Arta and Culture in Barcelona

Arts and Culture in Barcelona


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Barcelona is a city of art, one of the most important in Europe. From the livelyness of his well known beaches to the medieval atmosphere of the Barri Gòtic and the modernist buildings of Eixample. Lots of treasures are kept in museums and architectural wonders are everywhere: authentic jewels that give uniqueness to its art and culture. Each quarter or districts hosts its own annual festival with music and crowds of people who keep inhabitants awake all night.

Arte e cultura a BarcellonaIn the Fiesta Mayor Gracia for example, for a whole week in August, the quarter of Gràcia is filled with music, parades with masks and elaborated costumes: everyone is dressed as a devil with torches in their hands. The dancing devils of Barcelona are formed by groups of people dressed up with costumes who dance along the streets with percussionists and with small fireworks coming out of their pitchforks. Barcelona is rich of traditional festivals: this festivity is also well know, apart for its nice devils, also for the human towers called 'castellers'. These towers are composed of 8 levels, with a number of persons forming each level and each one of them climbing over the people who form the levels below to form a tower. The historical reference came from the country area around Tarragona in 1890, from where farmers were forced to move to Barcelona, in the quarter of Gràcia, because of the wine crisis caused by the phyllozera parasite.

Arte e cultura a BarcellonaThere are so many events, shows and festivals in Barcelona, all throughout the year: not only in August, but also in June and in December, with the characteristic Christmas of Barcelona, or in April for the Sant Jordi of Catalunya Festival, celebrated with the traditional book fair and many roses for lovers. We've dedicated a separated section to Festivals and shows in Barcelona, don't miss it! Culture in Barcelona is rich in history and tradition: 2000 years of life that enriched one of the most beautiful and interesting European cities. With the transition in Spain, from Franco's dictatorship to democracy, Catalan culture found its place of honor in the country and in the continent, recovering very valuable traditions and works of art.

Art in Barcelona is connected especially with Modernism (called Liberty in Italy, Art Nouveau in France or Jugendstil in Germany), which in Barcelona is unique thanks to figures such as Antoni GaudiLluís Domènech i Montaner, Josep Puig i CadafalchJosep Maria Jujol i GibertFrancesc d'Assís Berenguer i Mestres and many more.

We've told about Gaudí in a section dedicated to him (see Gaudì's Barcelona) and to his great architectures Sagrada FamiliaCasa Batlló (along the Passeig de Gracia) or Pedrera-Casa Milà.

Montaner, one of the precursors of the Catalan style, left a unique and personal track in his Barcelona, between a style which uses French elements and an arab/hispanic architecture. Visit the Palace of Catalan Music: listed in the Unesco World Heritage, it's one of the most beautiful buildings in Spain and one of the most striking in town. It was meant to be the 'garden of music' in Catalonia and nowadays it's the headquarters of the Catalan choral society (Orfeó Català).

Cadafalch is the author if the spectacular Casa AmatlerCasa SerraCasa Martí and many more. Gibert, who was one of the closest collaborators of Antoni Gaudí, designed the Fountain of Plaça Espanya and the elaborated Sanctuary of the Mother of God in Montserrat (in the area of Montferri).

Among the architectures of Modernist art in Barcelona listed by Unesco you can also find the Hospital de Sant Pau en Barcelona (Montaner) and Gaudì's Park Güell, Palau GüellCasa Milá, Casa Vicens and the Colònia Güell in Santa Coloma de Cervelló. Even today, modernist architecture characterizes the city, by giving it a very particular charm.

Modernism in Spain, and above all in Barcelona,  influenced all forms of art and left its footprint in the smallest details of everyday life. It guided the cultural renaissance of a group of intellectuals who didn't promote only the architecture, but also literature and the social world in general.

From the 12th to the 20th century, Catalan literary culture began with Ramon Llull in the medieval times and reached its peak with  Ausiàs March's poetry, with his 'Tirant lo Blanc'. With the Ranaixença, the Catalan Renaissance, literature of this part of Spain recovered its power and faced the future with a stronger impact, expressed by the modernist cultural movement.

The beginning of the 20th century is when the 'Noucentisme' movement was born: it was linked to the bourgeoisie and inspired by Catalan political nationalism. The aesthetic ideal of this movement, created by Eugeni d'Ors, promotes a more classical art. Its most emblematic author was Josep Carner ('Frutti Els saborosos', 'El cor tranquilla' and 'Nabi'). After the First World War, the Avant-Garde movement gains visibility in Catalan culture, with artists such as Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró and authors like Joan Salvat-Papasseit ('L'irradiador del porto i les Gavines'), influenced by Cubism and Futurism, and Josep Vicenç Foix ('Sol i de dol'). Do not forget authors like Carles Riba ('Elegie de Bierville'), Josep Maria de Sagarra ('Vida privada', 'El cafè de la Marina'), Josep Pla i Casadevall ('El Quadern gris'), maybe the most important narrator of contemporary Catalan literature, because of his simplicity, irony and clarity.

The Spanish civil war limited the regional literary production, with very few authors who were able to resist to the strong repression: Ferran de PolBartraCalders. Later, the new wave of writers who actively promoted the Catalan literature were Llorenç Villalonga ('Bearn') e Mercè Rodoreda ('La Plaça del diamant', 'Mirall Trencat'). Salvador Espriu deserves a mention for his contribution to the literary of the time, with works like 'Antigona', 'Cementeri de Sinera' and 'La pell de brau'.

From the second half of the past century new generations of authors started to appear, thanks to an intense literary and intellectual activity. These ones deserve a special mention: Josep Palau FabreJoan BrossaVicent Andrés EstellésGabriel FerraterJoan Margarit, Pere Gimferrer, Maria Mercè MarçalBaltasar Porcel,Jaume CabréCarme Riera e Sergi Belbel.

Among folklore, culture and tradition, myths and legends of Catalonia seem to excite curiosity the most. Some of the most peculiar ones are those which deal with Barcelona's witches. Witchcraft and witches (called 'bruixes' in Catalan) aren't part of an occult power, with potions, bad omens and curses. They come from the manifestation of fear of a people that had to live hard moments of poverty and hunger. In the 17th century, religion played a very important role in Catalonia as in the rest of Europe, influencing believers' superstitions. Many women were accused of witchcraft (in Catalonia, between 1616 and 1622, approximately 400 women have been burnt alive). Nowadays, various traveling routes deal with Barcelona's witches.

Museums in Barcelona which deal with the history and the evolution of the city are widespread. They are also immersed in the traditions of their population: ancient, modern, contemporary, avant garde, they form a scenery as various as very few other European town. The Civic Museum of History, located where the Royal Residence used to be, the Museum of Catalonia's History, the National Museum of Catalan art, the MACBA (Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona), the well known Museum Picasso, the Foundation Joan Miró and Centre d'Estudis d'Art Contemporani, the CosmoCaixa (Science Museum), are just few of the most important museums in town. You can check the section dedicated to museums for further information.

Barcelona isn't just beaches and fun: art, folklore and culture are its biggest passions. Ernest Hemingway knew it very well: he used to spend hours in the tiny bar, hidden from the crowd of the Ramblas. Smoky and noisy, authentic, this bar was opened by Miguel Boadas in 1933. Everything is culture in Barcelona.

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