Movies, books, and songs to capture the essence of Barcelona and get you in the mood for travel
Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008)
Two women with starkly contrasting personalities travel to Barcelona for the summer, only to find their experiences overlap in unexpected ways. A classic of the modern Woody Allen, this film speaks not only to the complications of interpersonal romance, but also casts the spell of a love affair one could only have with the city itself.
L’Auberge Espagnole (2002)
Hapless young Xavier leaves home in France to study in Barcelona and beef up his resume; winds up sharing an amiably chaotic coed flat with six other exchange students of assorted nationalities. Cultural miscommunication, self-discovery, pairing, and bonding: Friends with a touch of European self-seriousness under the comedy.
All About My Mother (1999)
Oscar-winner Pedro Almodóvar’s ode to motherhood—with a supporting cast of Barcelona’s raunchiest types: transsexuals, hookers, and drug addicts. Begins in Madrid in tragedy—the heroine’s son is killed in a traffic accident—and gradually transforms itself in Barcelona into life-affirming comedy, and a paean to the theater.
Indie film about two young American cousins—one a salesman, the other a junior naval officer—thrown together in Barcelona when the latter is assigned to handle the spin for the arriving U.S. fleet. Coming-of-age, club-hopping, military-industrial politics, and quirky liaisons. Lightweight, but good fun.
The Passenger (1975)
Michelangelo Antonioni’s rumination on the human condition, with Jack Nicholson playing a burnt-out journalist who takes the identity of a dead man. Scenes shot in Barcelona on Las Ramblas and in Gaudí’s Palau Güell. Co-starring Maria Schneider.
Barcelona, by Robert Hughes (1992)
Eminent Australian art critic wrote the best book in English on the history of the city, its art and architecture, and the origins and unfolding of the Catalan identity. Encyclopedic, witty, and gracefully written: essential background for everything in Barcelona a visitor is likely to see.
Homage to Barcelona, by Colm Tóibín (1990)
Irish novelist’s collection of essays on Barcelona’s art and architecture, history, the civil war and the Franco dictatorship, and the emergence of democracy.
City of Marvels, by Eduardo Mendoza (1988)
Picaresque historical novel set in the years 1888-1929, bracketing the two World’s Fairs that put boomtown Barcelona on the map of Europe. Around the central character swirls a cast of cheats, anarchists, and visionary urban promoters.
The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (2004)
Best-selling novel set in the narrow streets of the Barri Gòticin the Franco years. Dark, interwoven stories of passion, downfall, and revenge in the tradition of magical realism.
The Time of the Doves, by Mercè Rodoreda (1962)
Written in exile, when it was still forbidden to publish in Catalan. Epic-length tale of love gone wrong, set in the Barcelona of the 1920s to 1940s: a tearjerker Gabriel José García Márquez called “the most beautiful novel published in Spain since the civil war.”
Catalan Cuisine, by Colman Andrews (1999)
Definitive work on the cookery of the region, indexed by sauces and basic ingredients, with a rhapsodic introduction putting it all in cultural context.
Cançons de la Catalunya Mil•lenària
Folktales, legends, fireside stories set to music and performed by Montserrat Figueras and La Capella Reial de Catalunya, directed by famed musicologist Jordi Savall.
Catalogne: Les Plus Belles Sardanes
The Combo-Gili and Perpinya coblas—small orchestras of flutes, tamborí drums, woodwinds, horns, and strings—perform the popular circle folk dance music of Barcelona and Catalonia.
El Burro Català
Compilation of traditional folk songs of the region—including “Els Segadors” (“The Reapers”)—the unofficial anthem of Catalonia.
Els Nostres Cantautors
Compilation of love songs, cançons, and folk songs by some ofthe best known singer-songwriters in Catalan, including Joan Manuel Serrat, Raimon, Lluis Llach, and Frederic Sirés.
From The Official Barcelona Games Ceremony: Domingo, Carreras, Caballé
Compilation of 25 operatic and orchestral classics, with Jaume Aragall, Teresa Berganza, and Juan Pons. Carreras and Caballé were both born in Barcelona.
Choral group Orfeón Donostiarra performs the music that sailors from Barcelona and the Costa Brava brought back from Cuba in the 19th century and made their own.
Barcelona-based group Ojos de Brujo (Eyes of the Wizard) mixes flamenco, rumba, reggae, Senegalese hip-hop, jazz, Cuban, and Persian sounds in this danceable, exciting album. Great work by lead guitarist Ramón Giménez and vocalist Marina Abad.
Barcelona has yet to match cities like Paris and Rome for the inspiration of evocative hit singles. The two that have endured both date to the 1992 Olympics: “Barcelona” by Freddie Mercury and “Amigos Para Siempre” (“Friends For Life”) by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black.
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