Barcelona’s Valentine’s Day: books and roses for St. Jordi
Every year on 23rd April, Barcelona’s streets change in the most charming way imaginable. As if by magic, thousands of small stands spring up across this beautiful city overnight and the sweet smell of roses fills the air. There is a tangible feeling of excitement. The entire city seems to be out and about, soaking up the spring sunshine. And in almost every hand you’ll find a red rose or a book. There is an undeniable sense of joy. People smile as they walk and talk, hold hands and kiss. So, what is this romance all about?
Love is in the air...
Welcome to the Fiesta de St.Jordi, Barcelona’s unique twist on Valentine’s Day. While the rest of the world buys cards, chocolates and flowers on February 14th, Catalunya’s Fiesta de St. Jordi is an entirely different affair. Much more charming and intimate, it brings the whole city together in a joyful way to celebrate the arrival of better weather and the spirit of love.
But what is this fiesta all about?
Like everything in Spain, it’s complicated. As a country with rich, diverse traditions and centuries of history, Spain is a cultural mixing pot of cultures, traditions and regions, each of which have evolved and changed over thousands of years of history. So, unsurprisingly, this Catalan tradition has become a complex cultural mix drawing on hundreds of years of history.
It all started with a Turkish knight...
Let’s wind back the clock and take a look at how this unique Mediterranean festival began. We’ll start with St. Jordi himself. He’s the patron saint of Catalunya. But he’s actually Turkish. He’s also known as St. George and he’s a busy man - in addition to his role in Catalunya, he’s also the patron saint of England and the Republic of Georgia. Some time in the 15th century, the Catalans made him their patron saint as well.
The birth of a Catalan legend
Once upon a time, there was a fierce dragon who was terrorising the population of a small town, breathing fire all over the place and generally causing a bit of a nuisance.
The town had a princess (obviously) and she summoned the brave St. Jordi to come to her rescue, in the way that knights tend to do. The villagers were desperate to rid themselves of the beast and called on the brave St. Jordi to slay the dragon and restore safety and calm to the village. He defeated the dragon with great skill and courage and pierced its scaly skin with his gleaming sword. And then the miracle happened.
Red blood, red roses
Out of the bright red wound that St. Jordi left on the dragon’s skin something strange grew. Red roses sprouted from the broken body of the beast and the brave St. Jordi (never one to miss an opportunity) plucked the rose straight from the dragon’s chest and gave it to the beautiful princess. And that’s how the legend began.
Ever since then, the people of Catalunya have celebrated this tradition as their own. From the middle ages onwards, Barcelona’s people have been celebrating this day by visiting the St. Jordi chapel in Catalunya’s Palace of the Generalitat, where a “lovers fair” used to be held. And it is from this tradition that St. Jordi was elevated to become the patron saint of lovers in Catalunya.
Over the centuries, this simple tradition has evolved into the gorgeous, colorful, romantic tradition that we see today.
Take the time to smell the roses
Barcelona’s day of roses, lovers and books takes place every year on April 23rd, which happens to coincide with World Book Day. Catalans take to the streets in their thousands to celebrate love. Custom dictates that couples should exchange gifts and traditionally, this is in the form of books for the men and roses for the women (although these days, the gifts are interchangeable)
Basically, Barcelona becomes one huge bookshop and flower shop and the streets are literally packed with throngs of people weaving their way through the streets, soaking up the atmosphere while searching for the perfect gift for the one they love. The stalls are laid out with every kind of rose display you could imagine and it is not uncommon to see authors signing their books. But one thing’s for sure, the fragrant perfume of roses fills the air.
So, what happens in Barcelona on April 23rd?
Well, basically it’s a gentle, romantic fiesta with a real sense of community and hope. Join the throngs as they stroll around taking in the atmosphere or browsing the book stall seeking just the right book for the one they love. Many of the main streets such as Las Ramblas, Passeig de Gracia, Passeig de St. Joan and Rambla de Catalunya will be packed.
In addition to the hordes of people and the multitude of stalls, don’t be surprised to stumble across literary activities such as workshops and recitals. There will be occasional bursts of music from impromptu local bands playing on street corners.
Dances and human towers
Keep an eye out for the Sardanas. These are traditional Catalan folk dances - gentle, rhythmic and as old as the hills.
Sometimes, you may stumble across the extraordinary experience of the Castelers in major locations such as Plaça Sant Jaume. These are the human towers that Catalunya is famous for. Members of local barrios train all year round to build extraordinary, swaying towers of humans supported by their community and eventually scaled by young children who scramble up their backs to reach the top of this dangerous but breathtaking pile. It is an extraordinary example of community spirit and trust and it is like nothing else you have ever seen on earth.
An architectural treat for the eyes
Many beautiful buildings are also open to visit on this magical day. In addition to Palau Güell, you can look inside some of the most stunning buildings in a city of stunning buildings. Look with awe at the modernist Sant Pau complex, the Ateneo with its peaceful courtyards and sweeping stone staircases. Pop into the Palau de la Generalitat, which usually holds an open day with special events.
And for sure, don’t miss out on a visit to one of Barcelona’s most extraordinary buildings. Casa Batlló, is one of Barcelona’s most iconic buildings, designed by famed architect Antoni Gaudí. This unique and exotic building has a facade inspired by a dragon’s scales and represents the legend of St. Jordi in stunning, exotic and inspiring architecture.
So, there you have it - an extraordinary tradition inspired by one of the most gorgeous cities on earth.
A romantic day deserves beautiful shoes
But with all that walking and romance, you’ll need sexy, pretty, comfortable shoes on your feet - and Viscata has just the ones for you. So, what shoes should you have on your feet on this very Catalan day of celebration? Well from our perspective, they must be espadrilles. They fit perfectly with the Mediterranean vibe of the day. But the big questions inevitably follow.
Are espadrilles good for walking? What are the most comfortable espadrilles? What should I wear with my espadrilles? Luckily at Viscata, we have something for everyone, so we can happily answer the question: “what are the best espadrilles?”
And the good news is that Viscata’s Spanish espadrilles are good for walking. They’re also stunningly beautiful, supremely practical, made by hand and oozing Mediterranean style.
And Viscata has the biggest online selection of espadrilles available in the world. We have platform espadrilles to help you see over the tops of the crowd. We have wedges for comfortable walking around the city streets. We have espadrille flats, open toe espadrilles and lace up espadrilles. We have espadrille mules, espadrille sandals. We even have espadrille sneakers (or as we like to call them, “Sneakerdrilles”).
Biggest online range on the planet
But there’s so many espadrille styles to choose from in so many combinations that we thought we’d make life just a little bit easier for you.
So, here’s Viscata’s practical guide to the 5 most stylish espadrilles for you to step out in comfort on this most romantic of days. Feliz St. Jordi from all the team at Viscata. Feel the love!
The Roses wedge pump 🌹: Femininity and elegance
A great book, a beautiful rose and our gorgeous Roses pumps. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate St. Jordi. We’ve recently updated these beautiful shoes with a super modern v-cut shape. Elegant and timeless, this wedge pump is definitely a “must” for every closet.
Super easy to combine, these work beautifully with your summer skirts and dresses. But they’ll also work well with your office wear or even a pair of distressed jeans. Anytime, anywhere.
The Empuria Sandal: a shoe that screams chic
This is definitely the real standout of this season. A smart, comfortable and eye-catching sandal that will add a touch of glam to any of your looks. There’s no better way to make a real fashion statement. And you don’t have to compromise on comfort.
Make your toes the star of the show with our elegant Empuria sandals. Their creative bicolor jute soles will turn heads every time you step out - whether you’re strolling the streets of Barcelona or New York, you’ll be a fashion standout!
The Llafranc flat espadrille: your new casual comfort
A traditional espadrille never goes out of style - and that’s certainly true of our Llafranc flats. These stylish shoes are the perfect expression of Mediterranean style.
Their classic shape features the original white stitching to highlight its genuine handcrafting.These are the perfect shoes to wear with shorts, mini skirts or even summer cotton dresses. Whatever the occasion or the outfit, you’ll always look good in a pair of Llafrancs.
The Tamariu platform wedge: the sky's the limit
If you love a little height, we think you’ll fall head over heels in love with these pretty shoes. Our platform wedges are as elegant and feminine as stilettos - and a hundred times more comfortable.
Our Tamariu platforms are made for walking in style. A groundbreaking wedge that will elevate your casual outfits or dress-down any of your chicest looks.
Incorporate these contemporary platform wedges into your wardrobe collection and we’re pretty sure that they’ll soon become your new “on-the-go” shoes. The perfect way to add a little height without sacrificing comfort.
The Llansa Peep-Toe wedge: cool your toes
Step into spring in a pair of peep-toe wedges that are guaranteed to inject a little summer fun into your wardrobe.
Featuring a super-easy, adjustable buckle strap, this updated take on the slingback wedge has reminded us why style is so important. Match the Llansa slingbacks with your favorite skirts, dresses or palazzo pants - whatever you pair them with, they’re bound to make any outfit look chic.
Give your toes a season off - they deserve a break from all that squishing into pointed heels and sliding into those contemporary peep-toe slingbacks. The Llansa wedges are the perfect way to cool down as the weather gets warmer. These wedges are so comfortable, you’ll feel you’re walking on a cloud.
So, now you have it. The perfect shoes for stepping into one of Catalunya’s greatest and most romantic traditions.
Happy St. Jordi, everyone!