In Sant Jordi’s Day, Barcelona Transforms Into a Sea of Roses and Books

A stroll through any street in Barcelona on April 23rd is like walking through a romantic filmset filled with books, roses, and much more.

By: THURSD. | 17-04-2024 | 5 min read
Floral Events Roses
Sant Jordi Day in Barcelona celebrated with books and roses

Barcelona comes alive with color and the smell of books and roses on April 23 every year. In honor of Book Day and Valentine's Day, the city comes together to celebrate Sant Jordi Day, one of the most romantic holidays. With a lovely past, Sant Jordi has evolved into a Catalan tradition and symbol; this celebration honors Saint George, literature, culture, and love. Visit Barcelona in Spain on these customary celebration dates if you want to witness the city at its most unified and romantic.

The History of Sant Jordi Festival in Barcelona

One of the most popular festivals on the Catalonian calendar is Sant Jordi. Hundreds of people venture out for walks around the book stands, purchase roses, or attend various scheduled events, even on weekdays. However, the fact that Sant Jordi's roots are not in the distant past sets it apart from other celebrations. The festival's current form dates back to the conservative Catalanism of the 19th century. There is a strong sense of cultural vindication that this political and cultural movement gave the day, and it continues to this day. Here's more about the origin of this magnificent day.


Roses and books for Sant Jordi
Roses and books for Sant Jordi


The legend of Sant Jordi is an exciting story that has been passed down from generation to generation in Catalonia. It is said that, in the 13th century, in a Catalan town, there was a brave knight called Sant Jordi. One day, a terrible dragon appeared in the city, the people, terrified and tired of the dragon’s actions, reached a desperate agreement, they wanted to feed the dragon one person each day, selected by lottery. After several days, misfortune befell the town’s princess, selected as the next victim. The knight Sant Jordi, tired of this pact, bravely faced the dragon to save the princess and the people.


History of Sant Jordi Day


After a fierce battle, Sant Jordi managed to defeat the dragon and free the princess. From the dragon’s blood emerged a rose bush, whose roses were the reddest and most beautiful ever seen. Sant Jordi, as a sign of his love and gratitude, plucked a rose and gave it to the princess, thus falling deeply in love with her.


Red rose and a book to celebrate Sant Jordi


Since then, every year in Catalonia, Sant Jordi’s Day is celebrated remembering this heroic act. Catalans exchange roses and books as a symbol of love and culture.

Sant Jordi - A Day to Re-Celebrate Valentine's Day

The day of  Sant Jordi, which is akin to Valentine's Day, is a significant holiday in Catalonia. On this day, both lovers and friends express their affection and gratitude for one another. The Day of the Book or the Day of the Rose are other names for it and Barcelona is filled with color during this day.


Barcelona streets during Sant Jordi Day
Barcelona streets during Sant Jordi Day


Rose stalls line the streets of Barcelona, transforming the city into an enormous outdoor bookstore and florist. A vast option of roses, ranging from the traditional red ones to more delicate ones, are available for purchase. In 18th-century Barcelona, there was a flower festival every spring, where people in love went to buy roses for their partners. Moreover, flowers are an important feature in various spring festivals which, since time immemorial, have been linked to the cult of fertility, including the Creu de Maig (Cross of May) and Corpus Christi. This leads to the conclusion that the custom may date back to Roman times when they used to hold festivals in honor of the goddess Flora, which were later Christianised.


Casa Batllo decorated for Sant Jordi
Casa Batllo decorated for Sant Jordi

The celebration also includes book giveaways, with multiple sales booths set up around the city. For every age group and taste, there are options ranging from the newest novels to literary classics. The region is filled with a joyous and familial atmosphere on this special day which is a lovely custom that brings people together and honors virtues like bravery, love, and generosity.


Happy woman during Sant Jordi Festival


Giving a book represents the promotion of culture and the interchange of knowledge, whereas giving a rose expresses love and affection. Sant Jordi is thus the ideal occasion to give your loved ones a memorable surprise. Every gift, whether it's a book by their favorite author for a friend or a red rose for your partner, conveys love and gratitude.

Where to Experience Sant Jordi Day in Barcelona

Strolling down 'Las Ramblas' and 'Passeig de Gràcia' is one of the most iconic ways to witness the celebration of Sant Jordi in Barcelona. This is a real rose and book fair where you can take in the energy of the crowd, the sweet scent of flowers, and the chance to find new books. In addition, the city's numerous buildings and monuments are decked out in flags and decorations in honor of Sant Jordi on this particular day, which creates a special, homey atmosphere.


Experiencing Sant Jordi in Barcelona
Photo: @tejainfinita

Sant Jordi offers many cultural and literary experiences in addition to being more than just a book and roses fair. Public readings, shows, book presentations, and author signings are scheduled throughout the city during the day. Sant Jordi has become a family-friendly celebration with special discounts and kid-friendly activities available at many bookstores and libraries.


Red roses for Sant Jordi
Photo: @ashley.weinaug

Several locations, including the town hall, the Palau Güell, the Sant Pau modernist complex, the Ateneo, and the Palau de la Generalitat, are open to the public for free or special tours. One of the most notable experiences is the visit to Casa Batlló, an architectural masterpiece by Antoni Gaudí. Here, Gaudí incorporated elements of the legend of Sant Jordi and the dragon into his design, making the visit even more special during this holiday.


Sant Jordi Day Barcelona
Casa Batllo filled with red roses for Sant Jordi Day
Photo: @backrowhome


So remember that on April 23rd, Barcelona will be filled with roses, books, and lovers!


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