Anyone who has fallen in love with Barcelona has felt its indescribable magic. It's no wonder that authors and filmmakers have also been inspired by the city's charm. Maybe you're familiar with Vicky Christina Barcelona, but what about L'Auberge Espagnole or La Catedral del Mar? Find out what some of our favourite films and books set in Barcelona are.

Scarlett Johansson walks down La Rambla as Cristina in Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
Scarlett Johansson walks down La Rambla as Cristina in Vicky Cristina Barcelona

L’Auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment)

Anyone who has been on Erasmus or lived with roommates throughout university will relate greatly to this French production. The protagonist, Xavier, wanting to learn Spanish to get a good job in France, decides to move to Barcelona for a year. After arriving in the city and finally securing a room in a flat with 5 others, he learns what it’s like to live with international flatmates and away from everyone he knows. The film is mainly in French, but you’ll see the friends communicating in English as well as Spanish, lending it a multilingual spirit. Shot in 2002, you’ll recognize a lot of familiar sights in the city with surprisingly fewer tourists in the streets. L’Auberge Espagnole is funny, smart and will make you feel nostalgic for your studentship.

The cast of L'auberge Espagnole.
L'Auberge Espagnole follows the follies of student life in Barcelona, photo via IMDB

La Sombra del Viento (The Shadow of the Wind)

Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s mystery novel is set in post-civil war Barcelona. On his birthday, Daniel Sempere’s father brings him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and is told that he can select one book of his choosing to keep. The book he chooses is La Sombra del Viento by Julían Carax. Daniel becomes entranced by the book and wants desperately to find more books by the author, so much so that the reader begins to feel his curiosity. The almost-haunted feel of the city and the loveable characters make this novel hard to forget.

Todo Sobre Mi Madre (All About My Mother)

Filmed in 1999, this film is everything you would expect from famous Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar. The film begins with a horrific event for Manuela – she loses her only son on his 17th birthday. Destroyed by her loss, she flees from her present in Madrid and returns to her past in Barcelona. She is on a mission to find the father of her son, who is not even aware that Manuela was ever a mother. As soon as she arrives in Barcelona, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, the film takes on a new vibrance, one that is also reflected in the city itself. The film is fun, quirky and full of girl power.

Some of the women in Todo Sobre Mi Madre

La Catedral del Mar (The Cathedral of the Sea)

If you want to go back in time, really far back, pick up a copy of Ildefonso Falcones’ book La Catedral del Mar (Cathedral of the Sea). Set in the 14th century, this historical novel follows the construction of the only Gothic Catalan church – Santa María del Mar. We quickly become enthralled with the life of Arnau Estanyol, the protagonist in the book, as Falcones sets up an easy-to-read adventure story. You will appreciate the great detail that goes into describing life in Barcelona in the Middle Ages. The book was so popular that Netflix has even created a TV series based on the story.

Interior of the Santa María del Mar Cathedral.
The historical novel La Catedral del Mar is set during construction of the famous Barcelona cathedral

Los Últimos Días (The Last Days)

Los Últimos Días is a science fiction end-of-the-world type thriller set in Barcelona. When the population of the city start to discover they have severe agoraphobia (fear of going outside), the city becomes chaotic. The action begins when the protagonist finally decides to venture out into the mayhem to search for his girlfriend. You’ll see a few Barcelonian sights and one of the main scenes is actually shot on Via Laietana!

A Barcelona street with abandoned cars.
The deserted streets of Barcelona in Los Últimos Días

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

In 2008, Woody Allen chose Barcelona as a backdrop from his dramatic romantic comedy Vicky Cristina Barcelona. High-profile actors like Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, come together in the chaotic love story with beautiful shots of Barcelona’s most famous landmarks. Although the type of Barcelonian lifestyle portrayed in the film is not quite believable, it’s still fun to point out the top spots and follow along with the drama.

3 women photographing the roof of La Pedrera with the Sagrada Familia in the background.
Exploring La Pedrera in Vicky Cristina Barcelona


Author of The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown sets this mystery thriller primarily in Spain, beginning in Bilbao’s otherwordly Guggenheim Museum and continuing on to Barcelona. Robert Langdon, the main character, is thrown into action from the very start and commences the search for the answers that a billionaire computer scientist claims will put an end to religion. In true Dan Brown fashion, the book sends the reader on an adventure with twists, turns and excitement, all with Barcelona and its most famous landmarks as its backdrop.

March 5th, 2020

Posted in Culture, The best of Barcelona

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