Barcelona to restore La Rambla splendor for Sant Jordi 2024 celebrations

Record-breaking 435 stands selling books and roses to be found in Catalan capital 

(l.t.r.) Natàlia Garriga, Jordi Ferré, Èric del Arco and Xavier Marcé at the Sant Jordi press conference
(l.t.r.) Natàlia Garriga, Jordi Ferré, Èric del Arco and Xavier Marcé at the Sant Jordi press conference / Ona Van Dyck Colomer

Ona Van Dyck Colomer | Barcelona

April 8, 2024 03:27 PM

April 22, 2024 02:53 PM

For the first time since the pandemic, La Rambla boulevard in Barcelona will be back to full splendor for the beautiful, cultural celebration of books and roses that is Sant Jordi.

The day, St George's Day in English, is seen by many Catalans as one of the most important of the year, celebrating love and literature

"There will be 94 stands for books, and the usual rose sellers from La Rambla boulevard will also be present there," Marià Marín, a member of Catalonia's bookseller's guild, said during a press conference on Monday in Barcelona. 

There is a positive outlook for Sant Jordi, "not only in the cities, but also in shopping malls and smaller villages, people are busy preparing for Sant Jordi," said Èric del Arco, president of non-profit organization Gremi de Llibreters. 

Record-breaking numbers 

Never before have there been as many stands as there will be this year. A total of 435 stands for books and roses will be found on the streets of Barcelona. This includes around 100 stands right in front of existing bookstores. 

"There will also be a total of 3,356 meters of bookstands, which is almost 60 meters more than last year. More authors will be signing their books," Xavier Marcé, cultural director of Barcelona City Council, said during the press conference. 

The number of stands for Sant Jordi has more than doubled in comparison to 2017. That year saw a total of 186 stands in Barcelona. 

Controversial bookstand fee 

For the first time, booksellers who want to sell their books in Barcelona will have to pay a fee to do so.  

"The fee is €80 for every registered bookseller, we ask €20 extra for those who aren't officially registered. These are basically symbolic fees," said Jordi Ferré, president of the Booksellers' Guild.  

The fee has drawn criticism for trying to commercialize Sant Jordi in Barcelona. "We are not asking people for money to visit the bookstands. We only ask for a small contribution by those who will be selling books. The money will be used for safety, electricity and organizing Sant Jordi," Ferré clarified.  

"We have created a celebration that attracts almost one million people to the center of Barcelona. We need to make sure there is enough space to accommodate them, and that brings some costs," del Arco said. 

Around 80% of the total costs of Sant Jordi will be covered by the Catalan Government

almost a million people expected to visit Barcelona's city center to buy books
almost a million people expected to visit Barcelona's city center to buy books / Jordi Borràs

"A lot of free space in Barcelona will be used for Sant Jordi this year. It's better that we have an overview so we can provide electricity and make sure emergency services can still pass and go where they need to go," del Arco said.  

"In 2013 there was no control over where the stands would be, and ambulances couldn't even pass in certain places. We are trying to avoid that," he added. 

The organization is also reflecting and making sure they learn from last year's mistakes, including overcrowding on Passeig de Gràcia 

"In front of Casa Batlló it was too busy. You have the exit of the metro there, people trying to take pictures of the [Gaudí] monument, and at the same time those trying to buy books, so this year we are not letting anyone set up a stand there to make sure the mobility of people isn't disturbed," said del Arco. 

New top book list calculations 

Every year a list is published of the highest selling books on Sant Jordi, but this year people will have to wait a while to find out. "Last year we released the numbers very quickly, even though it isn't possible to actually give accurate numbers until a few days later," said del Arco. 

"The books that weren't sold needed to be brought back and counted to see what did sell, and some sellers don't have an online system that does it for them, so it might take a few days before the exact numbers are known," he added. 

A wide range of genres are sold during Sant Jordi
A wide range of genres are sold during Sant Jordi / Jordi Borràs

The list of top selling books doesn't represent the whole of Sant Jordi either. More than 60,000 different titles were sold last year, and people buy a diverse range of genres on Sant Jordi. 

"Children's books are the biggest sellers, and comic books are rising in popularity" said Natàlia Garriga, Catalan minister of culture. 

Catalan language celebration 

Books in Catalan outsell books in other languages throughout the year and especially on Sant Jordi. Some 52% of all books sold in 2023 were in Catalan. Half of the books loaned by libraries were also in Catalan last year. 

"We want people to buy books throughout the whole year, that they read all year long, and mostly that they read in Catalan because we want to live in Catalan, it's a great language," Garriga said.  

"We are talking about a big celebration of Catalan culture, everyone makes it their own," she added. 

Sant Jordi has a large impact on the numbers of books sold. "Thanks to Sant Jordi, it looks like a year in the bookselling field has 13 months instead of 12. That's huge," said del Arco.