If you've enjoyed Barcelona's La Mercè celebrations before, you might be used to five to seven days of parties. This year all the concerts, tradition and fun are packed into four days, from September 22 to 25 – the perfect long weekend in Barcelona. On Thursday the 22nd at 7pm, the festival offically kicks off with the opening speech, given this year by writer Javier Pérez Andújar in Plaça de Sant Jaume. At the same time the inaugural parade – with the Eagle, Dragon, Giants and the rest of the festival court – sets off from the Palau de la Virreina in Plaça Sant Miquel. Also at the same time the first traditional sardana dance gets underway in front of the Cathedral, and you'll hear the bells ring out in the Barri Gòtic in honour of the Festa Major, and you can check out the mapping projected on the façade of the City Hall building. Choose your favourite or run really fast to try to see a bit of it all!