Lights, camera, action! Barcelona on film
Scour the streets of Barcelona to spot the film-worthy sites included in some of the top films showcasing Barcelona's beauty.
For filmmakers, capturing the vibrancy, colour and history of a city can be a huge challenge. Many directors and writers have sought to bring Barcelona to life on screen but only a select few have successfully shared the city's sights and sounds with the world.
Barcelona apartment experts Waytostay have used their local know-how to curate a few handy location guides for some of the best films that feature Barcelona's great sites. Ready to explore? Lights, camera, action!
All About My Mother (1999) d. Pedro Almodovar
This is arguably one of the most famous film set in Barcelona. All About My Mother follows the tragic yet darkly comic tale of Manuela, a mother returning to Barcelona to rediscover the father of her late son. If you find yourself on the Passeig de Gracia, one of the city’s main shopping streets, pop in to the Teatro Tivoli. Rebuilt in the early 20th century, this charming theatre and its backstage areas were used for many scenes. Time your visit to catch a matinee performance, or pop back later to take in a show.
The unique surroundings of the Cementerio de Montjuic appear in the closing scenes of the film. The cemetery is the dramatic home to more than 150,000 of the city’s past residents, and stretches across the southerly face of Montjuic. If you’re keen to avoid a climb, there’s a direct bus – the cemetery is open to the public from 8am to 6pm daily. Filming took place in section nine of the cemetery, close to Plaça Sant Francesc. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy Barcelona from above, with a panoramic view of the port and the sea.
The Passenger (1975) d. Michelangelo Antonioni
Antonioni’s 1975 thriller The Passenger stars Jack Nicholson in his first role after winning a Golden Globe for Chinatown. The film may only pass through Barcelona as Locke (Nicholson) flees both justice and his past, but it manages to squeeze a remarkable variety of locations into that visit. Make sure to pop in to the charming L’Umbracle de la Ciutadella, a 19th-century tropical greenhouse, and don’t miss the magical interior of Palau Guell. One of Gaudi’s most famous contributions to the city centre, this beautiful building is just a few moments from the bright lights of La Rambla, which also features in the film.
L’Auberge Espagnole (2003) d. Cedric Klapisch
Visiting Barcelona for a holiday is one thing, but what happens when you hang around a little longer? L’Auberge Espagnole follows the story of Xavier, a French Erasmus student on a year abroad learning to cope with a new city and new people. The film captures the energy of the city superbly. Parc Guell and the rooftops of Barcelona are shown in blazing sunshine, while the streets of the city are brought to buzzing, colourful life.
There are scenes among the crowds on La Rambla and in the quieter corners of the Old City, such as the Carrer de les Caputxes. Remember to visit the open plazas and sands of La Barceloneta, the city’s coastal neighbourhood. Once a thriving fishing port, the area remains an energetic place – perfect for enjoying the sunshine, taking a dip or grabbing a bite to eat.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) d. Woody Allen
Similarly to Allen’s other films Midnight in Paris and To Rome With Love, the Golden Globe-winning Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a love letter to a great European city. He introduces the audience to Barcelona through the eyes of Vicky and Cristina, two bright-eyed visitors, fresh to the city’s sights and sounds. Many of Barcelona’s most famed buildings and spaces make an appearance, particularly the incredible works of Antoni Gaudi. The unique shapes and colours of La Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell and La Casa Mila (or ‘La Pedrera’) appear prominently – the latter two are just a short hop apart on the L3 Metro.
A visit to the remarkable rooftop of La Casa Mila is a must. Fancy a spot of lunch? Visit the charming Els Quatre Gats – one of Picasso’s old stomping grounds and a little modernist marvel, tucked away in the Gothic Quarter. Jump on the L3 Metro and head for Lesseps to take the short walk to the iconic gates of the Parc.
Barcelona (1994) d. Whit Stillman
As the title might not-so-subtly suggest, Whit Stillman’s nuanced fish-out-of-water story hands centre stage to the Catalan capital. Following a dashing US military type arriving into a less-than-welcoming late Cold War Barcelona, the film nonetheless extols the virtues of the city as a place of culture and energy. A variety of Barcelona’s historic delights are on display throughout, including the city’s remaining Roman Walls and the towering Columbus Monument at the lower end of La Rambla.
Some uniquely beautiful buildings also feature, particularly the stunningly opulent Palau de la Música (above), the natural home of the region’s vibrant folk music scene for over a century. If you catch a show, the Palau is only a short walk from the centre of the Old City, and you can take a delightful post-show walk along some of the city’s most charming streets.
What are your favourite films set in Barcelona? Share any special spots that have been made famous on screen.
Waytostay / Expatica
Waytostay is a furnished apartment rental provider throughout Europe.
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