Barcelona is one of the most important cultural centers of Europe. The city’s famed Gran Teatre del Liceu (Grand Theater of the Liceu), which was damaged by fire in 1994 but reopened in 1999, was the only opera house in Spain until Madrid’s opened in 1997. The city is also famous for its Palau de la Música Catalana (Palace of Catalan Music), a modernist concert hall built in the early 20th century. The city is the home of most of Catalonia’s principal artistic and cultural institutions, including a symphony orchestra, dance and ballet companies, and numerous choral groups. It has six public universities, the largest of which is the University of Barcelona, in addition to several private institutions of higher education.
The city has an extensive system of museums. The Museu d’Art de Catalunya (Art Museum of Catalonia) houses the leading collection of Romanesque paintings in the world (see Romanesque Art and Architecture). The Museu Picasso (Picasso Museum) specializes in the early works of Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, who lived and painted in Barcelona from 1895 to 1904. The Museu Marítim (Maritime Museum) is located in the Drassanes, former shipyards near the old port that date back to the Middle Ages. The Fundació Joan Miró (Miró Museum) houses a large collection of works by Barcelona-born painter Joan Miró.
Other museums include the Museu d’Història de la Ciutat (Municipal History Museum), the Museu d’Història Catalunya (Catalan History Museum), the Museu d’Art Contemporani Barcelona (Contemporary Art Museum), and the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (Center for Contemporary Culture). The city’s largest library is the Biblioteca de Catalunya (Library of Catalonia), housed in the 15th-century Hospital de la Santa Creu. Barcelona is also home to the recently built National Theater of Catalonia, as well as more than two dozen commercial theaters.
A number of important events take place annually in Barcelona. The Dia de Sant Jordi, celebrated on April 23, honors Saint George, the patron saint of Catalonia; on this day, women give books to their lovers, men give roses to theirs, and the city hosts a major book fair. The Nit de Sant Joan, or Midsummer's Eve, is celebrated in late June with nighttime bonfires and fireworks. The Catalan national holiday, La Diada, is September 11 and commemorates an 18th-century uprising. The people of Barcelona celebrate their city’s patroness on September 24 in the Festa de la Mercè (Festival of Our Lady of Mercy). An open-air Christmas market thrives in the Cathedral square from Saint Lucy’s Day (December 13) throughout the Advent and New Year season. "Spain" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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