"Vicky Cristina Barcelona" was based on a screenplay Woody Allen originally wrote years earlier, which was set in San Francisco. Since his deal for this film specified that it must be shot in Spain, Allen looked for a story from his files that could be rewritten for a Spanish setting, took his old San Francisco-set script and rewrote it to take place in Barcelona.
In 2007, controversy arose in Catalonia (Spain) because the film was partially funded with public money. Barcelona's city hall provided one million euro, and the government of Catalonia half a million, which comes to 10% of the budget.
The city of Barcelona offered to pick up the tab of production costs if the film was shot there, the amount rose up to two million Euros from public funds. Ultimately, the filmmakers shot in Barcelona.
One of only three Woody Allen movies to receive an Oscar nomination (Supporting Actress) without Allen himself getting nominated. The other two are Sweet and Lowdown (1999) and Zelig (1983). Penélope Cruz actually ended up winning the Oscar for the movie.
This is the fourth consecutive film where Woody Allen has filmed outside of the United States (after Match Point (2005), Scoop (2006) and Cassandra's Dream (2007)). New York does feature as a filming location in the film but it is believed Allen has tired of filming in New York, hence the existence of European locations in his recent work.
The movie features several books about sexuality : the novel Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (when Vicky tries to sleep and Cristina writes poetry in the kitchen), The Sexual Life of Catherine M. by Catherine Millet (read by Cristina later in the movie) and Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller (read by Cristina right after the scene kissing with Juan Antonio and Maria Elena in the dark room)
The title is a conflation of the character names of the two lead actresses as well as the movie's major setting (i.e. Vicky and Cristina and Barcelona). The title does not the represent the name of a character called Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
The film features Barcelona as both a setting and a word in the movie's title. New York director Whit Stillman was once labeled the new Woody Allen after making his first film Metropolitan (1990). Coincidentally, Stillman's subsequent film was called Barcelona (1994).