The Gràcia neighborhood of Barcelona is just north of the main tourist areas, but you feel a world away from the crowds. It has a much more local feel and you aren’t swarmed with millions of other tourists. To be honest, I think this is my favorite area in all of Barcelona.
Until the late 1800s, Gràcia was actually a different town. But as Barcelona grew, it sort of gobbled it up. But those from Gràcia remain very proud of their neighborhood and there’s definitely a different feel when you walk around. Granted, that might also be because you aren’t dodging 47,823 other people.
That being said, for one week every year, the quiet streets of Gràcia are packed with people. The Festa Major de Gràcia happens mid-August and is the largest neighborhood festival in all of Barcelona. Residents compete for the title of “best street or square” by decorating their (you guessed it) street or square with elaborate themes. Everything is handmade by the local residents and everyone really gets into it. I walked through the area a week before the festival and residents were hard at work making decorations and getting ready in the middle of the street.
We checked out the festival one night and were blown away. Each street is completely decked out with varying themes: underwater, seasons, Game of Thrones, space, etc. There are stages with local bands playing every few blocks, restaurants (and possibly simply local entrepreneurs) selling beer from store doors, and tons of people walking through the streets, checking out the decorations.
My pictures came out terribly, but hopefully they give a sense of how amazingly elaborate the streets are decorated:
It really is a neighborhood festival – this group was enjoying a picnic, set-up at a long table in the middle of what I’m assuming is their street.
This video shows the decorations a bit better than the pictures.
In the main square, we were able to watch two colles castelleres, basically human stacking towers. This is apparently the Catalan national sport and there are groups all over the region. Essentially, a huge group of people support each other with their arms. Then smaller groups start climbing on the shoulders of the others to literally build a human tower. The top group is usually comprised of young children, and they’re often 6+ people up. I tried snapping a picture for each layer to capture how cool it is to watch it being built. I also took this video which shows how they just kind of climb up each other’s shoulders.