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.
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!
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”.
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.
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!
So, loosen the belt and prepare to indulge. Catalan Christmas cuisine won’t fail to disappoint!
What is the day of Sant Esteve? Around the globe, there is much more to the festive season than the typical Christmas day meal and get-together.
Saint Stephen’s Day, the Feast of Saint Stephen or Sant Esteve– as it is commonly known across Catalonia – is a special day celebrated by Catalans the day after Christmas, on the 26thDecember.
Today we’d like to share with you the thousand-year old story of how this extension of Christmas day came to hold such a special place in Catalan festive traditions.
Saint Stephen is known to many as the first martyr of the Christian faith. Accused of blasphemy and later stoned to death (in approximately 35 AD), today he is the patron saint of servers and masons. His feast is celebrated throughout the Western Christian world on the 26thDecember and in many European countries, the UK and the Commonwealth it is a public holiday.
In the 9thcentury, unlike the rest of the Iberian Peninsula, the old Catalonia belonged to the Carolingian dynasty. This large empire in Western Europe also included West Germany and Northern Italy. Given the vast expanse of this empire, families were often separated by great distances. This meant that, in order to celebrate Christmas together, they would face long and treacherous journeys to and from their homes, often in adverse weather conditions and during the night.
In this way, the Feast of Saint Stephen first came about in the Middle Ages as a day on which people didn’t have to return to work. In this way, families could spend Christmas night together and then travel back home the following day in the light of day and in much safer conditions – and, of course, after enjoying the leftovers from the Christmas day meal!
Even though it is possible that this day was first observed over a thousand years ago, nowadays, Saint Stephen’s day still holds a special place on the Catalan calendar. Not only is it an additional holiday, it also constitutes a day to be spent in the presence of other family members with whom it was perhaps not possible to spend the Christmas day meal.
Typical dishes in the day of Sant Esteve
What’s more, on the 26thDecember in Catalonia, it is typical to feast on canelons – which are rumoured to have been introduced into Catalan cuisine by Italian chefs during the 19thcentury. This rich béchamel pasta dish is traditionally stuffed with the leftover meat from the Christmas day dinner. This centrepiece dish for Sant Esteve day meals ensures that no food goes to waste and is normally a huge hit with the entire family.
In the UK, Saint Stephen’s day is also a national holiday and is most commonly known as Boxing Day on account of the traditional sports matches held on this day. Is the 26thDecember a holiday in your country? Let us know how you will be celebrating Saint Stephen’s day this year.
Whatever your plans this festive season, from all of us at BizFlats, we wish you a very merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year!
Trencadís may not be a word that you’re not familiar with, but if you’ve visited Barcelona before, you will certainly have seen it around you in the streets, in buildings, in parks, in souvenir shops… These mosaics are an explosion of colour, each little piece uniquely different in shape, pattern and colour scheme, yet when pieced together they come and form one cohesive and magnificent artwork. Not to mention, Trencadís is absolutely captivating when glittering under the Barcelona sun, as the light bounces off the tiles and brings the vibrant colours to life. It is no wonder that this technique has become synonymous with Mediterranean culture and design.
What is Trencadís?
Trencadís is a Catalan term that literally means “chopped” and is the name for this artistic method that was popularised in 20th century Catalan modernism by artists like Antoni Gaudí and Josep Maria Jujol, Trencadís is a mosaic-like effect, achieved by cementing together random shards and pieces of broken chinaware, piece by piece like a jigsaw. Sometimes other materials are used, like glass, buttons or shells. In French, this technique is known as “pique assiette”, which translates to “plate thief”, perhaps referring to the use of recycled or “scrounged” materials – in other words, materials that ceramic factories often discarded.
What is the origin of the Trencadís?
Well, legend has it that Gaudí was visiting the ceramics workshop of Lluis Bru, and when he saw how tediously slow he was putting the pieces together, the impatient Gaudí simply grabbed a tile, shattered it into a hundred pieces on the ground, and stuck them on by the fistful, exclaiming “We must do it like this or we’ll never finish!”. Whether or not the story is true, it is true that the Catalan architect certainly used the innovative craft extensively and transformed it into one of his most signature techniques, which he applied in many of his architectural creations in Barcelona.
Where can I find Trencadís in Barcelona?
One of the most famous examples of Trencadís is brought to life, in the form of the world-famous mosaic, affectionately known as “El Drac” that majestically lazes on the steps in Park Güell. Also, the pavilion seating area in Park Güell, where you can get a panoramic view of Barcelona, is adorned in multi-coloured mosaic tiles, and is a popular photography point for visitors of Barcelona. Throughout the park you’ll find the distinctive artform of Trencadís-covered spheres, columns, and buildings too. The colors that predominate in the work are blue, green and yellow, which for Gaudí symbolized Faith, Hope and Charity.
One of Gaudí’s other Trencadís masterpieces is Casa Batlló on Passeig de Gràcia, which when illuminated during the nighttime almost comes alive with magic, glowing and shimmering in the dark. Even the stone benches that line the luxurious shops on Passeig de Gràcia are covered in the signature mosaic tiles.
In Sant Pau, mosaics were used everywhere to introduce floral motives into the hospital, and can be found in murals, on the ceilings, floors and walls. On the floor of Parròquia de Sant Pacià, a geometric design of marble mosaic lies on the floor, created by a young Gaudí.
With Trencadís found on many different architectural creations in Barcelona, just keep your eyes peeled while wandering around, and you’re sure to stumble upon another mosaic-covered beauty. Did you find any that we missed out? Let us know!
Over the years, Barcelona has become synonymous with Gaudí’s Sagrada Família: its magnificent yet unfinished towers, its captivating sculpted exterior, its light-filled interior…
The Sagrada Família has been bringing people from far and wide to Barcelona for decades, yet what is it that fascinates visitors so?
Have you ever wondered why Gaudí built the Sagrada Familia? And when, after over 100 years, it will eventually be finished?
In this article we explain these six curious facts about the history and the construction of the Sagrada Família that are sure to make you even more curious about it.
Gaudí did not lay the Sagrada Família’s first stone
It was in 1881 that the Saint John Devotee Association (Asociación de devots de Sant Josep) bought a plot of land measuring 12,800 m2 on which to build the temple. However, it wasn’t until 19 March, 1882 that the first stone was laid – not by Gaudí – but by the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano. In fact, Gaudí inherited the project from said architect in 1883 with a much more aspiring outlook than his predecessor.
Gaudí dedicated 43 years of his life to the Sagrada Família
As we have mentioned, Gaudí’s plan for what would be the Sagrada Família was highly ambitious. His original plans were for a temple with 5 naves, 3 facades, 18 towers. This would be, by far, his most ambitious project to date, and also the one he sought the most perfection in. From the year 1914 onwards, Gaudí stopped all other work and focused exclusively on the Sagrada Família.
Gaudí lived only to see the construction of the Nativity Façade
The Sagrada Família boasts three façades, each dedicated to a moment in the life of Christ: his birth, his suffering and resurrection and his eternal glory. It was in 1925 that he managed to finish the bell tower of the Nativity Façade, a mere year before his tragic death.
Gaudí knew that he would never see the Sagrada Família finished, therefore he left dozens of plans, sketches and instructions so it could be finished exactly how he had imagined. However, this information was tragically lost and burnt during the Spanish Civil War.
The temple represents the life of Jesus and will be the tallest building in Barcelona
With the construction of the Sagrada Família, Gaudí’s wish was to represent the life of Jesus. The soon-to-be 18 towers will be dedicated to his disciples, the four Evangelists and the Virgin Mary. The tallest tower of all, scheduled to be finished in 2022, will be dedicated to Jesus Christ and topped by an impressive cross.
With this, it will reach a total height of 172.5 metres, becoming the tallest building in the city of Barcelona. What’s more, it will also take the title for the tallest church in the world.
There are no straight lines in its architecture
In the entirety of Gaudí’s magnificent temple there is not one straight line. This masterpiece is an imitation of nature at its purest – from columns that emulate trees to an abundance of diverse flora and fauna. It was Gaudí himself who said: “The straight line belongs to men, the curved one to God.”
It will be finished in 2026 to coincide with the centenary of Gaudí’s death
A mere 144 years since it was started, the Sagrada Família is scheduled to be finished in the year 2026, marking one hundred years after Gaudí’s death in 1926. However, just because the construction is finished doesn’t mean that the temple itself is finished. There is still many a decorative element to add!
This date will be considered even more special if Gaudí obtains sainthood from the Catholic Church, the proposal for which was initiated in 2000 by an association of his devotees.
So, whether you’re visiting the Sagrada Família for the first or umpteenth time, we hope these interesting facts will open your eyes to the history behind it.
Do you want to learn basic Catalan phrases for your next trip to Barcelona? You may be thinking that you can just get by with Spanish or English, but if you really want to impress and get to know the locals, these essential Catalan words and phrases will go a long way.
Why not use your time at home over the next few weeks to brush up your language skills in one of Spain’s official languages and add some of these useful phrases to your repertoire.
Whether you’re greeting a friend, ordering food or buying souvenirs, we’ve definitely got you covered. Preparats (ready)?
Basic Catalan phrases to use in your next trip
Bon dia (bon dee-ah) / Bona tarda (bon-ah tard-ah)
Good morning / Good afternoon
When strolling along the streets of Barcelona, you’ll definitely hear this phrase used again and again. Put a smile on any local’s face with this common greeting (used more than “hola”). Remember, the afternoon starts around lunchtime and lasts all the way until just before dinnertime – which is around 10 pm – so don’t be surprised if someone greets you with “bona tarda” at 8 pm!
Si us plau (see oos plow) & Merci (mehr-see)
Please & thank you
If you’ve visited Barcelona several times and are familiar with the Catalan language, you’ll know has some similarities with the French language. These two phrases will go a long way during your stay, so please use them abundantly.
With “merci”, remember to put emphasis on the first syllable “mer–”as opposed to on the final syllable, like in French.
Note: “merci” is used a lot more than “gràcies” but please take into account is is colloquial.
De res (deh res)
If it makes it a little easier to remember, you can literally translate this phrase as “of nothing”. What’s more it’s just like the French (de rien) and Spanish (de nada).
Whether your waving farewell to your new Catalan friends or simply saying goodbye to the owners of your new favourite restaurant, be sure to do so with a friendly and heartfelt “adéu”.
Bon profit! (bon pro-feet)
The Catalans are a very courteous bunch, so don’t be surprised if you get total strangers declaring “bon profit” as you tuck into your meal at a local restaurant.
Quant costa – ? (kwant coh-sta)
How much is –?
The chances are during your stay at some point you’ll be buying souvenirs, tickets for the museum or a little treat for yourself. Use this phrase and simply add whatever it is you’re asking for or point and say “això” (ay-shoh), which means “this”.
El compte, si us plau (el com-teh see oos plow)
The bill, please.
Show off your language skills and impress your friends by asking for the bill in Catalan at the end of your meal. If you really want to blend in with the locals, try switching this phrase for “Em cobres” (um cub-ras), which literally means “charge me” and is used much more frequently by Catalans.
Parles anglès? (par-las ang-less)?
Do you speak English?
Whilst the majority of locals speak very good English, this polite question is sure to make you many a new friend in the city. Not only will they be impressed with your Catalan skills, they’ll be grateful you are trying to learn their language.
While we’ve got you covered for the basics, we encourage you to download a learning app or grab a dusty phrase book from your shelf and get studying for your next trip to Barcelona!
See you soon! Ens veiem aviat!
Some more bites
P.S. Below is a small list of other some additional vocabulary and Catalan phrases we’re sure will come in useful!
We hope you liked these brief guide of basic Catalan Phrases! Ens veiem in Barcelona aviat! (See you soon in Barcelona) 🙂
Also you may find interesting to learn more about Catalan culture, traditions and gastronomy in the following articles:
Come to Barcelona on the eve of the 23rd June and you won’t be able to miss the spectacular celebrations happening for the Revetlla de Sant Joan. Considered to be one of biggest holidays of the year in Barcelona, the streets come alive with people and the constant crack of fireworks spiralling overhead throughout the city.
The origin of the Revetlla de Sant Joan
Whilst the actual holiday falls on the 24th June, a bank holiday in Catalonia, the celebrations all happen the night before. This is in order to celebrate the longest day of the year – otherwise known as Summer Solstice and considered to be the start of summer. Summer Solstice has always been an important tradition dating back to ancient Pagan rituals when people believed in the spiritual importance of both fire and the sun. Here in Catalonia we combined that with the celebration of the birth of Sant Joan, meaning it is still marked by symbolic customs.
As well as fire, people believe in the special powers of water and herbs on this night. For this reason you may see people going for a midnight dip in the sea as it’s thought to keep you healthy all year round. Herbs are also thought to become more powerful in their curative features on Sant Joan, especially Thyme, Rosemary and Verbena.
A night of firecrackers and bonfires
As mentioned above, fire is believed to have an extraordinary power on this night of the year, being thought to chase away evil spirits. This means the city comes alive with loud firecrackers and bonfires going on until the early hours. In fact, each city neighbourhood creates their own bonfire in which they throw old furniture, another old tradition that is thought to bring you good luck over the year. In the days leading up to the Revetlla de Sant Joan, little firecracker stands pop up all over the city for people to buy their supplies.
Celebrate la Revetlla de Sant Joan in Barcelona
Whilst there are many celebrations happening throughout the city, the neighbourhood of Barceloneta has an especially wide array of activities. Here you will find people partying until dawn, amidst an array of live music, banging firecrackers and bright burning bonfires. Beach bars set up temporary stands for revellers to stock up on food and drink over the night, and you can also find activities around the neighbourhood. These can include anything from fireworks displays with “diables” (dancing devils) and “dracs” (dragons) to beautiful orchestras getting people in the mood for a great night. If you head down to Barceloneta beach you can be guaranteed to find plenty of things to entertain you for the night.
You can check the program of Revetlla de Sant Joan 2018 in Barceloneta here
Don’t forget to try the Coca de Sant Joan!
To mark the occasion, people eat Coca de Sant Joan, the traditional food of the celebration. A cake that can be topped with a variety of different things including candied fruit, pine nuts or crackling.
There’s no doubt about it, the Revetlla de Sant Joan is one of the most magical nights of the year to be in the city of Barcelona. If you want to make that night even more special why not check out www.bizflats.com to book yourself the perfect accommodation in Barcelona.
Are you curious about which are the 10 most famous historical monuments in Barcelona?
Barcelona is a captivating city that boasts a vibrant history and culture, making it a top destination for tourists from all over the world. From Gaudí’s stunning architecture to the city’s fascinating museums, Barcelona offers visitors a rich and diverse experience. One of the highlights of any trip to Barcelona is undoubtedly its iconic historical landmarks. These monuments are not only stunning in their own right, but they also offer a glimpse into the city’s rich past and cultural heritage. In this article, we will take you on a journey to explore the top 10 most famous historical monuments in Barcelona, giving you an insider’s look into the beauty and history that this amazing city has to offer
La Sagrada Família
La Sagrada Família in one of the most famous historical monuments in Barcelona. It’s one of the most iconic and recognizable landmarks of the city. It is a massive Roman Catholic church designed by the famous architect Antoni Gaudí, who spent over 40 years of his life designing and building it. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts millions of visitors every year.
Park Güell is another most famous historical monument in Barcelona and creation of Antoni Gaudí. It is a public park filled with whimsical sculptures, mosaics, and colorful architecture. The park’s centerpiece is a large terrace with undulating curves, supported by a forest of columns. The terrace offers stunning views of the city, making it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
Casa Batlló is a unique building designed by Antoni Gaudí, located in the heart of the city. It is known for its vibrant colors and curving lines, which give the building an organic feel. The facade of the building is decorated with ceramic tiles and broken glass, creating a shimmering effect that changes with the light. The interior of the building is just as impressive, with its flowing lines, stained glass windows, and ornate details.
Casa Milà is another of the most famous historical monuments in Barcelona and creation of Antoni Gaudí. Also known as La Pedrera. The modernist building was built between 1906 and 1912 and is considered one of Gaudí’s most important works. The building’s undulating facade, with its irregular balconies and chimneys, is an iconic sight in Barcelona. Today, Casa Milà is a museum that showcases Gaudí’s life and work, and is a popular destination for art and architecture enthusiasts.
You might also like this article about Antoni Gaudí’s buildings:
Located on the mountain of Montserrat, about an hour’s drive from Barcelona, the Montserrat Monastery is a Benedictine abbey that dates back to the 11th century. The monastery is famous for its stunning views, beautiful architecture, and a famous statue of the Virgin Mary, known as La Moreneta. It is a popular pilgrimage site for Catholics and is also home to the Montserrat Boys’ Choir, one of the oldest in Europe.
Palau de la Música Catalana
The Palau de la Música Catalana is a concert hall located in the city center of Barcelona. It is known for its stunning Art Nouveau architecture, with its ornate facade, colorful stained glass windows, and a large skylight that floods the concert hall with natural light. The concert hall hosts some of the world’s most famous musicians and orchestras, making it a must-visit for music lovers.
The Gothic Quarter is the historic center of Barcelona and is known for its narrow streets, beautiful Gothic architecture, and ancient Roman ruins. It is a popular tourist destination that offers a glimpse into the city’s rich history and culture. The quarter is home to many of Barcelona’s most famous landmarks, including the Barcelona Cathedral and the Plaça Reial.
La Boqueria Market is part of the most famous historical monuments in Barcelona and its a famous public market located in the heart of the city, close to Las Ramblas. It is known for its colorful stalls selling fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and seafood. It is a must-visit destination for foodies and offers a taste of the city’s culinary delights.
Magic Fountain of Montjuïc
The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc is a spectacular fountain located in the Montjuïc neighborhood of Barcelona. It was built in 1929 for the International Exhibition and was renovated in the 1980s. The fountain offers a colorful water and light show that is synchronized to music, attracting tourists and locals alike. The show is free to watch and is a must-see attraction in Barcelona.
The Barcelona Cathedral is another of the most famous historical monuments in Barcelona and is a Gothic-style cathedral located in the Gothic Quarter. It was built between the 13th and 15th centuries and is known for its stunning architecture, beautiful stained glass windows, and rich history. The cathedral is home to many works of art, including a choir stall carved by Bartolome Bermejo and a crypt that contains the remains of Saint Eulàlia, the patron saint of Barcelona.
The Catalan city is filled with some of the world’s most famous historical monuments of Barcelona. From the stunning La Sagrada Família to the colorful Park Güell, there is no shortage of attractions to explore. Whether you’re a history buff, an art lover, or a foodie, Barcelona has something for everyone. Don’t miss out on these top 10 must-see landmarks in Barcelona.
Have you visited any of these wonderful places in Barcelona?
Castells, or human towers, are one of the symbols of Catalonia. In this article we’re going to tell you a little bit more about their history and how they have become so popular today, not only in the region, but also around the world.
Chances are if you’ve spent some time in Barcelona or Catalonia, you may have come across these simply breath-taking towers built by castellers with their bodies, by climbing up each other’s backs and standing on the shoulders of the person below.
The history of castells
Despite the origin of castells – meaning castle in Catalan – being slightly unclear, it is thought that they come from similar, smaller structures erected at the end of traditional dances – specifically the Valencian dance from the 15th century.
However it wasn’t until much later, in 1801, that the first castell was documented in la Candela, Valls (Tarragona). It was here that they were first built with the aim of constructing original and increasingly taller human towers, and not as part of a dance. From this moment on, these mind-bending structures became an essential part of local celebrations and festivals.
It wasn’t until the late 20th century that this tradition truly began to be recognised in all its glory. Unlike other Catalan customs, like the traditional dance the sardana and the Catalan flag and national anthem, castells were not prohibited during Franco’s reign.
It was in the 90s that it became more commonplace to find castells and colles (community groups of castellers who practice castells) throughout the whole region of Catalonia and over a decade ago, in 2020, they were recognised as intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.
So, what makes castells so special?
Over the years castells have become ever more complex, reaching heights of up to 10 people. Anyone can take part – men, women and children over the age of 5 of varying strengths, heights and sizes – but it’s certainly not for the faint hearted. Extensive training sessions are required.
In fact, nowadays a total of 13,000 people in Catalonia call themselves castellers and there are over 100 colles castelleres.
To explain exactly how these towers are built, we’ll need to brush up on our castells vocabulary!
The base of the tower is called the pinya. Arguably the most important part of the tower, it holds its entire weight and will absorb the impact of any falls. Next comes the tronc, or the trunk, which is the main body of the tower, formed by two to five levels. The heavier castellers are at the bottom and the lighter, more agile nearer the top.
On top of the tronc sits the pom de dalt – literally the upper part. It is formed mainly by children, wearing safety helmets. And finally, on the very top goes the enxaneta: a young child who climbs the entire structure to the summit and raises his or her hand for the tower to be considered complete.
However for the castell to be considered valid, it must be taken down slowly without anyone falling. The leader of the group – known as the cap de colla – who has perspective over the entire structure from the ground, guides the castellers through the entire construction and deconstruction.
What else do I need to know about castells?
To accompany this wonderful sight and, more importantly, to mark the rhythm and coordination of the entire structure, live music is played as the castell is built. This particular music is called the toc de castells and is played by gralles – a Catalan type of flute– and timbals, a percussion instrument.
You’ll also realise that the casteller uniform is very important. Each group wears a shirt of a specific colour with an embroidered crest of the city or village to which they belong.
Where can I see castells?
Now you know all about them, we bet you can’t wait to see one in action. The good news is that at almost any local festivity or celebration, you’re sure to catch one of these towers being built.
Castells are normally constructed in main squares in front of the town hall. Some of the best can be seen during Barcelona’s festa major, Sant Jordi or the upcoming day of La Mercè.
Despite castells being recently approved by the local government, with a maximum duration of 15 minutes, this year’s day of La Mercè will see a condensed format of this tradition on Passeig de Gràcia on 24 September at noon, in line with COVID-19 restrictions.