Christmas Catalan Dishes

Barcelona does Christmas undeniably well. Whereas in many European cities, you are likely to have Christmas tat and poor Santa-imitations thrust upon you, the Catalans celebrate in style and yuletide joy is often accompanied by a range of delicious Catalan dishes and sweet treats. In Catalonia Christmas begins on 24th December and continues until Epiphany (Dia dels Tres Reis d’Orient) on 6th January when the presents arrive, providing ample time to fill your boots with some local culinary delights.

On Christmas Eve, We celebrate El Tío de Nadal (a Christmas log which poos presents) and whilst there are no traditional Catalan dishes to mark the occasion, no self-respecting Catalan would celebrate without having stocked up on Neulas (Catalan biscuits usually eaten with Cava) and Turró (a sweet food found in a variety of guises but its most original form is similar to that of nougat). Be sure to pick up your own share of these tantalising treats in any of the Christmas markets dotted around Barcelona.neules

December 25th in Barcelona is one big gastronomic treat. Catalan dishes served on Christmas day include escudella i carn d’olla (a sensational soup comprised of lamb, pig´s ear or cheek, potatoes, chicken, butifarra or Catalan sausage and Galets, a kind of pasta with a shape of a shell) , followed by pollastre farcit (oven roasted chicken stuffed with seasonal chestnuts and sausage meat). These Catalan dishes are washed down with Cava and sweet treats such as dried fruits and nuts, “Turrons” and “Neules”. You´ll also find giant Galets (pasta shells) along the streets of Barcelona in December which make great photo opportunities!

Escudella i Carn D'olla

Celebrations continue on St Steven´s Day (26th December) with family gatherings and once again, the opportunity to extend the Christmas waistlines with leftovers from the day before used to make “canelons”.canelons

Celebrate New Years Eve like a true Catalan with the surprisingly-tricky-to-master grape countdown in which you pop one grape in your mouth for every clock chime. Considered to ensure good luck for the year ahead, make sure you you don´t miss out – you can even buy packs of 12 deseeded grapes for the occasion! There are many theories attached to this tradition, but the most common explanation arises from the over-production of grapes around 1900. New Years Day hangovers aren´t usually soothed by a particular Catalan dish but stuffed chicken often crops up on the menu.uvas de Fin de año

Finally, the 6th January (Dia de Reis) provides yet another perfect excuse to indulge with El Tortell de Reis. This colourful, O-shaped cake is usually stuffed with marzipan or cream and glazed with fruit and contains two hidden surprises: a figurine of one of the threee kings and a fava, or dried field bean (yes, you read correctly, a bean!). Whoever is lucky enough to find the king gets to wear a paper crown whereas the less fortunate finder of the bean has to pay for the cake!

tortell-de-reis

So, loosen the belt and prepare to indulge. Catalan Christmas cuisine won’t fail to disappoint!

 

Festa Major de Gràcia: See the Streets Come Alive!

Enjoy the Festa Major de GraciaThe Festa Major de Gràcia is springing up in Barcelona again this year from August 15th through the 21st. One of the city’s foremost street festivals, this is a wonderful time to visit and experience traditional Catalan culture in one of the most beautiful and quirky neighborhoods in Catalonia. Both an opportunity to learn about Spanish traditions as well as enjoy delicious food and wonderful entertainment, Festa Major de Gràcia is truly an event of the year for many residents who graciously devote their public spaces to celebrating their ancestry, all the while welcoming guests – about 1.5 million of them each year – to share in this annual celebration.

A Local Tradition

Gràcia was once an independent town outside of Barcelona proper. As the city grew it engulfed this small community, but its roots have remained intact over the years through the hard work and commitment of the founding families. A way in which the area has remained such a tight community over the years is by hosting their annual Festa Major de Gràcia. Completely volunteer-led, members of the community have continued, year-after-year, to band together and host this outstanding celebration of Catalan culture in their very own streets. The communal feeling they create is indeed what keeps both residents and visitors returning every year for this event.

Grand Decorations

The main attraction is the outlandish and extravagant decorations that take months of planning, and days of setup before the festival each year. Local business owners and community members devote a lot of time to transforming the neighborhood into different scenes of underwater and Outerspace worlds, or even a zombie hangout. Every evening after sunset these displays light up, making for a beautiful evening stroll or an epic time to enjoy some tapas. The biggest crowds are found after sunset on August 15th as people flock to the streets to witness the first lighting of the year. Don’t miss seeing what worlds will arise at this year’s celebration!

Other Activities at Festa Major de Gràcia

Aside from the decorations, which are themselves worth the trip, festival goers can also look forward to tasting many dishes of Catalan tradition, drinking their wines, and enjoying their music that is played right in the street. This festival is completely free, besides the food and drink you might enjoy amid the created worlds, and is a the perfect activity for the whole family. The little ones will love exploring, eating and dancing in this festive atmosphere. More information on this year’s schedule can be found here in the coming weeks, so you can start getting excited for the Festa Major de Gràcia 2016.

Come Stay with Us at bizFlats Vacation Rentals!

Being a busy Mediterranean metropolitan city, Barcelona is full of fun, inventive and traditional events like this one. If you have yet to visit this wonderful destination, be it for a holiday or just because you’ve never seen it, don’t wait any longer — start planning your trip now! While looking for a place to stay, be sure to peruse these wonderful short term rentals throughout the city, from the beach to the Gothic Quarter. There is no better way to explore a new place than from the comfort of your very own urban flat.

Photo by JackF / Thinkstock

Your Guide to the Unique Catalan and Spanish Traditions and Customs

Your Guide to the Unique Catalan and Spanish Traditions and Customs

One of the best parts about visiting a new place is immersing yourself in their culture by observing and participating in their many customs and practices.  Spain, in particular, has some of the most uncommon and extraordinary behaviors in the world!  The northeast region of Spain, Catalonia, has its own distinct attributes as well.  Read the list below to discover some Catalan and Spanish traditions you may not have heard before.

Best Catalan and Spanish Traditions and Customs

Dining

Lunch is the most important meal of the day in Spain!  Breakfast and dinner are usually smaller meals, with dinner normally served around 9:00 p.m.  A popular form of Spanish food is tapas, which is a term that refers to small and delicious snacks eaten throughout the day.  One of the most beloved kinds of tapas in the Catalonia region is pan con tomate, a delightful toasted bread seasoned with tomato, olive oil, and salt.  

Entertainment

Entertainment in Spain is unlike any that you’ve ever experienced before!  Read through a few highlights of these popular recreational activities to get an idea of what you’ll see here.  

1. Bullfighting: This intense sport originated all the way back in 711 A.D.  It consists the skilled bullfighter, called a Matador, fighting to assert his dominance over a highly dangerous bull.  Onlookers sit on the edge of their seats to watch the outcome of these sometimes deadly shows.

2. Soccer: You’re guaranteed to love the thrill of an FC Barcelona soccer game!  These matches happen regularly and it’s fairly easy to score some tickets.  Visitors flock to the magnificent Camp Nou stadium so they don’t miss out on witnessing the stellar performance of one of the world’s best soccer teams.

3. Nightlife: A significant part of Spanish culture is their nightlife!  With all the spectacular beach clubs, going out on the town is a regular pastime here.  

Events and Holidays

Many Catalan and Spanish customs can be seen through their many unique holidays and festive events.  Take a look at these fun ways to celebrate in Spain and Catalonia!

1. Castellers: This is one of the best events to watch!  Part of the yearly Grand Festival, Castellers consists of teams of men standing on each others’ shoulders to create the tallest tower they can.  

2. Tió de Nadal: This Catalan Christmas tradition involves children dressing up a hollow log with a face, hat, and blanket.  This hollow log is filled with sweets the night before Christmas, so the children can wake up Christmas morning and beat the stump with a stick to spill out all the treats!

3. Carnival: One week of every year, the streets of Barcelona are filled with more colors and costumes than ever seen before!  The Carnival celebration honors the time period leading up to Lent through music, performances, games, and much more.

4. Running of the Bulls: This extreme event takes place in many Spanish cities as part of the San Fermin Festival; it consists of bulls being led at breakneck speeds throughout the streets.  This one of the most frequently spectated events in the area; it has been broadcasted live on television as well for over 30 years.

Come Stay with Us at bizFlats!

Stay in the best lodging in Barcelona while participating in all these amazing Catalan and Spanish traditions!  bizFlats offers the finest rentals, spread throughout the city.  Our deluxe lofts, villas, cottages, penthouses, and apartments are all equipped with the most luxurious amenities and provide fantastic views of the surrounding city, beaches, and mountains.  Check our availability today!

Photo by Oliver Huitson / Thinkstock

 

A Monument to Catalan Identity: La Sagrada Familia Basilica

A Monument to Catalan Identity: La Sagrada Familia Basilica

Located in the heart of Barcelona, La Sagrada Familia Basilica is a monument to Catalan culture dating back to 1882. Embracing the city and nation’s deep roots in Catholicism and talent in both design and architecture, this World Heritage Site is a beautiful and breathtaking symbol of both national and local identity. Although it is not finished, the ongoing project surrounding the Basilica’s creation is part of its intrigue and beauty. Wondering, why was La Sagrada Familia built, or when will La Sagrada Familia be finished? Read on to learn more!

La Sagrada Familia Construction

La Sagrada Familia Basilica was designed in part by the famous Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi, with construction beginning in 1882. The next year Gaudi took the project over completely to see that his vision was fulfilled by the best means possible. He was in charge of it until his death in  1926, having completed less than a quarter of the building. The construction progressed slowly, waiting on private donations to continue, and was derailed completely by the Spanish Civil War. In the 1950s the gradual building began again, and the half-way mark was recently reached in 2010. The Basilica is projected to be completely finished by 2026, and has been expedited with the use of computer modeling and other new technologies. Since Gaudi’s death the construction has been a point of contention among Catalan people who wonder if the original vision is being carried out or not. Nevertheless, the project goes on. La Sagrada Familia’s completion date is expected to be 2026, the 100-year anniversary of Gaudi’s death.

Design

A mix between Spanish Late Gothic, Catalan Modernism and a Art Nouveau styles, La Sagrada Familia Basilica was the dream of a bookseller who returned from the Vatican inspired to build a Gothic revival church. Gaudi greatly influenced the design when he took over the project, being inspired mostly by nature. Though it was never intended to be a cathedral, it was planned to be that size, and can now accommodate 9,000 people. When completed it will have eighteen spires representing Twelve Apostles, the Virgin Mary and the four Evangelists. Gaudi’s Cathedral has three facades: the east-facing Nativity, the west-facing Passion, and the south-facing Glory.

Visiting

There are multiple ticket types available for purchase online and at the box office. You can choose whether to take a guided tour, an audio tour, or just enter and show yourself around. Visitors can also choose to explore more of La Sagrada Familia Basilica like the House Museum or towers. Group tours are also available. Of the things to see are the museum, exhibitions, galleries and also the occasional live music event. The Basilica is always a place for prayer and worship, and mass times are posted on the website.

Stay in Barcelona

For those visiting the city, bizFlats offers diverse options for short term rental properties throughout Barcelona. These comfortable and modern flats are a great and affordable option, whether you’re traveling for business, or coming to town for a family vacation. With your own kitchen and entertainment systems, you’ll feel right at home in one of these spots, and will have easy access to famous sites around town like La Sagrada Familia Basilica.

 

There are few experiences around Barcelona that embrace the history of Catalan culture like a trip to La Sagrada Familia Basilica. No matter the reason for your trip to Barcelona, you definitely want to at least take a walk past this truly spectacular site.