Barcelona in the Films
Being the picturesque, calming little land that it is, Barcelona has has its fair share of cinematic debuts. Both local and international filmmakers set their sights on the city as the filming location for big name & independent features.
What follows are a few films that embraced Barcelona for most, if not all, of the shooting. They also all happen to be fabulous pieces of cinema and worth watching, Barcelona trip pending or not.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Woody Allen – 2008
Perhaps one of the most iconic films ever to put Barcelona on the map; Vicky Christina Barcelona is one of my all time favorites and is enough to spark a Barcelona love affair in even the harshest skeptics.
The story follows the two American protagonists, Vicky and Christina, on a two month summer adventure to Barcelona. They embark on numerous adventures, most of them involving love affairs.
Without giving too much away, this film made headlines in 2008 as it showed Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Scarlett Johansson in a three way relationship; something rarely explored on screen at the time of its making.
The entity of the film is set in Barcelona. The characters move between all of the famous landmarks in the city, including La Sagrada Família and Parc Güell, through to the countryside and nearby villages in Spain (Read more about Discover walking tours).
The film has a strong sub narrative centered around art, so the characters spend a lot of time exploring the great works around the city as well. One particular scene shows them inside the Miro Museum, which is considered an unmissable attraction when visiting Barcelona.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION – Miro Museum
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday – 10am to 8pm
ADDRESS: Parc de Montjuïc, s/n, 08038 Barcelona, Spain
Metro STATION: Poble Sec
Whit Stillman – 1994
Stillmans film, titled Barcelona, is an in-depth look at life and culture of Barcelona during the 1980s. This was an interesting time in the city, and in the world. It was the last decade of the Cold War, and there was much disdain and animosity toward the United States in Europe.
In Barcelona in particular, citizens rejected the US, and weren’t always forthcoming to American travelers who would come to visit the city.
The film follows a wealthy businessman who is visited by his cousin, an American lieutenant. Less than impressed by his presence, the businessman reluctantly goes ahead with showing his guest around the city, including its nightlife.
A love story ensues between the lieutenant and a local woman. The movie is a beautiful depiction of the 80s in Spain, and what life was really like.
A lot of filming takes place in El Born, which is today one of the most attractive neighborhoods in Barcelona. They also venture up above the city to the peak of Montjuïc; something all newcomers to Barcelona should do at least once.
The Passeig de Gràcia is a famous strip in the city center, known for shopping, business and free guided walking tours. It’s fascinating to see what this street was like almost 40 years ago.
Biutiful, the Other Face of Barcelona
Alejandro Iñarritu – 2010
In this film we are reunited with Javier Bardem, who is actually a local Spanish actor.
This movie is a fascinating and moving story about a father living in suburban Barcelona, on the outskirts of the city center. He is caring for his mentally ill wife while raising their two children, and trying to keep business a float.
Some of his business includes the production of counterfeit goods that are moved to the Senegalese community of Barcelona and sold in an area called Top Manta. This is something that still exists very prominently in the city today, and seeing it on film gives one a more fulfilling understanding of what the smaller immigrant communities in Barcelona do to survive.
The filming takes place between Barcelona and the coastal neighborhood of Badalona. One can easily make a day trip to this region while visiting the city; it’s a great seaside village with a lot of restaurants and shops.
Cédric Klapisch – 2002
L’Auberge Espagnole translates to ‘Spanish Apartment’, and if you’ve ever wondered what traveling abroad to study in a city like Barcelona would be like, then this film is for you.
The story follows a young Parisian student on his adventure to Barcelona for a year of studies as the city’s major university. He is forced to live with six other students in a melting pot of an apartment space; chaos is inevitable.
It’s a wild journey on what it might be like as a young person thrust into Barcelona’s youth culture; sex, parties and some education here and there. The film is a lot of fun and the majority of it is filmed in easily identifiable attractions around the city center.
The University of Barcelona comes into feature a lot throughout L’Auberge Espagnole. The grounds are beautiful, but pale in comparison to another prominent location in the movie: Parc Güell.
Parc Güell is one of Gaudi’s most famous gifts to the city of Barcelona. It’s a park comparable to an adult dreamland, with much to see and do once inside. Pay it a visit when you’re exploring the city center. The Gaudí Experiència Museum is on the park’s eastern outskirts — an equally as unmissable attraction if you enjoyed seeing the park!