river.