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Vibrant, colourful, loud and proud best describes the fiesta major de Gracia in Barcelona guest post written by James

Typically Gracia is a sleepy residential community in the north of the city. Normally, the vibe there is quiet and gentle, however, once a year, peace and tranquility is thrown out the window. From the 15th - 21st august, the neighbourhood is radically transformed to host Barcelona's biggest, most exuberant festival of art, music and dance. Up to half a million visitors from far and wide flock to the plazas and backstreets to enjoy this mass celebration, which is family friendly and better still - completely free ! Flights to Barcelona will take you straight to the heart of festivities.

To kickstart the event, a parade of giant carnival figures and castellers express catalan folklore at the plaza vila de gràcia.

Every street and square are imaginatively decorated and set up to accommodate and entertain the crowds. Live bands provide the soundtrack, playing anything from rock and jazz to contemporary and classical music - so your feet will be tapping all day long.

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The festival is organised by the local community and shows their spirit and unity. For months residents from 17 local streets work together and prepare to win the coveted title of "best decorated street". Elaborate designs are created using any materials residents can lay their hands on. Each year a different theme is chosen but the wackier the better is most likely to win. Residents also prepare floats, parades and organise concerts and other activities.

You can enjoy a varied programme of events throughout the week. With street and art performances, exhibitions, children's activities, workshops, sports activities, street markets, parades, dancers - there's something for everyone. Like any good festival, food stalls and bars provide the necessary fuel. Spanish delicacies such as paella and traditional catalan snacks are available to try.

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The festival draws to a close with the much anticipated correfoc - devils running down the street bursting firecrackers and a spectacular fireworks display. This signifies the end is in sight... for another year.

Top tips for visitors:

  • Take public transport. The metro line 3 to fontana takes you to the heart of the festival.
  • View the street competition early in the week. With such a large number of visitors, decorations can deteriorate quickly.
  • Try to visit during the day when it will be less crowded.
  • Consult a programme, so you know what's on and when.

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