Barcelona Photoblog

August 18, 2023

Festes de Gràcia: A Celebration of Community and Catalan Culture


The Festes de Gràcia, also known as the Festa Major de Gràcia, is the largest festival held each year in the charming neighborhood of Gràcia in Barcelona. Taking place for a week every August, this lively celebration brings together residents young and old through colorful street decorations, traditional Catalan dancing and music, delicious local cuisine, and a strong sense of community.

Origins and History

The Festes de Gracia is a popular neighborhood festival in Barcelona that traces its origins back to 1817. It began as a religious procession on August 15th to return an image of the Virgin Mary to a local convent after it had been hidden during the Peninsular War and in honor to the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. At the time, Gràcia was still its own independent town on the outskirts of Barcelona. After Gràcia was annexed into Barcelona in 1897 and over the next few decades, the festival became more focused on celebrating Catalan culture and community. It evolved into a week-long festival celebrated annually in August, with decorated streets, music, dance, theater, parades and more. By the early 20th century over 100 streets were decorated by local commissions. In 1935 attempts were made to organize the festival under one entity, but the Spanish Civil War interrupted this effort until 1956 when the Federation of Streets was formed to unite and organize the various celebrations. During the Franco dictatorship, when public use of the Catalan language and traditions was banned, the festival became an act of cultural resistance. Neighbors decorated streets with pro-independence symbols and sang banned Catalan songs. After dictatorship the festival flourished as an expression of Catalan culture and in 1997 was named a Traditional Festival of National Interest by the Catalan government. In 2009 the Federation became the Foundation of Festes de Gracia, focused on promoting the festival and Gracia culture. The Festes continues today as one of Barcelona's most popular events, bringing together neighbors to decorate streets and celebrate local heritage.

The Streets Come Alive

The most iconic part of Festes de Gràcia is the elaborate decorative displays along major streets and plazas. Local resident associations each select a theme and spend months preparing their street decorations, which are handmade from recycled materials. Past themes have ranged from under the sea to fairy tales to carnivals.

As you stroll through the decorated streets, you’ll feel fully immersed in these creative worlds. On Carrer de l’Or, you might believe you’re deep below the ocean thanks to paper fish dangling overhead. Wander down Carrer de Verdi, and you’ll think you’ve stepped into your favorite storybook or movie scene. It’s an incredible, ever-changing spectacle.

Some standout street decorations over the years include:

  • 2017's Skiing station at Travessia de Sant Antoni was the best street contest winner with an 'icy' and elaborate stage
  • In 2018, a rural farm full of animals gave the first prize to carrer Llibertat
  • Carrer del Progrés, representing the magic world of Harry Potter, won the award to best decorated street in Festa Major de Gràcia 2019.
  • 'El bosc dels llibres' or the Forest of Books, a magic place with a big mushroom as in a fairy tale gave carrer de la Santa Creu the first prize.
  • 2021, due to the pandemic, became a special year in which all streets were declared winners and congratulated on their efforts.
  • In 2022, carrer Verdi was the winner thanks to their inspiration in the famous Don Quixote by Cervantes
  • 2023 - Carrer Progrés has won the competition for decorated streets of the main festival in the Gràcia neighborhood of Barcelona with a decoration inspired by the animated film "A Bug's Life, a miniature adventure" and named Formigres. The main characters are a group of giant ants that live in an anthill and are surprised by a plague of locusts that want to take their grain harvest.

The creativity and handcrafted details are astounding. As an attendee, you’ll feel fully transported wandering these merry miniature worlds. It’s an immersive experience found only during Festes de Gràcia.

Music, Dancing, and Traditions

Festes de Gràcia incorporates beloved Catalan traditions and performing arts. You’ll hear the sounds of the gralla, a traditional Catalan double reed instrument, accompanied by tabal drummers parading through the streets. Revelers form circles to dance the sardana, Catalonia’s national dance, accompanied by a cobbla band.

Human tower building, or castells, also play a central role. Teams compete to construct the highest and most complex human towers, with levels of four to ten people topped by a young child. It’s an impressive feat that requires coordination, balance, courage, and community support. You’ll spot gegants, large papier-mâché figures often depicting historic or folkloric characters, dancing and winding through the crowds.

There are also correfocs, or “fire runs” - parades of people dressed as devils who spin fire batons and set off firecrackers. The drums and fireworks make for an exciting and raucous spectacle, but keep your distance to avoid getting burned!

Some of the cultural activities that have delighted attendees include:

  • Nightly sardana dancing in Plaça de la Vila where all ages join hands and dance in circles.
  • Gegants representing Count Arnau and the legendary St. George parading down Carrer de Verdi.
  • A 25-foot dragon puppet weaving through the streets with glowing eyes and smoke billowing from its nostrils.
  • Children forming mini castells of just 3 tiers, encouraged by their community.
  • The correfoc finale lighting up Plaça del Sol with bursts of fire and sparklers.

The reverence for tradition fills the streets alongside playful revelry during Festes de Gràcia.

Bringing the Community Together

While Festes de Gràcia has grown into a major tourist attraction, its community focus remains.  Thousands of residents volunteer their time to put up decorations, run activities, and keep the celebration running smoothly helped by the Festa Major de Gràcia Foundation which is a non-profit organization that was born in 2009, heir to the tradition of the old Federació Festa Major de Gràcia. As the organization's statutes state, the Festa Major de Gràcia Foundation "has as its object the defense, promotion and dissemination of Catalan popular culture in its broadest sense, and in particular, the defense, promotion and dissemination of Festa Major de Gràcia, in all its aspects, recreational, cultural, sporting and neighborhood, with special protection for those lining the streets, squares and other spaces with similar characteristics. It also aims to research, archive and disseminate the historical documentation of traditional festivals in the old Villa and current district of Gràcia in the city of Barcelona".

For locals, the week of Festes de Gràcia provides a chance to showcase their community pride and talents. Neighbors spend time together decorating their streets in the months leading up to the festival. Friends and families attend concerts, enjoy local dishes from pop-up food stalls, and let loose dancing in the streets. Children grow up attending year after year, developing fond lifelong memories.

The festival ultimately strengthens social bonds and perpetuates traditions in one of Barcelona’s most tight-knit neighborhoods. Even if you’re just visiting Barcelona, you’ll easily feel the solidarity and spirit during Festes de Gràcia.

In terms of community-building, some highlights include:

  • Multi-generational families working side-by-side to decorate their assigned street over many months.
  • Impromptu lessons teaching visitors sardana dancing steps on the spot.
  • Grillades or barbeques held on decorated streets where the whole neighborhood is invited to eat, drink, and be merry together.
  • Local children excitedly pointing out their street's decorations to visitors and friends.
  • A tangible feeling of connection and belonging that spans generations of Festes de Gràcia participants.

The Persistence of Culture and Community

Festes de Gràcia perpetuate Catalan traditions and neighborhood pride. While its scale has expanded over two centuries, the community-driven spirit remains. Joining in the festivities allows you to fully appreciate Gràcia's singular culture.

When you attend Festes de Gràcia, you aren't just a spectator - you become part of the community celebrating its identity. That combination of stunning artistry and solidarity is what makes this one of Barcelona's most spectacular festivals. Through rocking out to sardanes or getting lost in an enchanting decorated street, you'll unlock Gràcia's vivacious heart.

Tips for Attending

Festes de Gràcia takes places from August 15th-21st each year. The decorated streets are accessible 24 hours a day, but come earlier to avoid the big crowds that pack the narrow streets at night. Wander through during the day to snap photos without people blocking your view, then return at night when the decorations are illuminated.

Schedule your visit on August 19th for the castellers competition or August 21st for the correfoc fire run finale. Check the schedule for concerts, dances, parades, and other special events. Most activities take place right on streets and squares, but some require tickets purchased in advance.

Dress comfortably to walk, dance, and navigate crowds. Wear closed toe shoes in case of stray firecrackers at the correfoc. Pack water and snacks so you can keep celebrating. And be sure to savor some classic Catalan dishes like paella and botifarra sausage sandwiches from the street food vendors.

The Festes de Gràcia offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience Catalan culture, community, and creativity. Join in the festivities to eat, dance, play, and celebrate like a true Barcelonian!

Festes de Gràcia Schedule Highlights

Monday August 14th - The festival kicks off with the opening speech and procession to Plaça de la Vila followed by concerts and castellers performances.

Tuesday August 15th - Includes the traditional Mass, parade, performances by grallers and bastoners, and the debut of the Bull of Gràcia.

Wednesday August 16th - Highlights are the parade and tribute to Saint Roc and the exhibition opening of the visiting gegants.

Thursday August 17th - The ceremony announcing the winners of the best decorated street contest.

Friday August 18th - Agenda has children's activities, a downhill walk, and nighttime castellers performances.

Saturday August 19th - Packed with parades and dances showcasing the guest gegants from Molins de Rei.

Sunday & Monday August 20-21 - Wraps up with drumming, fire performances, parades, and the closing correfoc fire run.

In summary, key events include lively celebrations, the contest ceremony, parades and tributes, cultural performances, concerts, and guest gegants festivities.

A full schedule in pdf or here at in Catalan only. Join the festivities to experience Catalan culture, community, and creativity! I think there should be an official translation of the schedule in English considering the amount of visitors to the activities. This is just a hint to whom it may concern.

Tips for Making the Most of Festes de Gràcia

As one of Barcelona's biggest festivals, Festes de Gràcia offers endless opportunities for fun. Here are some insider tips to help you make the most of the experience:

  • Arrive early to beat the crowds if you want to closely see the decorated streets and snap photos. The streets pack with people at night.
  • Consider taking a guided walking tour for context about the history and meaning behind traditions like castellers and sardanes.
  • Pack a picnic dinner or snacks to enjoy on the streets and save money. Beer, wine, water and soft drinks are sold in local shops.
  • Download the festival app or pick up a program to plan which special events, concerts, and activities to attend each day and night.
  • Dress comfortably in layers. August is hot during the day but can be cool at night. Wear closed toe shoes in case of stray fireworks.
  • Practice your Catalan! Learn key phrases like "Bon dia" (Good day), "Gracies" (Thank you), and "Visca Festes de Gràcia!" (Long live the Gràcia Festival!).
  • Connect with locals by complimenting their street decorations or joining in dances. The festival is all about community.
  • Check the schedule of metro and bus services, as some may be rerouted during the festival. Walking and taxis are other good options.

Immerse yourself in the celebrations to create unforgettable Festes de Gràcia memories!

Celebrating Community

At its core, Festes de Gràcia is a celebration of community. In a city as large and diverse as Barcelona, the bonds between neighbors that the festival fosters are invaluable. The collaborative efforts involved in putting up decorations, organizing activities, and volunteering create ties that strengthen Gràcia's social fabric.

While the raucous revelry draws in visitors from across the world, the festes remain committed to Catalan traditions and culture. No matter your background, you'll be welcomed into Gràcia's community spirit during the festivities.

Festes de Gràcia demonstrates the heights that can be achieved when people come together creatively for a common purpose. The awe-inspiring decorations, stirring traditional dances, and shared pride of residents offer inspiration.

As the nights ring out with music and laughter, you'll leave with an appreciation for community, culture, and connection. That is the true magic of Festes de Gràcia, unchanged throughout two hundred years of celebrating what makes this neighborhood great. 

Needless to say that although visitors are more than welcomed, respect for local traditions must prevail. Basically, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Or better said, don't do unto know the rest. This also applies for more than a local or two.


  • Festes de Gràcia is an annual week-long festival held in mid-August in the Gràcia neighborhood of Barcelona
  • Originating in 1817 as a religious feast day, it has evolved into a secular celebration of Catalan culture and community
  • The highlights are the spectacular decorated streets designed around creative themes by local resident associations
  • Traditional Catalan elements include sardana dancing, castellers human towers, gegants (giant puppets), and correfocs (fire runs)
  • The festival features live music, parades, children's activities, and abundant food and drink
  • While it draws tourists, the festes are organized by local volunteers to bring the community together
  • The festive atmosphere celebrates Gràcia's unique local identity and perpetuates Catalan traditions
  • Joining in the festivities allows you to connect with Gràcia's welcoming spirit and appreciate Barcelona at its best
  • Festes de Gràcia is a one-of-a-kind expression of creativity, culture, and community that encapsulates the soul of Catalonia
Pied Piper of Hamelin at carrer Verdi del Mig - Festes de Gracia 2023

August 16, 2023

The 20 Best Places to Take Photos in Barcelona for Instagram

Barcelona overflows with picture-perfect spots for travel photography. From Gaudí's surreal architecture to palm-lined beaches and lively boulevards, Barcelona offers countless visually stunning backdrops. Whether you're a pro toting a DSLR or an amateur snapping smartphone pics, you'll find awesome places in Barcelona to capture postcard-worthy shots. This guide covers the top 20 locations in Barcelona to ignite your social shares. With tips for snagging super shots, you'll be able to fill your Instagram with artistic Barcelona photos that will mesmerize your followers.

  1. Sagrada Familia

    No trip to Barcelona is complete without visiting Antoni Gaudí’s magnificent Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, which is a photographer's paradise for Instagram. This awe-inspiring Gothic and Art Nouveau cathedral has soaring spires, intricate details, and colorful stained glass perfect for your Instagram feed. Climb high for a wide cityscape shot or get up close to capture the ornate Passion Façade. The never-ending construction and scaffolds add dynamic angles. Morning light illuminates the textures beautifully for Instagram. Snap photos from unique perspectives to stand out on Instagram. The Sagrada Familia is Barcelona's most iconic landmark and should be at the top of any travel photographer's Instagram bucket list.

  2. Parc Güell

    Another whimsical Instagrammable masterpiece by Antoni Gaudí, Parc Güell makes for unforgettable photos. Winding pathways, colorful mosaics, and fairytale-like structures create a dreamy Instagram backdrop. Shoot the main terrace overlooking the city or wander the park to discover more photogenic gems like the Gaudí House Museum for your Instagram grid. Frame a selfie on the serpentine bench or against the Hansel and Gretel-style gingerbread gatehouses. Early morning or late afternoon golden hour is best for glowing light. Parc Güell captures Barcelona's magical architecture and is perfect for your Instagram feed.

  3. Casa Milà (La Pedrera)

    This futuristic-looking apartment building designed by Gaudí is both bizarre and beautiful, making for excellent Instagram photos. The rippling stone facade and skeletal rooftop make dramatic subjects. Pose on the front steps or on the roof among the eerie chimneys resembling medieval warriors for Instagram. At night, Casa Milà is illuminated for a striking, science-fiction feel perfect for Instagram. Shoot upward for patterns against the sky or capture the surreal sculptural details up close. As one of Barcelona's most imaginative buildings, La Pedrera will add artistic flair to your Instagram gallery.

  4. Casa Batlló

    Gaudí's Casa Batlló dazzles with a facade covered in colorful mosaic tiles and wave-like window frames, creating eye-catching Instagram photos. The roofline resembles a dragon's back, complete with ridge spikes for scales. Capture the fluid forms and marine motifs from street level or get a rooftop view from the rear of the block for Instagram. Inside, snap the skeletal interior columns or light shaft. Photos of Casa Batlló's colorful artistry make great Instagram posts showing Barcelona's modernisme style.

  5. Montjuïc and Magic Fountains

    Rising above the city, Montjuïc provides stunning elevated views of Barcelona's skyline perfect for Instagram. The hilltop Castillo de Montjuïc fortress has panoramic vistas and old cannon batteries to explore. Come at dusk for a majestic Instagram shot of the port and city below with a pink sky. At the Magic Fountain, capture the colorful lights artistically blurred with slow shutter speed for Instagram. Photos from Montjuïc showcase Barcelona's beauty from above.

  6. Barri Gòtic

    Barcelona's atmospheric Gothic Quarter is another favorite spot for Instagrammable photography. Wander the medieval labyrinth of narrow cobblestone alleys lined with classic architecture. Photograph soaring 14th century cathedrals, hidden plazas and iron lanterns. For moody Instagram shots, capture the stone arches and shadows. The mix of old and new makes the Barri Gòtic endlessly inspiring. Share your gothic Barcelona photos and transport Instagram followers to the historic heart of the city.

  7. La Rambla

    Always buzzing with activity, Barcelona's famous La Rambla boulevard offers dramatic Instagrammable street photography. Catch a flamenco dancer in action or snap the living statues posing elegantly. Look for candy vendors in colorful costumes or street performers in inventive costumes. Shoot upward for architectural details on the elaborate buildings along the pedestrian street. Capture the energy and eclectic sights of La Rambla then share your images on Instagram.

  8. Plaça de Catalunya

    The expansive Plaça de Catalunya square provides a lively Instagrammable urban backdrop. People watch and capture daily local life: street musicians, pigeon feeders, children playing. Photograph friends sitting on the central fountain or statue base. The square links old and new Barcelona; shoot both the modern El Corte Inglés department store and older buildings like the Hotel Colón. The hustle and bustle of Plaça de Catalunya encapsulates the city's lively spirit for Instagram.

  9. Arc de Triomf

    Barcelona's iconic Arc de Triomf brickwork archway makes a dramatic framing element for Instagram photos. Built for the 1888 World's Fair, this bold neo-Mudejar arch adds a pop of red against the cityscape. Photograph models or friends strolling through the arch or posing in front. For scale, include the whole arch in your Instagram shot. At night, the illuminated Arc de Triomf is perfect for a neon-lit urban snap. Share these monumental Barcelona photos with Instagram fans.

  10. Parc de la Ciutadella

    This idyllic green space offers a serene natural contrast to the city for Instagram. Capture the towering palm trees, sparkling central fountain, and picturesque gazebos. Row across the lake for romantic Instagram photos on the water. Shoot friends relaxing on the grass or people commuting by bike through the park. Look for birds and other wildlife as photogenic subjects. Share your park snapshots to show the greener side of Barcelona on Instagram.

  11. Parc del Laberint d'Horta

    Outside Barcelona, this magical 18th-century hedge maze park creates whimsical Instagrammable photos. Shoot the maze from above or send someone inside for adventure shots winding through the labyrinth. Other photogenic elements include the central pond, neoclassical statues, and stone temple ruins. The harmonious landscape allows striking nature photography for Instagram. For magical garden photos to enchant your feed, visit Parc del Laberint d’Horta.

  12. Tibidabo

    Soaring above the city, Tibidabo Amusement Park provides beautiful panoramic views for Instagram photos. Shoot the ride-filled skyline or pose in front of the vintage Ferris wheel and quirky attractions. Watch the cable car ascend for dramatic overhead shots. At sunset, Tibidabo lights up for golden hour magic. Show off the whole of Barcelona from this elevated vantage point in your Instagram posts.

  13. La Boqueria Market

    Barcelona’s vibrant La Boqueria food market explodes with colorful Instagrammable photo opportunities. Capture the overflowing fruit and vegetable displays, shimmering seafood catches, and hanging hams. Photograph the busy market activity and characters like fruit vendors in the early morning. Close-ups of ingredients pop against the market backdrop. Foodies and travel photographers alike will delight in La Boqueria’s lively visual feast for Instagram.

  14. Port and Passeig de Colom

    Along the pedestrian Passeig de Colom, snap Instagram photos of the sailboats and yachts moored in the marina. Look for reflections in the water. Shoot the famous Columbus Monument statue pointing out across the sea. Capture the star-shaped Barcelona Royal Shipyard buildings across the port. At sunrise or sunset, incorporate colorful skies for dramatic seaside Instagram photographs.

  15. Palau de la Música Catalana

    This concert hall designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner is an ornate vision perfect for Instagram, with mosaic-tiled columns, stained glass skylights, and a gold sculpture-adorned facade. Photograph the exterior details then tour inside for brilliant Instagram photos of the grand auditorium capped by a stained-glass inverted dome. The kaleidoscopic colors and textures make Palau de la Música Catalana a unique Barcelona subject for your artsy Instagram shots.

  16. Monastery of Pedralbes

    This medieval Gothic convent surrounded by tranquil gardens creates ethereal Instagram photos away from the city hustle. Shoot the three-story cloister gallery and central fountain from different perspectives. Capture the arched walkways framed by vines and flowers. At night, photograph the dramatically lit architectural details. Share this serene spot with your Instagram feed for a moment of Barcelona calm.

  17. Hospital de Sant Pau

    Architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner designed this early 20th-century hospital complex filled with decorative buildings and gardens perfect for Instagram. Capture the colorful tiled pavilions, stained glass windows, and unique circular windows. Wander for unexpected angles like doorways and passageways. Photos from these whimsical grounds capture innovative modernisme style for Instagram.

  18. Rambla de Catalunya

    Lined with elegant architecture and chic shops, this upscale thoroughfare attracts Barcelona’s fashionable crowd for Instagrammable shots. Capture mod looks against the Art Nouveau and Art Deco building facades. Look up for intricate ironwork balconies and window frames to photograph. Tree-filled Canaletes square links to Rambla de Catalunya for added scenery. For stylish Instagram street photography, add this posh promenade to your feed.

  19. Plaça del Sol in Gràcia

    In the charming Gràcia district, this quaint plaza delivers Instagrammable snapshots of daily life. Young families gather at the playground, cyclists traverse the plaza, street musicians strum guitars. Capture the facades surrounding the plaza in geometric patterns interspersed with arches and ornate details. Shoot upward for architectural patterns framed by blue sky. Photos from this lively square spotlight authentic local Barcelona culture for Instagram.

  20. Old Harbor and Barceloneta

    Along the harbor at the foot of La Rambla, snap Instagram photos of the sail-shaped Columbus Monument against the deep blue Mediterranean Sea. Capture the iconic red and yellow sightseeing boat Golondrinas docked near the waterfront promenade. Shoot the Barceloneta neighborhood’s narrow 18th-century lanes lined with history homes and shops. Photos from the old harbor and seaside deliver classic nautical Barcelona vibes for Instagram.

With stunning architecture, lively neighborhoods, markets, and coastal scenery, Barcelona offers endless inspiration for travel photography. Use this guide to capture artistic and distinctive photos at the top Instagrammable spots in Barcelona. For more tips, check out these top Barcelona Instagrammers:

Whether you use your smartphone or DSLR camera, Barcelona provides picture-perfect settings for unique images to share on Instagram and remember your travels.

August 08, 2023

Step Back in Time at Barcelona's Historic Hotel El Palace


Step into the Gilded Age of Travel at Barcelona's Hotel El Palace

Tucked away on a tree-lined boulevard in the heart of Barcelona lies a timeless grande dame that transports guests back to the glamorous era of early 20th century travel. Hotel El Palace Barcelona, originally opened in 1919 as an outpost of César Ritz's famed luxury hotel chain, oozes old world charm and elegance. From its ornate façade guarded by liveried doormen to the antique furnishings within, El Palace brings to life a bygone time when travel was still an exclusive pursuit of royalty and the cultural elite.

The Remarkable Rise of César Ritz

The storied history of El Palace Barcelona begins with legendary hotelier César Ritz, the pioneering founder of the international Ritz brand. Born in 1850 in the small Swiss village of Niederwald, Ritz was the thirteenth child in a family of farmers. His mother noticed young César’s intellect and insisted he receive an education, sending him to a Jesuit boarding school. There he learned German, French, and English—skills that would prove invaluable.

At 15, Ritz became an apprentice waiter at a hotel in Brig, Switzerland. But he was dismissed after a few months, deemed to lack faculties for hospitality. After a period of uncertainty, ambitious Ritz left for Paris in 1867 to seek his fortune. The bustling city was hosting the Universal Exposition, creating many hospitality jobs. Though starting as a waiter apprentice again, Ritz quickly moved up, honing his skills at top restaurants like Voisin.

Ritz exhibited exceptional talent for remembering guests’ names and preferences. His amiable personality also attracted important contacts like the Prince of Wales. But Ritz’s budding career was interrupted by the 1870 Franco-Prussian War. When Voisin closed due to scarce supplies, Ritz returned to Switzerland. In 1873 he went to Vienna for another Universal Exposition and met European royalty while working at a fine restaurant there.

For the next decade, Ritz spent winters serving elite clientele on the French Riviera and summers in the Swiss Alps. In 1889, the Savoy Hotel in London recruited Ritz and chef Auguste Escoffier to manage their new luxury property. During his decade at the Savoy, Ritz pioneered innovations like in-room bathrooms and introduced standards of service and cuisine never before seen in hotels.

But Ritz dreamed of launching his own luxury hotel. In 1898, he opened the esteemed Hôtel Ritz Paris. Its elegantly appointed rooms and refined dining attracted royalty, business magnates, and creatives. The terms “ritzy” and “puttin’ on the Ritz” stem from this gilded era.

After conquering Paris, London and Madrid, Ritz, who at the beginning was reluctant to build in Barcelona, was advised by Francesc Cambó, a local politician and intellectual, on the need of building yet another magnificent first-class hotel, this time in Barcelona considering pending events like the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. No expense was spared to create Ritz's vision of a palatial urban oasis. When Hotel Ritz Barcelona opened in 1919, it immediately became the city's premier luxury destination.

Although Ritz managed to expand his holdings globally he finally had to pass his empire to his heirs and retire to Switzerland due to declining health. When he died in 1918, César Ritz was remembered as the founder of modern luxury hospitality.

A Storied Past Through War and Peace

In its early years, El Palace cemented its status as the place to see and be seen in Barcelona. Well-heeled travelers arriving on luxurious cruise ships docked nearby eagerly made their way to the hotel's elegant spaces. Over the decades, famous guests have ranged from Spanish royalty like King Alfonso XIII to luminaries like Ernest Hemingway and Salvador Dalí.

The sprawling Ritz also became a cultural hub for Barcelona's high society. In the 1920s, its ballrooms hosted splendid masquerade galas, concert performances and art shows that attracted the city's creatives and socialites. The hotel's bar served as a lively spot where intellectual figures like Federico García Lorca and José Ortega y Gasset convened for cultural lectures, organized by the prominent women Isabel Llorach and Francesc Cambó.

But after the boom of the 1920s, troubling times loomed with the Spanish Civil War's outbreak in 1936. During the conflict, El Palace became a refuge for prominent families seeking shelter. Despite the war's chaos, the hotel maintained an aura of civility and calm. The tireless staff provided any comfort or service required, even sleeping onsite overnight when commuting was dangerous.

When war erupted, the hotel transformed into a worker-run cafeteria under the CNT and UGT unions, providing vital meals for Barcelona's hungry population. After the war, the grande dame emerged physically unscathed. But isolation under Franco's regime affected its glittering clientele. However, the hotel continued operating with world-class service and dignity.

Entrance Hotel El Palace 1919 Old Ritz

The Grande Dame Regains Her Luster

By the 1950s, Barcelona had begun opening up to the world again. With major events at the city's expo grounds, El Palace found itself welcoming international guests once more. A renaissance during the 1960s-70s won the hotel global acclaim and designation as a Leading Hotel of the World for its refined amenities.

In 2019, extensive renovations prepared El Palace for its next 100 years by sensitively restoring original details while incorporating modern comforts and conveniences. From its elegant facade to the restored interior design, the hotel brings Barcelona's gilded early 20th century era back to life. The César Ritz spirit continues through the staff's genuinely warm hospitality.

Famous Guests Over the Decades

El Palace’s premier location and accommodations have attracted many celebrity guests. Salvador Dalí repeatedly stayed in his favorite luxury suite during sojourns in Catalonia, once famously bringing up a taxidermy horse as a gift for his wife Gala, to the astonishment of hotel staff.

Retired bandleader Xavier Cugat, who popularized mambo music in 1940s Hollywood, spent his later years living at El Palace, filling its ballrooms with lively tunes in the 1970s and 80s. In 1987, Freddie Mercury met opera singer Montserrat Caballé at the hotel's bar, catalyzing their creative collaboration on the song "Barcelona" for the 1992 Olympic Games.

Many other luminaries have repeatedly made El Palace their home away from home when visiting Barcelona over the decades, including a diverse array of Hollywood actors, opera singers, rock stars, bullfighters, famous painters, directors, fashion designers, irreplaceable writers, distinguished members of high society from nobility to heads of state, from illustrious politicians to Arab sheiks, from Masons to Nazis, from Republicans to Franco's troops. The list is so extensive that it makes no sense trying to include them all here.

To celebrate the hotel's 2019 centennial, El Palace unveiled a photo exhibition with images of its glamorous past events and famous faces. The hotel's prestigious history and restored elegant spaces continue to transport guests back to Barcelona's golden era of luxury travel today.

Barcelona's Leading Luxury Destination Through the Years

In many ways, the history of El Palace mirrors that of Barcelona itself. The hotel was the city's premier luxury destination from the moment its doors opened in 1919, attracting affluent travelers and hosting high society events. In the carefree 1920s, its ballrooms and restaurants were the epicenter of Barcelona's buzzing cultural scene. El Palace was witness to pivotal historic moments like the 1929 World's Fair and the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

During the economically depressed postwar years, the hotel weathered challenges but continued as an oasis of refinement. By the 1960s, a rebirth of Barcelona's cosmopolitan spirit coincided with El Palace's renewed golden era. The city became an international travel hotspot once again, and the hotel its glittering social hub. The 1992 Summer Olympics spotlighted Barcelona on the world stage, drawing renewed interest in its Belle Epoque splendor.

Today, extensive restoration work ensures El Palace remains Barcelona's most illustrious luxury hotel. Its timeless elegance comes alive in the ornate facade, the crystal chandeliers glittering in palatial event spaces, the frescoed ceilings and marble floors.

For over a century, Hotel El Palace Barcelona has maintained its stature as the crown jewel of Catalan hospitality. It continues César Ritz's legacy as the pinnacle of discreet luxury experiences, attracting discerning travelers today as it did Barcelona's elite in its 1920s heyday. A fascinating living link to the city's past remains vibrantly alive within El Palace's historic walls.

Restaurant-AMAR-by-Rafa-Zafra-michelin-star-at-Hotel-El-Palace-Barcelona-old Ritz
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