La Mercè’19: the must-see popular culture activities on Friday, 20 September

Barcelona’s festa major begins on Friday evening with the ringing of bells, the Opening Parade and the reading of the opening speech. The Toc d’Inici, or Opening Ceremony, will be followed by ceremonial dancing, performed by all the figures from the popular culture parade: the City’s Giants, the Eagle, the Lion… Make sure you see the sardana dancing, accompanied by the Cobla Sant Jordi – Ciutat de Barcelona, and the beasts’ parade.

Here is a summary of the day’s popular culture highlights, in chronological order:

  • Bell ringing in the Barri Gòtic. At 5 pm, the bells the Santa Maria del Pi Basilica will ring out. The Friends of the Pi Bell Tower Association have brought back traditional manual bell ringing. And they are performing in the La Mercè Festival to let all Barcelona residents know that the celebrations have begun.
  • The La Mercè Opening Speech 6.30 pm, in City Hall’s Saló de Cent. The festivities won’t begin until this year’s opening speech has been read. So listen carefully to what Manuela Carmena has to say, because she will invite us to enjoy the five days of this traditional festival to the full, with top-class concerts and circus, dance and street-art shows. Heed her words… and enjoy yourselves! The La Mercè opening speech has on-screen sign-language interpretation and transcription, which can be seen from Plaça de Sant Jaume. You can also follow it live on Betevé.
  • Opening Parade. At 7 pm, from Palau de la Virreina to Plaça de Sant Jaume. If you want to experience the festival from the very beginning, follow the city’s Eagle, the Lion, the Mulassa she-dragon, the Ox, the Víbria she-dragon, the Dragon, the Tarasca, the Giants of Pi, the City Giants, the Capgrossos Marcers, the Cavallets Cotoners and the Giants of Santa Maria del Mar in their parade from Las Ramblas to Plaça de Sant Jaume. And this year, the Popular Culture Parade will be joined by the Falcons de Barcelona, so you can also see them parade in La Mercè. They will be accompanied by the Trabucaires [riflemen] d’en Perot Rocaguinarda and the Ministrils del Camí Ral. And just so you don’t get hungry halfway through the parade, the Panàtics platform and the Bakers’ Guild will offer you a chocolate and bread snack before you set off. Interior of La Virreina, La Rambla, Carrer Ferran, Plaça de Sant Miquel.
  • Opening sardana dancing 7 pm, on Avinguda de la Catedral. Accompanied by the city’s official cobla orchestra, the Cobla Sant Jordi.
  • Opening Ceremony. At 7:45 pm in Plaça de Sant Jaume. The Toc d’Inici, or Opening Ceremony, is one of the festa major’s most outstanding events. Come and see the figures from the Popular Culture Parade dance. When they finish, they offer a last dance in Plaça de Sant Jaume before leaving (el Toc Final), while a firework display at City Hall marks the start of the festivities.
  • Parade of fire-breathing dragons and beasts. At 10 pm, starting and finishing in Plaça Comercial. The fire-breathing dragons and beasts that you’ll see participating in some of the most popular festival activities are not yet fully awake, so they will take an initial stroll around the neighbourhood’s streets and squares. If you want to see them properly, without the shower of sparks that usually accompany their public appearances, this is the time. Route: Plaça Comercial, Comerç, Princesa, Montcada, Sombrerers, Plaça de Santa Maria, Passeig del Born and Plaça Comercial.