This year’s Sant Jordi (Saint George in Catalan) will be on a Sunday. This means that this romantic and literary festivity will be the perfect excuse to spend the weekend (long, if possible) in Barcelona. The “Diada de Sant Jordi” is a very special date; one that every Catalan has marked on their calendar. However, this celebration has been trespassing borders for the past few years. Every 23rd of April, Barcelona welcomes thousands of people who want to see how the Catalan capital celebrates this special day. The streets of the city are full of books, roses, writers signing their work, and a lot, a lot of people.
From a legend to a tradition
The legend says there was a fierce dragon that terrorised a small village called Montblanc. The beast started by eating the animals, until there weren’t any more left. Then, in order to keep the people safe, they decided they would offer a neighbour of the town every day to feed the dragon. Only a few days later, it was the princess’ turn. When she was about to be devoured by the beast, the knight Sant Jordi appeared and killed the dragon, stabbing its chest with a spear. A rose bush full of red roses grew out of the blood spilled, and the knight took one of them and gave it to the princess.
Even though the truth is that the 23rd of April commemorates the death of George of Cappadocia, the legend created around him is what added all the symbolism to the date, turning this celebration into a tradition. The custom of giving a red rose goes back to the Middle Ages, but the book wasn’t added until many years later. In 1930 it was decided to stablish the 23rd of April as the Spanish Book Day, coinciding with the date of the death of Shakespeare and Cervantes. This was possible thanks to a proposal made by the writer Vicent Clavel in 1926. Years later, the UNESCO established the same date as the World Book and Copyright Day.
How is Sant Jordi celebrated?
Catalunya dresses-up to celebrate Sant Jordi’s Day. Culture invades the streets in the shape of books, chats, authors’ signings, concerts and special TV and radio programmes. Barcelona, as the capital, gathers most of this activity, and the centre of the city is packed. The book and roses stands occupy the Ramblas and Passeig de Gràcia. Most of these stands are from book shops that use this date to get their books out of the store and also to do special discounts.
If you don’t like crowds, we recommend you to get up early and walk around the city centre before it starts getting full of people hour after hour.
Photo: Danny Caminal
If it’s your first time in Barcelona on this date, you can focus in Las Ramblas, the Plaça Reial, Plaça Catalunya, Portal de l’Àngel and Passeig de Gràcia. However, if you have a specific goal (such as getting a book signed by its author), the best you can do is check the schedule for the day to organise your route.
We also recommend you to visit some museums and some of the most emblematic places of the city that open their doors on Sant Jordi, such as the Council. You can also go and see buildings like the “Casa Batlló” that decorate their façade in a very impressive way.
Photo: Maria Dias (Casa Batlló 2016)
It is worth mentioning that, even though books and roses are the main star of this day, they are not the only typical things of this celebration. If you feel hungry after a long walk around the city, you can buy a special and popular bread called “Pa de Sant Jordi”. During the 23rd of April (and also during the entire week) all the bakeries sell this bread, which is made with cheese and sobrassada (Majorcan sausage). The colour of the ingredients, when combined correctly, creates a Catalan flag inside the bread, and that’s what makes it so special.
You will find several MH Apartments located throughout the city, so you can choose the closest one of your favorite tourist attractions.