There are lots of high points in the Catalan cultural calender, from the castellers at La Mercè to the dancing egg of Corpus Christi, but our favourite celebration is Sant Jordi, happening next week. It’s a celebration of three of our favourite things – romance, reading and roses – on the feast day of Sant Jordi, the patron saint of Catalunya.
The connection between roses and Sant Jordi comes from the part of the legend that says that when Sant Jordi slew the dragon, a red rose bush blossomed from the spot where the dragon’s blood was spilled. Traditionally, men would buy roses for their romantic partners, but nowadays the custom is more widespread, and roses are exchanged between friends, family members, flatmates and even colleagues – don’t be surprised or alarmed if your students bring you in roses! 40% of all the roses sold annually in Catalunya are sold on this day, and the rose stalls lining the Ramblas are a lovely sight to see.
The book element of Sant Jordi started in Barcelona in the 1920s, when some enterprising booksellers decided to set up stalls in the streets for a day to attract new customers. They decided to make it an annual tradition which fell on the 23rd of April, the anniversary of two of Europe’s greatest writers, Shakespeare and Cervantes, and this tradition became so popular it developed into World Book Day which is celebrated globally. In Barcelona you’ll find bookstalls side by side with the rose stalls, selling both new and antique books. It is traditional to exchange books with your romantic partner and with close friends and family.
In anticipation of the Diada de Sant Jordi on the 23rd of April, here is a list of bookstores in Barcelona that specialise in English languages books or that have good English language selections, so you can pick the perfect Sant Jordi gift, whether that’s for your partner, your bestie or even yourself!
Come In English
This bookshop in L’Eixample is one of our favourite English bookstores in town, with a nice layout, helpful staff and a great selection of new fiction from smaller presses – something that can be difficult to find in a foreign city.
Carrer de Balmes, 129
Housed in a former button factory in Sant Antoni, this independent bookstore doesn’t have an enormous English selection, but the books they do have are well chosen and interesting.
Passatge de Pere Calders, 9
This secondhand multilingual bookstore doubles up as a cafe, displays work by local artists and hosts readings, events and a book club. It’s a good spot to pick up your Sant Jordi presents and a nice place to hang out, feel part of the community and support an small business run by women.
Carrer de Villaroel, 27
This secondhand English bookstore is a treasure trove of pre-loved books at very reasonable prices – you’ll be sure to come away with a bargain.
Carrer de Montseny, 17
This chain of secondhand bookstores has nine different branches in Barcelona. All of them have a small English section, and while there’s a certain amount of Danielle Steele on the shelves, there are also good finds buried amongst the crime and romance novels.
Find the closest ReRead bookstore here