The architecture of the ‘Modernisme’ period, between 1889 and 1916, is one of Catalonia’s main cultural attractions. Antoni Gaudí, Josep Puig i Cadafalch and Lluís Domènech i Montaner are the most significant architects of this period. Visitors from all around the world come to admire their works.
Catalonia is also home for the works of many notable contemporary Catalan and non-Catalan architects, such as Josep Lluís Sert, José Antonio Coderch de Sentmenat, Richard Meier, Jean Nouvel, Norman Foster, Enric Miralles/Benedetta Tagliabue, Ricardo Bofill and Rafael Moneo.
Catalan architectural heritage is rich and diverse: it shows the centuries-old history of the country. UNESCO has declared six different places as World Heritage Sites: paintings from the final period of Tarragona’s pre-history; buildings, sculptures, and roadways of Tarraco (Roman name for Tarragona) and the whole Roman legacy in Catalonia; Romanesque art in the Boí Valley; the twelfth-century Santa Maria de Poblet monastery; architect Antoni Gaudí’s Modernist works; and two of the most interesting buildings designed by architect Domènech i Montaner: the Palau de la Música Catalana and the Hospital de la Santa Creu i de Sant Pau.
Ferran Adrià, repeatedly rated as the best chef in the world, made Catalan cuisine famous throughout the world with his restaurant El Bulli. His legacy continues at his brother’s restaurant ‘Tickets’, in Barcelona. In 2013, El ‘Celler de Can Roca’, in Girona, was named the best restaurant in the world by the British magazine Restaurant. It has three Michelin stars, as does chef Carme Rusalleda’s ‘Sant Pau’ restaurant in Sant Pol de Mar – which closed its doors and kitchen in 2018. Five others Catalan restaurants were distinguished in 2017 with two Michelin stars and forty-six others with one star. All this success is the result of a revolution in the traditional dishes of the Mediterranean diet (a diet designated as UNESCO Cultural Heritage in 2010). Of course, products such as olive oil, wine and fresh vegetables have always been, and always will be present in our cuisine. Eleven different Catalan wines and one cava have received the official quality certificate of “designation of origin” (DO).
There is a long list of deep-rooted Catalan traditions. Some of them have been registered as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, such as the “Patum de Berga” and the “Castells”, the construction of human towers by the castellers, since Catalonia has numerous (98) colles castelleres. Each Catalan town has its special celebration day and its traditions, some linked to religious acts. Some of the most common are: the traditional national dance, the “Sardana”; the street parades with fire-breathing “beasts” and fireworks, the “Correfocs”; and the figures of the giants and capgrossos.
Ramon Llull is the most famous author of the prolific Medieval period that also saw important works such as Tirant lo Blanc by Joanot Martorell and the poetry of Ausiàs March. In the 19th century, the literary movement of the Renaixença represented a revival of Catalan literature. His most significant authors were Jacint Verdaguer, Àngel Guimerà and Narcís Oller. During the 20th century and until today, many are the authors have achieved international recognition. Some of the most well-known are: Josep Pla, Josep Carner, Manuel de Pedrolo, Pere Calders, Jesús Moncada, Baltasar Porcel, Quim Monzó, Miquel de Palol, Miquel Martí i Pol, and Jaume Cabré. The Western Canon, by Harold Bloom, includes works by Catalan authors such as Carles Riba, J.V. Foix, Mercè Rodoreda, Salvador Espriu, and Pere Gimferrer. The Catalan language was invited to the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2007 and Barcelona was the city invited to the Paris Book Festival in 2013. In addition, Barcelona was invited to the 2018 Edinburgh Book Fair and it will be the guest city at the Book Fair of Buenos Aires in 2019, whilst Catalonia will be the special guest at the Book Fair in London in 2020.
The most important Catalan painters are the surrealists Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró, the informalist Antoni Tàpies and the expressionist Joan Hernández Pijoan. Catalonia has also been home and inspiration for geniuses such as Pablo Ruiz Picasso. Portraitist Ramon Casas and the modernist Isidre Nonell contributed to the international pictorial avant-garde. Before this period, Marià Fortuny was the most prominent painter of the late 19th century.
Barcelona has the most complete Romanesque art collection in the world, at the National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC), which owns numerous frescoes, altarpieces of churches and hermitages, and works of art from the Pyrenees. The best known Catalan sculptors are Josep Llimona and Jaume Plensa, who is still active nowadays.
Cellist and director Pau Casals (1876-1973), tenor Josep Carreras (1946), soprano Montserrat Caballé (1933), pianist Alicia de Larrocha (1923-2009), singers Joan Manuel Serrat (1943) and Lluís Llach (1948), violin player, director and composer Jordi Savall (1942), composer and pianist Frederic Mompou (1893-1987) and the flamenco singer and dancer Carmen Amaya (1913-1963) are some of the most famous names in the history of Catalan music.
After the dictatorship of Franco, musicians -mainly folk groups and songwriters- began to use Catalan in their lyrics. During the 1980s, rock was the most popular style, while pop and indie are currently the most popular today. Love of Lesbian, Manel, Txarango, Mishima and Els Amics de les Arts are just a few band names very successful today. Over the last year, Barcelona has organized several important music festivals such as Sònar, Primavera Sound and Cruïlla Festival, that host not only famous musicians from the Catalan scene but also international artists.
At the end of the 19th century, the works of the author Àngel Guimerà attracted international recognition for the Catalan theater. Josep Maria de Sagarra and Santiago Rusiñol were other prominent playwrights.
After Franco’s dictatorship, many artistic creation groups emerged, most of them still performing today: Els Joglars, Comediants, Dagoll Dagom, La Fura dels Baus, La Cubana and El Tricicle.
The National Theater of Catalonia opened in 1997, joining other cultural venues such as the Liceu, one of the most important opera venues in Europe, and the Palau de la Música.