What is Catalonia Day (La Diada) about?


Barcelona is the capital city of the region of Catalonia. This region in Spain is known for its rich tradition that gives the locals immense pride. From foods, to customs, this autonomous community stands out from the rest of the country. On 11th September every year, “La Diada” is celebrated, the national day of Catalunya. This annual event is something that most people get involved in, with most celebrations focused in the capital, Barcelona. Therefore, if you find yourself in Barcelona on this date, we thought best to give you the background to this historic event. Please bear in mind that any activities taking place will require social distancing and masks will be compulsory! Nonetheless, there will be plenty of local celebrations taking place for you to observe if you wish to avoid large crowds.

Information around the day

La Diada remembers the fall of Barcelona during the War of the Spanish Succession of 1714, when the region of Catalan lost authority over its own institutions and laws. These signs of sovereignty would be lost to the central governance of Spain after a 14 day siege between the Army of Catalonia and the army of Spain, who fought for King Philip V. This was a huge defeat that really marked the end to the principality of Catalonia.

In the years that followed, the taste of defeat still left a bitter taste. However, in 1886, the people of Catalonia began to celebrate the day as a way of remembering what it means to be Catalan. This new tradition was commemorated in the same year with a statue being built in honour of the famous Catalan icon Rafael Casanova. Despite being a celebration of defeat, rather than one of victory, most Catalans nowadays use it to remember and appreciate the liberties they have, as their ancestors did not have them.

La Diada in the 20th Century

Although the Diada Nacional de Catalunya became institutionalised under the Second Spanish Republic (1931-1939), it would be one of the first things to be suppressed when the dictator Francisco Franco came to power, something which also saw the monument of Casanova being removed. However, once the dictatorship had ended, 1976 saw the National Day of Catalonia was celebrated again for the first time in some 40 years, and Casanova’s monument was resurrected near Arc de Triomf.

What to do on Diada Nacional de Catalunya

Usually, when attending the Diada Barcelona, you are likely to see busy streets full of people waving the senyeres (the flag of Catalonia) and estelades (a recognised flag of Catalan independence). In addition to this, there are many museums in the city that are expected to continue hosting open house events. A few to look out for are (subject to changes):

• MCH Catalonia History Museum
• Catalan Parliamentary Building (Parc de la Ciutadella)
• MNAC Catalunya National Art Museum (near Plaza Espanya)
• Palau de la Generalitat (Plaça de Sant Jaume)
• Born Cultural Centre (where you can find a display of Catalan traditions including the famous Gegants (Catalan giants) and Castellers (human towers))

Furthermore, another tradition done in Barcelona sees councillors lay wreaths in homage to the troops who died defending Barcelona during the siege. These are usually laid by the monument of Rafael Casanova (at the junction of Carrer d’Alí Bei and Ronda de Sant Pere) and the memorial dedicated to these troops just outside the Santa María del Mar, on plaza Fossar de les Moreres. This event is usually attended by members of the Generalitat (local government) and other senior politicians.

Many people travel from all over the region of Catalonia to Barcelona, seeing the Condal City as the hub of activity and the representative of the whole community. Therefore, it is common for people to come for a few days and soak up the emotion and excitement surrounding this national holiday for Catalans. This means that you will likely see people wearing Catalan merchandise in the streets of Las Ramblas and Passeig de Gracia in the days before and after the event.

As mentioned before, this is a national holiday here, meaning that local companies will be closed as the staff take a day off to realise their pride in being Catalan. It is important to also note that shops and supermarkets will be operating on reduced hours as a result, meaning that you should get your groceries the day before! With that being said, most restaurants and bars will operate as normal as they hope to capitalise on this feeling of celebration! Catalans are known for their open nature and welcoming personalities, this is what makes La Diada extra special- that if you wish to observe the celebrations and want to learn more, you can easily ask a local to elaborate on what it means to them to be from this amazing region.

We hope that you have a fun time if you find yourself in the Catalan Capital for this years’ Diada, but we encourage doing some learning around the topic before attending, so that you can appreciate the reason why there is such pride and a feeling of attachment to the community!

Sandra Roig is Marketing Director at AB Apartment Barcelona. AB Apartment Barcelona is an apartment rental agency offering over one thousand short and long term apartments across Barcelona.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.


Comments (14)

  1. Elizabeth Knowling says:

    Many of us who did A Level History at school studied Spain in its glory days of the 16th and 17th centuries, when gold and silver were pouring in from the New World, when Charles and Phillip dominated Europe with their military night. Though my knowledge of Spain, like so many of my friends, stops there.

    I have zero knowledge on the War of Succession. “Not my period,” I joke if anyone ever asks me anything about Spanish history after about 1660.

    What I do know though, from my visits to Barcelona is how proud of their city the Barcelona people are.

    My husband once dragged me a long to a Barcelona against Real Madrid football match and it was basically Civil War on a football pitch.

    • Sandra Roig says:

      Dear Elizabeth,

      Thank you for your response.

      Yes, it is common to learn about the early days of the Spanish Monarchy, due to the UK’s link through the marriage of Catherine of Aragon (Daughter to Ferdinand and Isabella), and King Henry VIII. Something that changes the history of the UK for good.

      Other than this link, the history stops unless you look for it- something I think you may enjoy.

      Yes, the pride of the city is evident in every corner, none more so than what is found at the Camp Nou on game day!

      Best
      Owen
      On behalf of Sandra and the team at AB Apartment Barcelona

  2. Craig says:

    Celebrating a region for a day once a year seems to be in. We’ve just had Yorkshire Day in the U.K. Does it happen in any other Spanish regions?

    • Sandra Roig says:

      Hi Craig,

      As a fellow Yorkshireman by birth, I found that the similarities between regional pride in Catalonia and Yorkshire are very easy to see!

      In answer to your question, every region in Spain has their own national day. However, it is most celebrated in Catalonia by far.

      Thanks for your comment.
      Best,
      Owen
      On behalf of Sandra and the team at AB Apartment Barcelona

  3. Jade Elvins says:

    We just missed this by a week when we went to Catalonia the other year. I wasn’t sure if it might have been a good thing as we were exhausted and probably would have found ourselves in a a hive of activity and busyness but we did say that we’d like to go back another year specifically for the celebrations when we don’t have so much in the way of other travel and activities to do while there. We’ve been to Barcelona twice now and both times we have absolutely adored it. The surrounding areas are all well worth checking out so we’ve done as much as we can in the weeks we’ve spent there, like Sitges, Salou, Tarragona and so on. The last time we actually flew in to Reus because it was a bit cheaper.

    I had wondered how things would go this year with the pandemic. I imagine it being quieter with less tourists heading there, or anywhere really for that matter. We were lucky enough to get to meet a lot of native Catalans while we were there and although there are ongoing tensions after the failed bid for independence, the atmosphere is always so positive and full of pride. It really is encouraging to be around. It would be good to learn more about the history and visit the many open house events at the museums, on top of seeing all of the local traditions. It looks like a fantastic time with lots of vibrancy and celebrations.

    • Sandra Roig says:

      Hi Jade,

      Thanks for your comment!

      What a shame to have missed it, but it would be a much more enjoyable experience if you arrived fresh and ready to celebrate! We are happy to hear you enjoyed your two trips here, being able to explore the surrounding area of Catalonia is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture of the region.

      Yes, you’re definitely right there. There will only be the locals there celebrating in home or in a distance manner, maybe that is the most authentic way for the festivities to take place? Yes, the best way to learn is through exposing yourself to these kind of events!

      All the best,
      Owen
      On behalf of Sandra and the AB Apartment Barcelona team

  4. Stephen says:

    Even on a mundane day in Barcelona there is usually a real buzzy atmosphere around. I bet that there’s a very special feeling in the air on Catalonia Day.

    • Sandra Roig says:

      Hi Stephen,

      It is very true that there is a very special feeling in the air on Catalonia Day. With it being a regional holiday, people have plenty of ways to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy themselves with the celebrations that are all over the city of Barcelona.

      We hope you get to experience one soon!

      Best
      Owen
      On behalf of Sandra and the AB Apartment Barcelona team

  5. Tom Holmes says:

    Personally, I think we’ve got to try to
    live our lives as normally as possibly so I’m glad that the day is going ahead. If we are over-cautious and just cancel everything we won’t have any culture or economy left. The organisers and those who attend both have to take responsibility for social distancing and making sure that the day is a success and carries on year after year.

    • Sandra Roig says:

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks for your response.

      Yes, we will have to see how this year pans out, but maybe the pandemic has brought it home to us all just how important traditions really are to us. Things we saw as important before all this will definitely return back stronger!

      Best
      Owen
      On behalf of Sandra and the AB Apartment Barcelona team

  6. Carolyn says:

    Although it would be brilliant to get involved in the huge festival of La Diada, without any Spanish I think I would feel a bit left out and on the fringes of all the festivities.

    Some of my friends used lockdown to learn a language online, some more sensibly than others. If we get a second lock-down learning some more Spanish is going to be one of my priorities.

    • Sandra Roig says:

      Hi Carolyn,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, I would say that the people of Catalonia have a great grasp of English and are always more than happy to ensure you feel welcome in their home. Moreover, they want people to understand them, so explaining the importance of their festivities is something they are experts at!

      It is great to hear that you may take up Spanish, anything you learn is a great skill to have!

      We wish you all the best,
      Owen
      On behalf of Sandra and the AB Apartment Barcelona team

  7. Kathy Simmonds says:

    I’m curious to know how such a festival will be celebrated in the time of Covid. It’s hard to imagine festivities like this happening with social distancing and masks. But then again, with proper guidelines and information, as well as people following these guidelines, I think it can be successful. People just need to be always mindful.

    • Sandra Roig says:

      Hi Kathy,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, unfortunately with the news today of cases rising in Catalonia, it is unlikely that there will be a real festival this year. However, there will definitely be a festive spirit among people who will have to celebrate from home.

      Nonetheless, health is the priority. Once this passes, traditions will resume and we will be stronger for it.

      All the best,
      Owen
      On behalf of Sandra and AB Apartment Barcelona

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