Live the life
With its own identity
- The Festival of Sant Jordi
There is a spring day in Barcelona when the streets are crowded with stalls selling books and roses and people buying them as gifts for their other half and loved ones. "Sant Jordi" or St George, as he is known in English, is the patron saint of Catalonia and his saint's day on 23 April is devoted to the celebration of love and literature. It is a magical day you need to experience at least once in your life.
- BCN Design
Barcelona is an international benchmark for design in a variety of fields, as can be seen from the Barcelona Design Festival, the Barcelona Design Centre, a cluster of design-sector companies and, above all, the avant-garde Barcelona Design Hub building, which houses the Design Museum.
- Catalan cuisine
Being good Catalans, Barcelonians love to eat well, as reflected in their city's markets - packed as they are with fresh, local produce - and in its numerous Catalan-cuisine restaurants, which range from the traditional to the avant-garde. And institutions such as the Catalan Cookery Institute maintain the country's cultural culinary identity.
If there is one architectural style that bears the Barcelona stamp it has to be Modernisme - the Catalan Art Nouveau - whose dreamily shaped buildings have left their mark on a good many of the city's neighbourhoods. The Modernisme Route invites you to discover them!
- Reaching for the sky with the human towers
Castells are human towers and one of the most exciting forms of street entertainment to be seen. They can go up to as many as ten levels and are a marvel of balance and beauty as well as an example of teamwork. The Castellers de Barcelona put them up on the city's main festival days.
- Fire runs, a fascination for fire and gunpowder
Being a Mediterranean city, Barcelona has been captivated by fire since time immemorial. So one of the most popular festival events is the correfoc, literally a "fire run", where groups of devils light bangers and shower sparks over the people surrounding them. It is a very intense experience, but a safe one at that, so long as you follow some basic advice.
- Acrobatic human towers, the art of human figures
Performing something halfway between gymnastics and art, the Falcons - an acrobatic-sports human towers group - amaze their spectators with the figures they are capable of creating as they combine their bodies. Their origins can be found in the nineteenth-century Czech Sokol movement, which combined physical exercise with national cultural values. The Falcons de Barcelona offer a 21st-century Catalan version.
- The traditional festival centre
The Casa dels Entremesos offers a chance to discover some of the main figures - giants, "big-heads" and traditional fantastic beasts - that feature in the festivals held not just in Barcelona but in the whole of Catalonia. They are usually taken out to dance for traditional festivals such as the saint's days of Barcelona's co-patron saints: La Mercè (24 September) and Santa Eulàlia (12 February).
- Dancing eggs
During the Feast of Corpus Christi, a few Gothic building courtyards open up to the public to show a curious tradition that is unique in the world: l'ou com balla, getting an egg to “dances” on a jet of water - from a fountain decorated with flowers and fruit - without its falling to the ground. The tradition goes back to the 15th century and offers a lovely occasion for going round the city's historical buildings.
A city with character
Barcelona is an open, vibrant and creative city with a busy cultural, political, business and commercial life. It is a metropolis where every imaginable language can be heard, as well as a city that invites its residents and visitors alike to discover its Catalan culture and traditions.
The Catalan capital
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, a country whose nation boasts a long history, enjoying self-government as an autonomous region in the Spanish State. It is situated on the north-east coast of the Iberian peninsula, facing the Mediterranean Sea and bordered by Andorra and France along its north. Catalonia also has its own language, Catalan, which grew out of Latin, as did Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese. Catalan is its official language, together with Spanish, and is used regularly in every walk of life. In addition, most of the people working in international trade and the country's main tourist areas speak English and other languages as well. Barcelona has always attracted people from all over the world, making it even more multilingual and special. It is the people living there, with their different backgrounds and cultures, who make it so cosmopolitan, diverse and intercultural.
Plaça de Sant Jaume concentrates the political life of the city and the Catalan nation. In use since the Middle Ages, Barcelona City Hall and Palau de la Generalitat [Catalan regional government building] are both located in this square. The City Hall houses the Saló de Cent, literally Hall of One Hundred, which was founded in the Middle Ages by King James l, the Conqueror. Since the 14th century, most of Catalonia's 131 presidents have exercised their authority from the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya. The city is also the seat of the Catalan Parliament, Catalonia's own legislative body, which has been housed in a building in Parc de la Ciutadella since 1980.
People start work between 8 am and 9 am and continue up to 1.30 pm or 2 pm. They return to work from between 3 pm and 4 pm and finish between 6 pm and 7.30 pm. The normal working week runs from Monday to Friday and, in some sectors, Saturday as well.
Tourist information office
Tourist information offices open every day of the week and only close on two days of the year: 1 January and 25 December. Each office has its own opening times between 8 am and 8 pm. They have special opening times during the Christmas period.
Breakfast: between 8 and 11 am. Lunch: between 1.30 pm and 3 pm. Evening meal: between 9 pm and 11.30 pm. Despite that, restaurant opening times are flexible and you can eat at any time in lots of them.
Shop opening hours
Most retail businesses follow the normal working week of Monday to Saturday and close around 8 pm, except the shopping centres, which do not close at midday and stay open till 10 pm.
The city's public transport operates for much of the day, with times varying, depending on the rush hours. A full network of night buses covers most routes during the night. The metro runs throughout the night on Saturdays.
- Barcelona City Hall
The Casa Gran, or Big House, as it is known, includes the Saló de Cent (Hall of One Hundred), where the City Hall originated in the Middle Ages.
- Palau de la Generalitat
The Gothic- and Renaissance-style Palau de la Generalitat has been the seat of Catalan government since the 15th century.
- Gran Teatre del Liceu
This opera house, built on the Rambla in 1847, is a symbol of the city's artistic and cultural life.
- The 22@ district
The 22@ district is the epicentre of innovation, with nearly 1,500 high-knowledge businesses.
- The Catalan Parliament
Catalonia's MPs hold their sessions at the Palau del Parlament, in Parc de la Ciutadella.
- Barcelona Provincial Council
The Diputació de Barcelona, to give it its Catalan name, is housed in a Modernista mansion designed by the architect Puig i Cadafalch.
- Catalan National Art Museum
The impressive National Art Museum (MNAC) building, built for the International Expo in 1929, has the best collection of Romanesque mural paintings in the world.
- Institute of Catalan Studies
The Institute of Catalan Studies ((IEC), housed in what used to be the Casa de Convalescència, was set up in 1907 to carry out research and popularise everything to do with Catalan culture.
- Catalan National Library
The former Santa Creu Hospital today houses the Catalan National Library (BC), which was set up in 1907 and has a collection running to some three million volumes.
- Royal Academy of Belles Lettres
Located in the Gothic-style Palau Requesens, the Royal Academy of Belles Lettres is an institution whose history dates back to the 18th century.
- L’Ateneu Barcelonès
Founded in 1860 and housed in a magnificent Gothic mansion on Carrer de la Canuda, the Ateneu Barcelonès is an institution which promotes Catalan culture and literature.
- Teatre Nacional de Catalunya
This impressive building of neo-classical inspiration is houses the main stage for the performing arts in Catalonia.
- The Olympic Ring
This is one of the most important legacies of the 1992 Olympic Games. It is on Montjuïc and includes the main sports facilities of the time.
- La Sagrada Família
A city icon and Gaudí's monumental work, the Sagrada Família is an imposing church still under construction.
- Las Glòries
Plaça de les Glòries, currently undergoing a thorough overhaul, is surrounded by some of Barcelona's most avant-garde architecture.