It is a common occurrence for people to visit Barcelona, wanting to experience all those quintessentially Spanish traditions that are synonymous with the image of Spain as a country and it’s culture – flamenco dancers, matadors and bullfighting, siestas and more.
Upon further inspection, people then come to the realisation that they are in not in the Spain that is advertised widely to the world and that Catalonia is a very different place to the rest of the country. Whilst Catalan culture is undoubtedly the top dog in Barcelona, it is still entirely possible to experience those clichés of Spanish culture as well as some distinctly Catalan ones too. The ‘Spanish dream’ is still in sight you might say.
To the Hispanophiles out there, you are perfectly correct in pointing out that there is no such thing as a single Spanish culture and therefore there are infinite ‘Spanish traditions‘. More correctly there are many different Spanish cultures that derive from the many different and varied regions of Spain. This blog will focus on the more iconic ones that most of us from other countries are more familiar with.
Read on to find out more!
One of the most popular Spanish traditions and the most popular image of Spanish culture, flamenco is considered to be the heart and soul of Spain. The passion and amount of tradition surrounding this art form is one of the reasons why many people seek it out when they come to visit the country. It’s true home is in Andalucía, but thanks to Andalucian immigrants moving to other parts of Spain, it has successfully gained a huge following everywhere and even created new variations in different places. Thanks to this, you can find some really great flamenco here in Barcelona too!
A number of places host flamenco performances in Barcelona. A particularly famous one is at the Tablao de Carmen which is performed on an Andalucian street in the Poble Espanyol at Montjuic. Another is the Tablao Cordobes which is located at the Ramblas which has been held there since 1970. They offer different packages which include watching a show with either a drink or the show and a meal. Unfortunately, these shows aren’t the cheapest experiences that you will have in Barcelona but for a taste of a real Spanish tradition, then it is surely worth it! A cheaper show is held at Tarantos in Plaça Reial which is only 30 minutes long but serves as a good introduction to flamenco.
Unfortunately this is one of these Spanish traditions that you are certainly not going to find here in Barcelona. Catalonia along with the Canary Islands are the two comunidades autonomas in Spain that banned the sport back in 2010. Therefore anybody wishing to witness this controversial feature of Spanish culture should visit Madrid or the South where bullfighting still remains a part of the culture.
However, you can still visit the former plaza de toros (bullring) at Plaça Espanya, which used to host bullfights back when the ‘sport’ was legal here in Catalonia. Inside though, you would never expect that this used to be the site of one of Spain’s most iconic traditions as it is now a fully fledged shopping centre housing some of the stores of some of the biggest brands, restaurants, a cinema, a rock museum and on the roof, some of the best views of Barcelona. Not a bull in sight.
Tapas is one of the culinary highlights of Spain and naturally has it’s place within the culture in Catalan culture too. For those not in the know, tapas was traditionally a small snack served alongside a drink in a bar. Typically, tapas can be anything ranging from olives, ham, cheese, meatballs, fish – anything (a famous chef in Madrid has even reinvented the Tortilla de Patatas by liquidifying it and pouring into a wine glass so people can drink it)! Different regions of Spain have their own variations on this tradition from the types of food served to the quantities given. It’s origins are unknown and theories range from it being a way in which barmen stopped their customers from getting them blind drunk too quickly to being a way for people to stop flies from getting into their drinks (tapear means ‘to cover’). Whatever the origins, this Spanish tradition has proven to be a phenomenon and since the rise of mass tourism in Spain, the culture of a free tapa has slowly disappeared and now you usually have to pay for each tapas that you have.
That however doesn’t mean that the tradition has gone completely. There are some bars in Barcelona which still stick to the tradition. One example is Ambiente de Sur in Sant Antoni (Carrer de Viladomat 85, Metro L1 Rocafort – take the Calabria exit) which takes it’s inspiration from the bars in Andalucia. With each drink (a caña costs just 1.80 Euros), you receive a free tapa which range from olives, croquetas, jamon and more. It’s a perfectly ordinary place but is always full of Spaniards making it feel like you are a million miles from the tourist areas of Barcelona.
Despite having two co-official languages, Barcelona is by any means an excellent place in which to learn Spanish. In fact there is simpler no truer Spanish traditions than to learn a bit of the lingo and communicate with local people. You can learn for free from many good websites, but if you prefer to learn from a teacher then there are many ways of learning through Language Exchanges, language schools and more.
If you’re taking a trip to Barcelona and want to study the language in addition to something more hands on such as learning to cook traditional Spanish food then Enforex are a great learning provider who offer such courses.
Naturally, there are many different Spanish traditions and we may have missed some here on this brief list. Is there any that you feel we should have included and would like to know about? Let us know!