Being the patron saint of Catalonia, Sant Jordi or Saint George is one of the most festive days of the region. If you happen to be in Barcelona during the 23rd of May you will be lucky to take part in one of the various very special events proper to the Catalan culture and customs. On Sant Jordi’s day the streets of the city of Barcelona get filled with a special atmosphere and thousands of people celebrating love and culture. Catalans are striding along the city with red roses and in the search of the perfect book. This article is a complete guide with the best tips for enjoying Sant Jordi in Barcelona.
Traditionally, men offer a red rose to their lover while women buy a book for their partner.
In Catalonia, the legend says that after a harsh fight against the dragon, the knight Sant Jordi defeated it. The bleeding monster collapsed on the floor and a blood drop that reached a rosebush made it blooms abundantly. This is one of the reasons why red roses are given on that day.
There are other possible explanations to this tradition that dates from a long time ago. In the Barcelona of the 15th century, the Fira dels Enamorats (the Lovers’ fair) would have rose vendors gathering to sell the red flowers around Palau de la Generalitat. Men would offer them to their loved one. Roses were also offered to women who attended the Mass in the Sant Jordi chapel located in the same Palau. Besides, roses were offered in the Roman time to celebrate in honour of the goddess Flora.
The red rose represents the feminine love with the colour of passion. When sold, roses are decorated with various elements. Sometimes they come with an ear of corn which symbolises fertility or the arrival of good weather. Usually, they are accompanied with a ribbon or a bow with the red and yellow colours of the Senyera, the Catalan flag.
Around the period of Sant Jordi, roses can be found everywhere: shops, street corners, squares… The tradition is to that men give one flower to their beloved one; however, it is also common to offer it to friends, colleagues and relatives as a sign of friendship and affection.
On April 23rd roses will be sold in solidarity in the courtyard of the entrance of the City. The amount collected will go to non-profit entities.
Since 1930, this is a special day for literature. Indeed, the origin of offering a book is due to the introduction of Book Day as part of the celebrations.
This Catalan tradition was born when the Booksellers’ Guild and the Official Book Chamber established this date to commemorate that the 23rd of April coincide with the death of wrtiter such as William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes and Garcilaso de la Vega. This is also the date when writers like Josep Pla, Maurice Druon, K. Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov or Manuel Mejía Vallejo were born or died. Since 1996, the Unesco has declared that this tradition has become global and has become the International Book and Copyright Day.
The strong literary tradition of Barcelona and the commitment of the city to literature have meant its inclusion within the Unesco Creative Cities Network as a City of Literature. The designation implies a worldwide recognition of the literary sector and Barcelona’s literature.
Booksellers might sell the books you are looking for at a reduced fare; so get your list ready and stroll the streets on that day!
Places to celebrate Sant Jordi’s Day
Before and during Sant Jordi’s Day, you will be able to attend various literary events and discover some popular sites with a different aspect.
Món Llibre: 6-7/04/2018
The two weekends before (6th and 7th April), children and young adults are the true centre of attention of Sant Jordi at a book festival especially dedicated for them, “Món Llibre”. The event takes place at the CCCB and the MACBA.
Sant Jordi Dialogs: 20-22/04
To whet people’s appetite before the big day, the Barcelona City Council and the Barcelona Institute of Culture organises “Sant Jordi Dialogs”. This event that highlights the city’s literary tradition (declared by UNESCO as City of Literature 2015) is dedicated to national and international authors and their work.
The Auditori Disseny Hub Barcelona will host conferences and talks featuring famous literary artists.
- Friday 20th of April
6.00 PM – La mirada singular with Amélie Nothomb and Sergi Pàmies.
8.00 PM – Familia y conflicto with Carme Riera and Najat El Hachmi.
- Saturday 21th of April
5.00 PM – La fantasía, la mejor manera de acercarse a la realidad with Philip Pullman and Albert Sánchez Piñol.
6.30 PM – África, cuna de historias with José Eduardo Agualusa and Xavier Aldekoa.
8.00 PM – Vida y literatura with Fernando Aramburu and Anna Guitart.
La Nit del Drac: 22/04
At 8.30 PM, the Plaça del Rei will organise tributes paid to Catalans authors, whose birth or death anniversaries fall on that day.
The streets of Barcelona
The most iconic street of Barcelona, La Rambla, is without doubt the epicentre of Sant Jordi’s Day. Passeig de Gràcia and Rambla Catalunya follow behind as the other unmissable places to visit.
Plenty of stalls selling books and roses line along these streets. You will see long queues of locals waiting for their favourite authors to sign copies of their books. If this interests you, wake up early in order to avoid the long waiting. If you do not stand big crowds, do not worry! Book and rose stall are all around the city.
Numerous events and performances will take place such as poetry recitals, book readings, processions of “gegants” (giants figures) and performance of sardana, a typical Catalan dance. The proclamation of the event and a literary discussion will occur in the Saló de Cent situated inside the City Hall. The latter will be open to public on the 23rd.
Sant Jordi a Casa de les Punxes
The Casa de les Punxes is also joining the celebrations by offering a program of special activities. People of every age are welcome to pay a visit and enjoy some lively sessions designed to appeal everyone.
There will be a themed guided visit entitled uncover the legend of St. George. The Casa de les Punxes will be running a guided visit themed around this legend. Its objective is to investigate the origins of the legend and its connection with the building and its architect, Josep Puig i Cadafalch.
For a magical and unforgettable experience, there will be a chance of enjoying a romantic gala dinner on the rooftop of the building in an intimate and special setting.
Sant Jordi bread
A proper main in Catalonia is obviously accompanied with succulent food. Try the Sant Jordi bread, a soft loaf made with cheese, ‘sobrassada’ – a spicy sausage typical from the Balearic Islands – and walnuts. This combination creates the colours of the Catalan flag.
- Sant Jordi in Casa Batlló
Like last year, the Casa Batlló will celebrate that day by covering its balconies with a mantle of red roses that will decorate the main facade from April 20th to 23rd.
Also, you could purchase a limited edition of a manual about love on the street just in front of the main facade. The entire proceeds of the books sold will go to a local foundation.
Sant Jordi at Sagrada Familia
World icon from Barcelona and cultural reference, architectural and heritage of humanity, this year the Sagrada Familia wants to live a different Sant Jordi with a program of activities to bring the dream of Gaudí to the public.
Along with this visit, the Sagrada Familia and the Gaudi Museum House also want to commemorate Sant Jordi offering the possibility of visiting these spaces to all those people who celebrate their saint on such a marked day.
In this way, on Sant Jordi’s Day, from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., the temple and what was Gaudí’s residence in Park Güell will offer free access and without reservation to all Jordis, Jordines, Jorges I Georgines as well as George and Georgina and all other international namesake who want to visit them.
Where to stay
It’s always very convenient to stay close to this kind of events. That’s why we offer various comfortable, elegant and centrally located apartments for you to make the most of your experience in Barcelona. Find more information by clicking here.