The Best Day of the Year To Be In Barcelona
Barcelona's best day? Easy. April 23 — St. George's Day, La Diada de Sant Jordi, Barcelona's Valentine's day — a day so sweet and playful that six million Catalans are aglow from dawn to dusk.
Patron saint of Catalonia, medieval knight-errant Saint George slew a dragon about to devour a beautiful princess. From the dragon's blood sprouted a rose bush, from which the hero plucked the prettiest for the princess. Hence, the traditional Rose Festival celebrated in Barcelona since the Middle Ages to honor chivalry and romantic love, a day for men and mice alike to give their true loves roses. In 1923, the lovers' fest merged with International Book Day to mark the all-but-simultaneous April 23, 1616 deaths of Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare.
More than 4 million roses and half a million books are sold in Catalonia on Sant Jordi's Day, men giving their inamoratas roses and the ladies giving books in return. Bookstalls fill the Rambla, and nearly all of Barcelona manages to wander and browse…and flirt. Saint George is everywhere, beginning on the facade of the Catalonian seat of government, the Generalitat. Sant Jordi skewering the unlucky dragon is on the facade of the Casa Amatller as well as on the corner of Els Quatre Gats café, while Gaudí dedicated an entire house, Casa Batlló, to the Sant Jordi theme with the Saint’s cross implanted in the scaly roof and the bones of the dragon's victims framing the windows.