Festivities in Barcelona: How to have fun and know a little bit more of Catalan traditions at the same time!
It is always easy to find something going on in Barcelona by only taking a stroll. Even at times it seems that the Catalonia’s main city lives in an eternal “fiesta” with continuous parades or live concerts on the street. The autumn festivals and the saint patron and saint patroness celebrations are good reasons for these open-air events, and the sunny weather seems a perfect time for them. However, through the year there are countless festivities that are really worth to know. And here are some suggestions for this Autumn.
Diada Nacional de Catalunya
A remarkable date for Catalonia is September 11th. What is known as la ‘Diada’ or ‘Onze de Setembre’. Catalonia’s ‘National Day’ commemorates the defeat of the Catalan troops in front of the French army during the War of the Throne’s Succession. Catalan troops were finally defeated in Barcelona on 11th September 1714, after 14 months of siege. This meant the loss of the Catalan constitution and basic rights, plus the threat to cultural elements like the language. That’s why this date has a lot of meaning for Catalans, in spite that remembers a defeat and not a victory or a conquest, unlike many other nations.
Where to go?: In the Gothic quarter, the place known as Fossar de les Moreres, right behind Santa María del Mar Basilica, is where many citizens pay homage to the defenders of the city who died during the cruel battle. Throughout the day, there are independentist demonstrations and cultural events in most of Catalan villages and many citizens wave ‘senyeres’, the Catalan flag with four red stripes on a yellow background. Don’t try to take transport this day because there will be many traffic problems.
Festes de la Mercè
If you are looking for a lively Barcelona, with a huge offer of concerts, gastronomic events or live performances on the street and you don’t want to suffer the summer heat, then write down the date of September 24th. It is the central day of Festes de La Mercè, one of the two saint patron celebrations in the city. Along that week a huge range programme of all sorts of activities take place. There’s also free entrance to the Barcelona’s museums and official buildings like Palau de la Generalitat o Barcelona’s City Hall, both located in centric Plaça de Sant Jaume.
If you are one of the very few people that think that Barcelona is not a cosmopolitan city, you must know how we celebrate our All Saint’s Day! More recently, Halloween is an Autumn festival that has been increasingly present on these dates (who doesn’t want to dress up and go to a party?). However, Catalan people are still very linked to its traditions. And a good example is ‘la Castanyada’, which can be a translation of ‘the Chestnut celebration’. Schools celebrate castanyada but is also a familiar and friendly fete to welcome the Fall season. An endearing meeting when it is a tradition to eat roasted chestnuts, sweet potatoes and ‘Panellets’.
Panellets are small cakes or cookies mainly made of a sort of marzipan with mashed almonds and sugar. The most popular ones are round-shaped and covered with pine nuts, but there are also panellets covered with grated coconut, quince jelly (known as ‘membrillo’ in Spanish and ‘Codonyat’ in Catalan), chocolate, or coffee flavour. In fact, the options are countless. In addition, a sip of a variety of a very sweet wine, the Moscatell, is the typical beverage for these dates.
November: ‘Tots Sants‘
November 1st is a public holiday for the celebration of ‘Tots Sants’ (All Saints Day).
It is a tradition to visit family graves and place flowers, lay wreaths and light candles for the loved ones that have passed away. That’s why Barcelona cemeteries are usually open for more hours for that longer weekend, from 8 o’clock in the morning until 6 o’clock in the evening. There are flower stalls at the cemetery gates and special bus services in the days up to places like Montjuïc mountain. Apart from the Olympic ring, amazing museums like MNAC or Fundació Miró and what is known as the ‘Magic Fountain’, Montjuïc places which is probably the burial ground with the best views in Europe.
Tip!: Montjuïc cemetery also has a museum with a collection of XVIIIth and XIXth century carriages decorated with beautiful woodwork.
Interesting to consider: It may also be interesting to take advantage of this quiet day by visiting the Poblenou cemetery, very near to Port Olimpic and with dozens of interesting stories about it. If you decide that day to visit Futbol Club Barcelona stadium, Camp Nou, next to it there’s Les Corts cemetery, which has an area exclusively dedicated to Jewish graveyards.