Blog · Barcelona · Visiting Barcelona for Sant Jordi’s Day and More Catalan Fun

Visiting Barcelona for Sant Jordi’s Day and More Catalan Fun

April 21, 2023
casa battló on sant jordi

In Barcelona, you’ll never get bored. Year-round, there are plenty of festivities and celebrations to keep you busy. I’m thinking of Sant Joan, La Mercé, Los Reyes, Festes Majors and so many more. But there is one special day that is my (and probably all Barcelonians’) favorite — April 23, the Festival of Sant Jordi, sometimes called the Day of Books and Roses in English.

If you happen to be in Barcelona on Sant Jordi Day consider yourself lucky, and get ready for the full Catalan experience. As a local guide here in Barcelona, it’s my pleasure to tell you everything about this special celebration and how to experience the magic of Sant Jordi’s Day even if you can’t visit on April 23.

The history of Sant Jordi

sant jordi 2023
Photo by Cristina Carrisi

La Diada de Sant Jordi — which translates to Saint George’s Day — is a major holiday not only in Barcelona but also in all Catalonia. Sant Jordi is in fact the patron saint of Catalonia. But why?

There is a very old legend that says that many many years ago, probably during medieval times, in the province of Tarragona, there was a dragon that was terrifying the whole village. To keep him appeased, the peasants decided to feed him first with animals and eventually with human beings. The most popular theory actually says his food of choice was young ladies. Well, so they say.

One day, the turn of the princess came and she went to the dragon’s cave to sacrifice herself. When the dragon was about to eat her, a knight — Jordi — arrived and killed the dragon with his sword. Unexpectedly, the dragon begins dripping red roses instead of blood. Jordi takes one rose and gives the rose to the princess. And you can probably guess what comes next: They lived happily ever after.

This became part of the most well-known Catalan legend, and it’s the one we still celebrate today.

What happens on Sant Jordi Day?

gifts exchange

During the last century, Sant Jordi became like the Catalan equivalent of Saint Valentine. In Barcelona, we don’t really celebrate February 14 as the day of love. For us, it’s Sant Jordi Day. But what happens on this special spring day in Barcelona?

Traditionally, for the Sant Jordi celebration, it’s an exchange of books and roses between lovers. The man is supposed to give a rose to the woman, and she is supposed to give a book to the man. Over the last few decades, this tradition has been changing and everyone gives whatever they prefer — or both a book and a rose, why not? — to the person they love. It could be a partner, a friend, a sibling or whoever you love and esteem.

You might be wondering why we traditionally give books on this Catalan version of Valentine’s Day. There’s a bit of a story behind that, too.

April 23 is not only Sant Jordi’s Day all over the world but also World Book Day, allegedly because Shakespeare might have died on April 23 and Cervantes the day prior. In any case, this is the reason why, over the last century, these two celebrations have been combined, giving rise to the most anticipated Barcelona festival of the year. 

A taste of Saint George’s Day year-round

Statues at the Casa dels entremesos
Photo by Carlos Carrillo

But what if you visit Barcelona and it’s not April 23? Well, in Barcelona, we like to celebrate from the summer season till New Year’s Eve and beyond. And so there is a way to get a taste of Sant Jordi and our festival spirit any time of year. We created a tour just for this!

On our Catalan Traditions Walking Tour, you’ll hear the stories of Catalonia’s most outlandish festivals (including Sant Jordi) and its honored and often unusual traditions. For example, you’ll venture inside a house full of mythical Catalan creatures and giants, including a dragon of course!

And then we end at a shop that sells hundreds of caganers. What’s a caganer, you ask? Take a look at our blog post about the caganer tradition in Barcelona and you’ll get to know everything about tiny Catalan figure.

How to visit Barcelona on Sant Jordi Day


If you are lucky enough to be in Barcelona on April 23, you’ll find the entire city covered in roses and books at every corner. In fact, the whole old town and even the fancy Passeig de Gràcia and its surroundings are entirely blocked off to leave all the space open to those selling books and roses. 

Here’s how to make the most of your visit to the Festival of Sant Jordi.

A walk through town

The best way to discover the city on Sant Jordi day is by walking. Start from Catalunya Square and either go north towards Passeig de Gràcia or Rambla Catalunya or go south towards Las Ramblas or the Old Town

I don’t recommend renting a car or bike because it would be impossible to move from one point to another. When it comes to public transport, avoid the central metro stations — you’d find them overcrowded. And anyway, you’ll enjoy the beauty of this magical day even more on foot!

Get your books signed

Sant Jordi book signing
Photo by Cristina Carrisi

If you are familiar with Spanish writers and you are patient enough to put yourself in line to get an autograph, you might have the chance to have a brand new book signed by the authors themselves. Go ahead — take a picture with them!

Not only books and roses

Sant Jordi is not only about lovers. It’s also about culture. The whole city — for an entire week and even more — organizes several happenings dedicated to this special day.  

A film festival, theater, dance, puppetry, music, literary talks, kids’ activities, and so much more. There’s something for everyone, and most of the events are free. Check the schedule to see what’s planned. I’m sure you’ll find the perfect activity to enjoy your own Catalan Sant Jordi.

Barcelona traditions and magic

Photo by Carlos Carrillo

It’s true, we officially celebrate Sant Jordi once per year, but we are surrounded by this legend every day. How? This city is filled with thousands of sculptures of dragons all over its historical buildings. 

One of the oldest dragons is the one hidden in the walls of the cathedral, but most of the dragon sculptures arrived within the last two centuries, when Sant Jordi became one of the many symbols of the Catalan identity.  

If you’d like to see some of those Modernist dragons, join our Barcelona Architecture Walking Tour

From roses to dragons to giants, there’s always something magical in Barcelona.