La Merce 2010 Kicks Off
Festivals abound in Barcelona, especially during summer when every district has its own 'Festa Major'. The big one though takes place towards the end of September and is the celebration of the city itself and its patron saint Our Lady The Virgin of Mercy. It was she who Barcelona's townspeople prayed to in 1687 when a plague of locusts threatened their livelihood, and pray which she duly answered (or so the pious believe).
Since then the 24th September has been considered sacred in these parts and forms the focus of La Merce festival. The day is typically marked by large parades that take in much of the old part of the city, including Plaza Real and Las Ramblas, where kitsch plastic and metal beasts breath fire to the tune of drummer boys and girls; and all around town free exhibitions and concerts accompany the pageantry.
The festivities aren't restricted to the 24th, and in 2010 they start on the 20th September with various exhibitions showing by the Roman walls in Barri Gotic, and then build in intensity each day. By the 23rd La Merce is in full swing with free evening concerts taking place in Plaza Juan Coromines, Plaza Catalunya and Parc del Forum - catch the excellent Balkatalan Experience at the latter. Perhaps the biggest name to descend on Barcelona in 2010 will be Goldfrapp however, and if you want to catch them then head back to Parc del Forum on the 24th. It's not often you get to catch a band of this calibre for free after all!
For a day by day programme of Festa La Merce 2010 head to the official site. It's in Catalan but Google will translate near enough for you!