Our top travel tips for Catalonia

Looking for holiday ideas for Catalona? This is a great place to start. From lunch floating out at sea on a mussel bed to the spectacular views at Mar de Deu del Far, these are some of Catalonia’s best-loved places along with some of the region’s best-kept secrets. Click on a topic below or simply enjoy browsing the whole list.

Culture

  1. Visit the castle of Miravet

    Miravet and its castle

    Miravet, on the banks of the river Ebro in Tarragona is famous for its imposing Templar castle, considered one of the best examples of Romanesque military architecture in the world. The original fortress on the site was taken over and rebuilt by the Templar knights in 1153. Its imposing 25 meter walls still dominate the landscape today and its military use right up to the Spanish Civil war make it one of Catalonia’s most important heritage sites.

  2. See the Freedom Alphabet

    The emotive Freedom Alphabet is an art work that can be found in and around the ruined town of Corbera d’Ebro, which was destroyed in the Civil War. Conceived to remember those who lost their lives during this dark episode in Spain’s recent history, its made up of 25 sculptural works on an alphabet theme. The way letters come together to make words acts as a metaphor for how people can come together to create a more just society. The idea behind the work is that words must replace force and violence and to encourage understanding and cooperation. 25 artists came together to create the alphabet and the resulting work is a powerful statement against the futility of war.

  3. See Cardona castle

    The history of the impressive fortress of Cardona in central Catalonia goes back to 886 AD and it has played a large part in Catalonia’s history ever since, especially in the hard fought war of Spanish Succession. These days it is home to one of Spain’s luxury Parador hotels though you can still visit it. Its magnificent church of Sant Vicenç and the Minion tower are two highlights of the things you can see there.

  4. Visit the monastery of Poblet

    Poblet monastery

    The royal abbey of Santa Maria de Poblet is a working Cistercian monastery and also the burial site of the kings and queens of Aragon, whose carved marble tombs preside regally over the altar of the chapel. A world heritage site, the fabulous buildings and their cloister date back to the 12th Century though they reached their maximum splendour in the 14th C. You can also visit the monastery’s vineyard which was replanted in the 80’s and produces some of the region’s best wine.

  5. Visit the bunkers of Carmelo

    Anyone interested in the Spanish civil war should hop on the bus up to the little known Turo de Rovira hill in the heart of Barcelona, which was home to an anti-aircraft battery during the war. Not a lot remains today, but it is a site which is off the tourist radar where you do get a sense of this recent period of Spain’s history as well as unbeatable views the city and the Sagrada Familia.

  6. Make a human tower with the Castellers

    Castellers performing in Plaça Sant Jaume, Barcelona

    The tradition of the Castellers and their human towers is a uniquely Catalan event and something the country is rightly proud of. The towers can reach an incredible 10 stories high and it can take up to 500 or more people to make them. There are many groups of Castellers with a competitive camaraderie between them but they are very happy to show visitors their skills and let them get involved. Meet the Castellers

  7. Visit the Monastery and mountain of Montserrat

    Montserrat

    A lot of visitors to Barcelona take a day out to the monastery at Montserrat and the incredible mountain it stands on. Well worth visiting for its beautiful basilica and famous black Madonna, what many people miss is the abbey’s incredible museum, home to one of the most important art collections in Spain. The collection covers all periods of history from the Babylonian Empire onwards with works by Caravaggio, Picasso, Miro, Dali, many of the French impressionists, as well as one of the most extensive collections of Catalan art in existence. Visit Montserrat

  8. See Dali’s house in Port Ligat

    A huge egg perched on the roof, no prizes for guessing whose house it was.

    Port Ligat, a tiny fishing hamlet on the rocky, wild coast of the Cap de Creus in Girona was home to Salvador and Gala Dali who transformed their little fishing house into a typically extravagant work art. A huge white egg on the roof serves as a clue as what to expect in the surreal interior, which is full of wonderful works of this totally unique Catalan genius.

  9. Visit the Charterhouse monastery of Escaladei

    Escaladei monastery

    The Carthusian monastery of Escaladei in the Province of Tarragona was built in 1163 AD and was the first charter house founded on the Iberian peninsula. Now largely in ruins due to the Ecclesiastic confiscation of the 1830’s and being sacked thereafter by local people, there is still enough of the original monastery standing to give visitors a good idea of its former glory.

  10. Visit Gala Dali’s castle in Pubol

    Dali bought his wife Gala the Castle of Pubol in 1968 and she spent every summer there until her death in 1982 with Dali agreeing not to visit her without getting written permission from her in advance. Gala is buried in the grounds and Dali moved in shortly after her death but was nearly killed in a fire in 1984. The elephant sculptures in the garden and the numerous busts of Richard Wagner around the swimming pool are just a couple of examples of Dali’s legacy here.

  11. Spend the morning in Parc Guell

    Antoni Gaudi’s Park was originally started as a housing project of high quality homes and Gaudi himself lived her for a while. The intricate organic stonework and tile mosaics that fill the park’s boundaries were created when Gaudi was at the height of his powers and had free reign to express himself anyway he liked. The result is quite unique and needs to be seen first hand!

  12. Visit the Picasso museum

    The museum’s 4251 works by the artist (to all on display at once) are essential viewing for those interested in Picasso’s formative years and his ties to Barcelona. Many of the paintings and drawings were given by Picasso to his friend Catalan artist Jaume Sabres who originally planned a museum in Malaga, Picasso’s birthplace. It was the artist himself who suggested that Barcelona was a more appropriate location for it.

  13. See the church of Santa Maria del Mar

    The gothic masterpiece Santa Maria del Mar in the Born district is arguably Barcelona’s most beautiful church, an inspiring open, light space that is unusual in medieval buildings. It is affectionately known as the people’s cathedral as it was paid for in part by the church but the work was carried out by the local population, most notably the dockers who carried the huge stones needed for its construction down from a quarry on the mountain of Montjuic.

  14. See Catalan art treasures at the MNAC

    The Catalan National Museum of Art is located in the impressive Palau Nacional and is home to some of the region’s most treasured historical artefacts, such as the medieval frescos from th church of Boi Taull. The museum has a sizeable collection of Catalan modernist sculpture and paintings and also regularly hosts exhibitions of works from important international collections.

  15. Visit the Miro Foundation

    The Joan Miro Foundation is a large modern museum dedicated to the artist’s work on the hill of Montjuic in Barcelona. One of Catalonia’s most famous sons, Miro’s simple surreal style is instantly recognisable. He was extremely prolific producing hundreds of paintings and sculptures, and the museum houses a vast collection of his work as well as works by many of his friends and contemporaries.

  16. Visit the Dali Museum in Figueras

    The world’s most surreal museum is surely the building in Figueres, Girona that pays tribute to the life and work of Salvador Dali. Originally the towns theatre, Dali made the space completely his own saying he wanted “the people who come to see it to leave with the sensation of having had a theatricall dream.” The museum holds the largest collection of the artist’s works, many of them considered to be among his most important. Dali lived at the museum in his final years and is buried there.

  17. See the Raiers navigate their timber rafts

    The Raiers on their rafts

    The tradition of transporting logs by tying them together and using them as a raft to get them downstream is kept alive and well by the Catalan Raiers (timber rafters). On the last weekend of July in the town of La Poble de Segur in the Pyrenees the raiers celebrate their profession by building rafts and navigating the treacherous waters of the Noguera river. As with all festivals in the region the fun doesn’t stop there and in the evening there’s food dancing and music that goes on well into the early hours.

  18. Go to a Concert at the Palau de la Musica

    The magnificent Palau de la Musica is probably the most spectacular Catalan modernist building and the best way to enjoy it is to go to a concert and see its incredible stained glass ceiling just above you. Built in 1905 by Lluis Domènech i Montaner, the Palau is incredibly rich with design with acres of ornate ceramic and a glass balustrade on the main staircase. A key part of Catalonia’s heritage, the Palau became a UNESCO heritage site in 1977

  19. See a show at the summer Grec festival

    The Grec festival has established itself as Barcelona’s main summer cultural event. Held at different venues around the city, including the open air Greek theatre built for the 1929 Exposition, the Grec showcases outstanding theatre, dance and music from catalonia, Spain and around the world. Musicians who have played the Grec include Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, BB King and Youssou N’Dour.

Family

  1. Swim the 7 waterfalls at Campdervanol

    This cascade of seven waterfalls in the beautiful countryside of central Catalonia near the town of Ripoll is easily walkable with a well marked trail and you can stop along the way for a swim at each of the fabulous pools. Take a backpack and a picnic and this really is an unbeatable day out. Best time to go is late spring and early summer when its warm and there is still plenty of water.

  2. See Catalonia in miniature

    See the whole of Catalonia in 30 minutes at this outdoor park featuring scale models of the region’s most famous buildings and landmarks. The exhibits are incredibly well presented and the attention to detail is stunning. You are free to walk around the paths that wind their way through the exhibits and there is also a treetop and climbing adventure park attached to the park as well as a restaurant, picnic area and miniature train ride which all make for a great family day out.

  3. Navigate the maze of Horta in Barcelona

    El Laberint d'Horta

    One of Barcelona’s less well known attractions are the beautiful gardens of the Labyrinth d’Horta; given to the city by the wealthy family that owned them in the 1960’s.
    Among the neoclassical statues, gurgling waterways and ornate fountains is a challenging 2 meter high hedge maze with a statue of Cupid at its centre. With lots of cool shade and peace and quiet this is an ideal place to visit on a hot summer’s day.

  4. Ride the funicular up to Tibidao

    The stunning views of Barcelona from Tibidabo

    The highest of the mountains overlooking Barcelona is Tibidabo and on its summit are a Church with a huge statue of Christ on its spire and a little funfair. It is well worth making the journey for the fabulous views alone and the best way to get there is by the old funicular railway. Once there you can visit the church and climb right up to top and also enjoy some of the rides, such as the old aeroplane that has been there since the 1930’s (don’t worry its quite safe)

  5. Visit the Cosmo Caixa science museum

    Without doubt one of Catalonia’s best educational spaces this fantastic science museum is also one of the best in Europe. Opened in 2005 it is extremely hands on as you are able to interact with a lot of the exhibits and try things out. The highlight though is the amazing Amazonian ecosystem they’ve created, an incredible space, with a huge aquarium full of enormous fish that you can see from underwater.

  6. Go rowing on the lake at Banyoles

    Banyoles lake

    Famous for hosting the olympic rowing of the Barcelona games in 1992, the lake of Banyoles is an idyllic spot to mess about on in a boat. Take a picnic to enjoy under one of the many willow trees along its shores, but watch out for the monster which is said to live in its depths; not too fearsome though, as the story goes it was changed into a herbivore in the 8th century by a monk called St Emeterio.

  7. See the geese at Barcelona Cathedral

    Legend has it that the 13 geese kept in the cloister of Barcelona cathedral mark the age at which Saint Eulalia, who the Cathedral is dedicated to, was martyred in Roman times. The birds or their descendants still hold court over this charming corner of the building where there is also a fountain. Every year on Corpus Christi there is a tradition of setting a hollow egg dancing on top of this fountain and others all over Catalonia.

  8. Go to the Chocolate Museum

    The Catalans love chocolate, so much so that its even a key ingredient for breakfast. No surprise then that there is a museum dedicated to it which was founded by Barcelona’s association of pastry makers. Find out about the history of chocolate and children can join the workshops and learn how to make all kinds of chocolate goodies.

  9. Take a break from the crowds at the Umbracle

    The Umbracle

    This little oasis of green in Ciutadella Park is a great place to take some time out from sightseeing tours and the bustle of Barcelona. A modernist plant house – minus the glass, its beautiful iron work and the tall trees inside cast some welcome shade on a hot summer’s day, which you can enjoy on one of the wrought iron benches.

  10. Visit the Catalan Railway museum

    For rail enthusiasts and vintage transport lovers this museum in the town of Vilanova i la Geltrú, south of Barcelona, has 60 rail vehicles on show, including an impressive 21 steam engines. You are allowed to climb aboard and play on some of the trains and there is a picnis area and play area for children. If you are getting there by train ask for a ticket that includes enrance to the museum.

  11. See the Fountain of Montjuic

    The amazing display of the "magic" fountain of Montjuic

    The much loved “Magic” fountain of Montjuic which has a regal position at the foot of the National Palace near Plaza Espanya in Barcelona comes to life on weekend evenings with a spectacular show of music and colour. Built for the Universal explosion of 1929 the fountain is a firm favourite of Barcelonians and receives over 2 million visitors a year.

  12. Cycle on a Green Route

    Catalonia has converted several old railway lines which are no longer in use into fantastic cycle ways called Vias Verdes. These old train routes, tunnels and all but minus the tracks, take you through some of the region’s most spectacular countryside. Being relatively flat and having no other traffic they are ideal for family bike holidays. There are 7 vias verdes in Catalonia ranging from 6 – 55km in length making it possible to peddle undisturbed across large swathes of the country.

  13. See the eagles fly at the bird sanctuary El Cim D’Aguiles

    With over 40 species of birds of prey on show, a visit to the Cim d’Aguilas, 50 minutes drive north of Barcelona, is an ideal way to spend a day out with the children in Catalonia. Among the birds they fly in exhibitions for visitors are eagles, owls, vultures and falcons. You are also able to handle some of the birds and you’ll find out all about them in the visitor’s centre from the friendly staff. They also have a restaurant that serves seasonal local dishes and a picnic area.

  14. Explore the caves of Francoli

    At 3600 metres these caves are one of the worlds longest and were home to humans in Palaeolithic times. A visit to the caves and their representation of life in those times opens up a door to Catalonia’s and Europe’s prehistoric past. For the more adventurous you can don a wetsuit and in the company of a couple of expert guides explore the network up to the impressive great Hall of Biela.

  15. Have a Treetop Adventure

    You can walk, swing and take a zip-wire through the canopy of a mediterranean pine forest at a number of different locations around Barcelona. There are circuits for all levels of skill and ability (often graded green, blue, red and black like those of a ski slope) which means that the whole family can have a go. This is a great way to enjoy the countryside and guaranteed to keep the children happy.

  16. Take a train on the Oreneta Minature Railway

    The much loved Oreneta Park on the outskirts of Barcelona is home to a fantastic, minature railway run by local train enthusiasts. Complete with with its own station and ticket office, there are 12 lovingly looked after steam and diesel trains and a great family atmosphere. A guard punches your ticket and waves a flag before you depart to a whistle of steam on the 5 minute journey along the tracks astride one of the tiny carriages. Perhaps one of the best ways to spend a couple of euros in Barcelona.

  17. Be a shepherd for a day

    Spending a day away from the city on a Catalan hill farm is a great activity for younger children but its also really interesting finding out about the workings behind a Mediterranean sheep farm.
    Learn about all the running of the farm and help the shepherd take the sheep out to pasture or feed the lambs depending on the time of year.

  18. Visit the Honey Museum

    The Apiarian centre in the province of Tarragona is a space dedicated to all things honey. Here you can sign up for an audio guide and discover how honey has traditionally been produced in the parts and also learn all about the bees that make it. Children can take part in some great workshops where they learn how to make beeswax candles, honey cakes and natural cosmetics.

  19. Explore the Cardona salt mines

    Near the town of Cardona and its famous castle is a natural salt mountain that has been mined since neolithic times. Visitors can walk through the old mining galleries, which are covered in coloured salt crystals. The acoustics here are also incredible and concerts are periodically held in one of the larger galleries.

  20. Take the cable car to Montjuic

    Built in 1926, the cable car that runs from the port of Barcelona up to Miramar on Montjuic is the best way to see Barcelona in all its glory. The journey is just over a km and takes about 5 minutes which is plenty of time to take in the views. You can explore the park and gardens of Montjuic when you arrive and also visit the Miro museum and the Olympic stadium.
    One of the towers of the cable car is home to the Torre de Alta Mar restaurant where you can dine in style with the lights of the city and port all around you.

Food

  1. Try a magnificent Catalan lobster rice

    Arros caldos amb llamantol - catalan rice with lobster

    Catalan arros caldos has slightly more liquid than a paella, which is a very good thing when it is cooked with an amazingly rich seafood stock like this and with a couple of good-sized lobsters. A dish that has to be tried to be believed and when it’s served in an unspoiled little cove in midsummer with a bottle of good Catalan wine or cava, it could almost be heaven!

  2. Have dinner under the stars

    Every June the Fabra Observatory, perched high above Barcelona on Tibidabo, begins its season of dinners under the stars. Visitors start their meal at dusk on the terrace outside and by the time you’ve finished the stars are out so you head into the observatory to look at the heavens through its antique telescope, built in 1904. There are three very good set menus to choose from, with wine and cava included and the whole experience is quite wonderful.

  3. Enjoy a seafood lunch on a floating mussel bed

    One of Catalonia’s best kept secrets lies the waters surrounding the Delta del Ebro, a sea of mussel beds in a calm lagoon that’s protected by a long sand spit. The best way to enjoy these is to get a boat out to a floating restaurant perched on top of one of the beds. Fresh from the sea and served with a glass or two of chilled wine or cava along with a range of other tapas this makes for a memorable lunch. Delicious!

  4. Feast on Calçots at the festival in Valls

    Preparing for the calçotada festival in Valls

    The little town of Valls in Tarragona is famous the length and breadth of Catalonia for its calçots, long sweet onions that are eaten with a delicious romesco sauce. To honour their celebrated crop the town hosts a huge calçotada every year where thousands of calçots are roasted in the town square and then enjoyed by the crowds with pitchers of local wine.

  5. Have a sea urchin feast aboard a traditional fishing boat

    Fresh from the sea, opened and eaten raw like oysters sea urchins are the real taste of the mediterranean. You are taken out on El Rafael an authentic Catalan fishing boat owned by friendly skipper Joan, who also prepares your food. Enjoy the sea urchins with a poron (long spouted pitcher) of wine and there are also Catalan butifarra sausages on the menu for when you’ve had your fill of seafood.

  6. Enjoy great Catalan tapas at the Bar del Pla

    Of the many great tapas bars in Barcelona one of our long standing favourites is the Bar del Pla in the Born district. This atmospheric, laid back, gourmet haven is on our list for its consistently good food and the evident passion that goes into it. Innovative and original the seasonal menu is a uniquely Catalan take on tapas with some nice modern touches. Try the great house red and make sure you book before you go.

  7. Eat spicy snails at the Aplec de Caragol

    The Aplec de Caragol (snail) is a huge gastronomy event held at the end of May in the province of Lleida. For those who thought snails were a delicacy that was strictly the domain of the French, think again – 12,000 of Llerida’s citizens prepare a feast of 12 tonnes of snails for all-comers to this festival of gastropods! They might not be to everyone’s taste, but snails in Catalonia are often cooked with a spicy, tomato and smoked paprika sauce and are delicious.

  8. Enjoy an evening cocktail on a rooftop terrace

    Many of Barcelona’s smartest hotels allow non guests in to enjoy a cocktail and perhaps some live jazz music on their roof terraces in the evening. You’ll need to dress up a bit, but sipping a glass of cava in the cool night air next to a swimming pool with amazing views over the city is an unbeatable way to start the night.

  9. Try some artisanal cheeses at La Formatgeria de la Seu

    This atmospheric little cheese shop right in the heart of Barcelona’s gothic quarter is a great stop for a quick bite to eat. An old dairy that has been lovingly converted, the owner Katherine will offer you a plate of cheeses and glass of wine for a very modest sum and tell you all about the hand-picked selection artisanal Spanish cheeses she has for sale.

Adventure

  1. Take in the view at Mar de Deu del Far

    At 1223m high this sanctuary is perched on an inland cliff face that looks out over the Ter valley.
    In stunning surroundings, legend has it that it was given the name “far” (lighthouse) because sailors could see its lights at night form far out at sea. Not very easy to get to, but once you are there you can walk in the surrounding woodlands and there is a good restaurant from which you can enjoy a great meal and the views.

  2. Go Canyoning

    Adrenaline filled Canyoning

    The sport of hiking, jumping and abseiling down the rivers of steep valleys has become quite popular in Catalonia, which is not surprising as its great fun and there are lots of incredible places to practice it, especially in the Pyrenees. Various companies provide guided canyoning trips for all levels of expertise here. They may even hop over the border to France with you to a thermal stream where you can even canyon in the depths of winter!

  3. Climb the mountain of Bastiments

    At 2800m Bastiments is the highest peak of the Girona Pyrenees, but it is also one of the easiest to climb in terms of degree of difficulty. Children as young as 9 or 10 can regularly be seen trotting up its slopes, though the length and height of the climb can be tiring, so if you are taking children make sure they are fit enough to cope. The route up is beautiful and from the top there are unbeatable views of the Catalan and French Pyrenees. Stay in the Ulldeter refuge.

  4. Dive at The Medes Islands

    The Illes Medes are a small group of islands off the Costa Brava that were given protected status by the Catalan government in 1983 and have since become an important marine reserve which is well loved by scuba divers. There are plenty of companies in Estartit that offer snorkelling and diving trips or alternatively you can just take a boat trip around them.

  5. Climb Pedraforca

    Pedraforca

    This beautiful and iconic mountain in Bergueda in the pre Pyrenees gets its name from its unusual forked peak. Its shape and isolated location have made it one of Catalonia’s most emblematic climbs and at 2500m it really does dominate the surrounding landscape. It is considered a relatively easy climb, but if you think the summit is too much of a challenge there are plenty of hiking trails along its lower slopes.

  6. Go rafting in the Pyrenees

    The mountain rivers of the Catalan Pyrenees are ideal for white water rafting, a sport that has grown hugely in popularity since the first companies started up here in the 1980’s. There are routes of varying difficulty from 4km to 18km in length at various locations. The guides who take you have probably spent half their lives on the water, so even if you capsize things are very much under control and they may stop you on the way down so those that want to can jump into the waters from a bridge.

  7. Climb along the Vía Ferrata near Sant Feliu

    Suspended from the rocky cliffs of the Costa Brava near Sant Feliu is the Via Ferrata, a climbing route with fixed into the cliffs with cables and iron ladders that takes you along the coast for a unique perspective of the coast. The turquoise expanse of the Mediterranean stretches out below you and a few pine trees clinging to the rocks are your only companions with of course your guide. There are a couple of companies who’ll provide you with all the equipment and take you out on this great way to explore Catalonia’s wild coast.

  8. Go snowshoeing at Tuixent

    Tuixent, in the Catalan Pyrenees, is best known for its Nordic skiing but for a modest sum you can hire a pair of snowshoes and head off into the countryside for an unbeatable winter trek. If you’d like some company, hire a guide who’ll take you off the tracks for some real adventure. The standard excursion takes about 3-4 hours so its a good idea to bring some food and water to keep your energy levels up.

  9. Have a luxury ski weekend at Baqueira Beret

    Skiing at Baqueira

    There are plenty of decent ski resorts in Catalonia but for the definitive luxury ski weekend head to Baqueira Beret in the Vall d’Aran. With its 154 km of slopes, great off-piste and heli-skiing Baqueira enjoys a reputation of being the best resort in Spain and is on a par with the top European ski resorts. There are plenty of accommodation options including some very sumptuous chalets and 5 star hotels.

  10. See Catalonia from the skies in a hot air balloon

    There are over 12 different departure points for hot air balloons in Catalonia and this really is an unbeatable way to appreciate the regions beauty. One of our favourite spots is the Emporda in Girona where you get excellent views of the Costa Brava and the Pyrenees, which will have snow on them if you go before the end of April.

Festivals

  1. Dodge the sparks at the Correfoc!

    Diables (devils) at the Correfoc

    The correfoc is based on the centuries old tradition of the Ball de Diables (dance of the devils) but with an added pyrotechnic twist that makes it one of the most spectacular elements of any Catalan festival. Spectators cover themselves well and wear a brimmed hat to avoid small burns as try and get as close as possible to the showers of sparks that fly out from the devils’ pitchforks. Noisy, smokey, fraught with danger and great fun!

  2. See the Fire festival the Fallas de Sant Boi

    The fire processions in the valley of Sant Boi in the Pyrenees have been held since time in memoriam to mark the summer solstice and scare off evil spirits. Locals climb up the valley sides with large wooden torches which they light when darkness falls and run back down holding them at break neck speed. The rivers of fire they make are quite spectacular and once back in the valley they make huge bonfires and the festivities go on long into the night – and often the next morning!

  3. Visit the agricultural Fair of Candelera

    This agricultural fair is held in the town of Molins near Barcelona every year in February. A tradition that stretches back 150 years, the whole town is transformed into a farmer’s market-come-garden centre where you can find everything from hundreds of olive and lemon trees to all kinds of traditional local arts and crafts. There are plenty of stalls serving food too, so make a day of it and grab some lunch.

  4. Join in the Fun at La Patum de Berga

    La Patum, one of Catalonia’s most iconic festivals, which can be traced back to medieval times, is celebrated each year at Corpus Christie in the town of Berga. The traditional elements of the festivities include parades of Cap Grosses (big-headed dwarves), Maces (demons with whips and maces), Cavallets (hobby horse costumes), Plens (fire devils) and Gigants ( giants). The Patum received UNESCO recognition in 2008.

  5. Go to the Fira del Vi wine festival in Priorat

    Being big on wines and cavas Catalunya has plenty of festivals to celebrate this industry, but one of the key ones is held at the end of April in the town of Falset in the Priorat region of Tarragona. The Priorat is world famous for its intense, mineral wines, fruit of its unique “licorella” slate soil. The Fira del Vi is a great way to find out about the region, its producers and to try some of their fabulous wines.

  6. Go to the Festival of New Olive Oil in Falset

    Wine, wheat and olives are Catalonia’s three main crops and to celebrate the latter there are many festivals all over Catalonia to make the new harvest. One of these is in the town of Falset in Tarragona. You can join in the festivities with the locals, try the freshly pressed virgin oil, enjoy a hearty communal breakfast and visit the local oil mill.

  7. Celebrate the rice harvest

    One of the many centuries old traditions that is kept alive with local celebrations, the rice harvest around the town of Pals on the Costa Brava takes place each year in October. The most veteran harvesters and their prodigies teach visitors how to cut the rice with a sickle and there is a whole host of other activities to see. The day is rounded off with an “arrossada” – a huge communal paella enjoyed by farmers and visitors around the same table.

  8. Party at the Carnival in Sitges

    One of the most eagerly awaited events on Catalonia’s calendar is Carnaval week and there’s no better place to enjoy it than at the seaside town of Sitges. Festivities last a whole week in February with parades, a Venetian masked carnival, the crowning of the Carnival queen, a bed race, a junior parade and plenty of concerts. Thanks in large part to the enthusiasm of town’s large gay community, Sitges takes pride in its carnival being one of the most spectacular festivals in Spain.

Nature

  1. Walk along the Gorge of Mont-Rebei

    Carved by the Noguera river this spectacular Gorge is the only one of its size in Catalonia and is not crossed by any man made structure. It is an impressive 500m deep and in places only 20m wide. There are several walking trails along the gorge, which in places are carved into the rock. There are guide wires, but if you get vertigo you should think about sticking to the easier routes.
    The huge rock faces and turquoise river running through it make this one of the most spectacular places in Catalonia.

  2. Star watch at the Astronomy Park of Montsec

    High in the hills above the town of Llerida in the Sierra of Montsec, perched on one of its mountains you’ll find a large observatory from which you get an unbeatable view of the night sky. To save journeying at midnight the observatory has accomodation available and offers a special pack including an evening meal prepared by good local restaurant.

  3. Explore the National Park of Aiguestortes and Sant Maurici Lake

    Aiguestortes

    The incredibly beautiful park of Aiguestortes in the Pyrenees is without a doubt one of the jewels in Catalonia’s crown. The only official National park in Catalonia, this incredible mountain paradise covers over 40,000 hectares, has various peaks of over 3000 metres and over 200 lakes. Tourism is regulated with cycling restricted to certain paths, but walking access is free and there are 12 mountain refuges to stay at dotted around the park.

  4. Go hiking in the Parc de Cadi

    The Parc de Cadi in the Pre Pyrenees is a must-see for nature lovers and has some of the most beautiful countryside in Catalonia within its boundaries. The 40,000 hectares of mountains, deciduous and pine forests, streams and lakes are home to a wonderful biodiversity including animals, such as the Spanish Ibex, pine martens, owls and woodpeckers.

  5. Walk in La Fageda

    The volcanic national park of the Garrotxa in the north of Catalonia is home to a beautiful forest called la Fageda (beech forest in Catalan). Particularly attractive in spring and autumn when the leaves are their most colourful, you can visit on foot or take a horse drawn cart down its leafy lanes. The volcanoes themselves are long extinct, but also well worth exploring.

  6. Explore the Vall de la Nuria

    The Vall de Nuria is a valley in the Pyrenees home to a mountain resort and a shrine that has been a place of pilgrimage for over 800 years. Only accessible by rack-railway the valley is now a ski resort and also a popular destination all year round for hikers and climbers wanting to explore the beautiful mountain landscape.

  7. Forage for Chestnuts in Montseny

    Really just a great excuse for a spectacular autumn walk the nation park of Montseny, 40 minutes from Barcelona, is a small range of mountains covered in beech, cork oak and chestnut forest. There are plenty of hiking routes to follow that take you through the woodland and also to the summits of the mountains, the highest of which is El Turó de l’Home at 1700 meters.

  8. See the Salt de Sallent waterfall

    One of the most spectacular waterfalls in Catalonia, a 25 minute walk from the village of Rupit, the Salt de Sallent is a must see if you are in the area. The falls are 90m high and from the top there are spectacular views of the Sau reservoir and the wooded hillsides that surrounding it.

  9. Walk to St Julia of Cabrera

    Although this 17th century chapel is beautiful to merit its own mention, it’s the breathtaking walk over a clifftop path to get to it that really steals the show. The original church was bulit in 1050 AD but destroyed by an earthquake in 1428 before it was rebuilt in 1611. From up here, if you can stomach the walk, you get fantastic views of the Osona and Garrotxa regions.

  10. Walk the Way of Good Men

    The Way of Good Men is a walking route that crosses the Pyrenees from the Sanctuary of Queralt in the province of Berga, Catalonia to the Castle of Montsegur in Ariège, France. The route is 200km long through mouthwatering countryside and you need 9 or 10 days to complete it on foot, though you can also ride or go by mountain bike. It commemorates the exile of the Cathars, also known as good men and good women, who promoted a pure, spiritual form of Christianity that went against the corrupt and authoritarian church of the 13th Century.

  11. See the flamingos at the Ebro Delta

    Sunrise is the perfect time to see the flamingoes on the Ebro Delta

    With a varied landscape that’s home to many species of birds Catalonia is a birders paradise, but you don’t have to be a bird-watcher to appreciate the beauty of the flocks of flamingos that nest on the shallow lagoons of the Ebro Delta. Being able to appreciate this spectacle is possible due to the fact that these magnificent birds breed here and although numbers fluctuate there have been known to be up to 3000 pairs in a given year.

  12. Go for a run at the Carretera de las Aiguas

    If you can’t do without a run on holiday, don’t worry inBarcelona there are 2 great options. The first is along the sea shore and the second halfway up Tibidabo along the Carrretara de las Aiguas which winds its way through the woods on the side of the mountain. If it weren’t for the occasional view of Barcelona below you you could be right out in the countryside.

Architecture

  1. The Sanctuary of Montserrat in Montferri

    This little hermitage is a charming example of Catalan modernism, built by a Jesuit monk in 1926. Left unfinished due to lack of funds and the ensuing Civil war it was restored in the late 80’s. The hermitage is designed with the same parabolic arches that Gaudi employed to such stunning effect in the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

  2. Visit the Bodegas Guell

    This wine cellar Antoni Gaudi built for his patron Eusebio Guell is at Garraf on the coast road going south from Barcelona and is a fantastic example of Gaudi’s work, with his signature parabolic arches and ironwork on display. Having stopped being used for its original purpose in 1936, these days Bodegas Guell is a restaurant, but the building and its gardens are well looked after and are well worth visiting.

  3. Cross the medieval bridge of Besalu

    The bridge at Besalu

    The town of Besalu is the historic capital of the Garrotxa region famous for its magnificent, 7-arched, medieval bridge. Near the bridge is the old Jewish quarter, where you can see the Miqvé baths which date from the 12th Century and show how important the Jewish community of Besalu was. A walk around the whole town unveils just how much patrimony there is here, something celebrated in the Mediaval fair, complete with jousting competitions, held every September.

  4. See the Romanesque church of Sant Climent de Taull

    Sant Climent church in Taull with its seven story tower.

    This church in the heart of the Catalan Pyrenees is one of the most outstanding examples of Catalan Romanesque architecture. Many of its fresco, mural paintings are still intact, though the most important of these are replicas of the originals now in Barcelona. Built in the form of a basilica its impressive 7 story bell tower is its main feature. Remember there are over 2000 romanesque buildings in Catalonia, waiting to be explored; the highest concentration in Europe.

  5. Go to Colonia Guell

    Colonia Guell

    The crypt of the Colonia Guell, one of Gaudi’s earlier works is considered a forerunner of the Sagrada Familia as it showcases many of the design elements, he used later such as the parabolic arches that Guadi used to such great effect. Colonia Guell is a small urbanisation that was built in the 1900’s to house the workers of a nearby textile factory. The church Gaudi was commissioned to build for them was never finished, but the chapel of the crypt with its stained glass and ironwork is a great example of his work.

  6. Visit the Casa Amatller

    This stunning building by the architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch, one of the most highly regarded examples of Catalan modernism and stands next to Gaudi’s Casa Batllo on Barcelona’s Passeig de Gracia. A refurbishment that was started in 1898 the facade is inspired by dutch architecture and the building is covered inside and out by ornate detail, work of the best craftsmen of the day.
    The contrast in style of various impressive buildings in the area, each remarkable for its own unique design, led to this stretch of street being known locally as the Block of Discord.

  7. See the inside of the Sagrada Familia

    A real rainbow of colour created by the stained glass inside the Sagrada Familia

    Gaudi’s masterpiece needs no introduction and the exterior with its distinctive towers are known the world over. If you do visit it though, do make sure you go inside. The interior with its impressive stonework columns and incredible ceiling is bathed in a spectacular sea of light and colour, thanks to the incredible stained glass which local artist and glassmaker Joan Vila i Grau has been working on since 1999.

  8. See the Casa Batllo

    One of Gaudi’s three most iconic buildings, Casa Batllo was an existing building he was commissioned to renovate. He set about transforming the facade into an amazing, allegorical depiction of St George and the dragon; the window frames and balcony the bones of victims with the reptilian multicoloured tiled roof representing the dragon, slumped with St Georges lance protruding from its back. The inside of the building is stunning with ornate wood and plasterwork and hardly a straight line in sight.

  9. Discover Bellesgard Tower

    Stained glass detail at Bellesgard

    Bellesgard, by Antoni Gaudi, is a private house in Barcelona’s Sarria district that has only been open to the public since 2013, though the family who own it kept their gates open 30 years letting people come in and enjoy the exterior. It was built for a rich family who sadly never got to live there as Gaudi’s fastidious attention to detail meant that time and money ran out. Inspired by the medieval castle of the last king of Aragon from the House of Barcelona, it is one of Gaudi’s most beautiful and personal works.

  10. Visit the Modernist Hospital San Pau

    Modernism was for everybody and the Hospital Sant Pau by Lluís Domènech i Montaner is an outstanding example.

    Another must on the Modernist trail is the Hospital Sant Pau designed by the celebrated architect
    Lluís Domènech i Montaner. Bailt between 1900 and 1930 this UNESCO heritage site was a working hospital until 2009, when a modern building went up next to it. Now some of the original buildings are a museum and cultural centre. Made up of different pavilions the building has many details of decorative ceramic.

  11. Visit Casa Mila

    Affectionately known as the Pedrera (quarry), Gaudi's Casa Mila

    Casa Mila is one of Gaudi’s later works and is a giant block of undulating stone that looks as if it might have made by nature, not man. Built as a block of flats the white limestone and black ironwork make it one of Gaudi’s most attractive buildings. it is famous as well for its 28 chimneys that have been called the “garden of warriors” because of their imposing design. The building is also called the Pedrera (quarry) a name coined by locals who got tired of the workmen chipping away at the stone used in the facade.

  12. The Sanctuary of Montserrat in Montferri

    This little hermitage is a charming example of Catalan modernism, built by a Jesuit monk in 1926. Left unfinished due to lack of funds and the ensuing Civil war it was restored in the late 80’s. The hermitage is designed with the same parabolic arches that Gaudi employed to such stunning effect in the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

  13. See the hermitage of Mare de Deu de Pertusa

    Another of Catalonia’s high altitude Romanesque treasures, this hermitage teetering above the Gorge of Montrebei was built in 1162. Perched between two cliffs when you reach it you have amazing views of the surrounding mountains and the reservoir of Canelles.

  14. Visit the Hermitage of Mare de Déu de Pedra

    One of those places that makes you wonder how they ever built it, this stone hermitage of Mare de Deu de Pedra is planted high on the rocky mountainside of the Sierra of Montsec. The original 11th century Romanesque church was extended in 1700‘s. Originally part of a castle that has since all but disappeared, at 1075m it’s only accessible on foot, but worth the climb for those who make it.

  15. Visit the Cathedrals of wine

    Pinell de Brai modernist winery

    The Catalan “cathedrals of wine” are modernist style wine cellars unique to Catalonia, built at the turn of the 20th century by a group of architects including Caesar Martinelli, a disciple of Antoni Gaudi, who designed the most well known of these buildings, El Pinea de Brai. These majestic buildings are known for their large spaces and elegant design. They don’t just look the part though, as in keeping with modernist ideals they were designed with their function in mind and many are still in use today.

Shopping

  1. Experience the Boqueria Market

    The Boqueria Market

    Barcelona’s most famous market is still well worth visiting despite the sea of tourists and the ever-growing number of stalls selling them smoothies. The fact that there’s been a market here since the 1200’s and that the local people absolutely treasure its fantastic fresh seafood, fruit, vegetables, meat and eggs means that it will survive! Avoid the smoothies and enjoy a fruit juice or even a beer in one of the local bars!

  2. Go shopping on Passeig de Gracia

    Barcelona’s most exclusive shopping street may not suit everyone’s pockets, but you may well find something original here to take home as a moment of your stay. Even if you are only window shopping there is plenty to enjoy and aside from retail the street is also home to some of the city’s finest examples of modernist architecture including Gaudi’s Pedrera and Casa Batllo.

  3. Explore the trendy Born district

    The layout of Barcelona’s fashionable Born district hasn’t changed much since the middle ages and walking its narrow streets you get a real sense of the history of the area through the old medieval merchant’s houses and their impressive central patios. That is of course until you notice the trendy shops and bars that pop up around each corner. A great part of the city to explore at leisure and there are plenty of great options to stop at for an impromptu lunch.

  4. Shop and stop for a drink on the terrace of the Arenas Bullring

    The colourful Arenas bullring - it's bullfighting days behind it.

    Having banned bullfighting in Barcelona, the city council commissioned English architect Richard Rogers to give the Arenas Bullring a new lease of life as a shopping centre. Worth a visit even if you are not shopping, especially at night when it lights up as the views from the roof are wonderful.

  5. Treat yourself to a stay at one of Catalonia's thermal spas

    There are 8 towns in Catalonia that have have natural thermal waters and there are 16 spa hotels and resorts where you can treat yourself to their pleasures. It was the Greeks and Romans who introduced Catalonia to the benefits of thermal waters and the tradition has been passed down through the generations to the present day.

  6. Visit a Christmas market

    Figures for Christmas nativity scenes at the Sagrada familia Christmas market.

    Barcelona starts preparing for Christmas on the first week of advent in December, which is when the Christmas market’s of Santa Lucia near the Cathedral and the Sagrada Familia set out their wares for the festive shoppers. Apart from the tinsel, lights and Christmas trees you can buy traditional Catalan items like a Tió – a log with a painted face or a Caganet, a squatting, pooing, figure, which is a good humoured part of all good Catalan Christmas nativity scenes!

  7. Stroll down the Ramblas

    Yes it’s very touristy and bar terrace prices these days are eye-watering, but strolling down Barcelona’s main artery is a much loved tradition which is almost as old as the city itself. The central section is lined with trees, news stands, terraces and florists, buzzing at all hours with throngs of people who are in no hurry to be anywhere. On your way down to the statue of Columbus in the port be sure to pop into the busy Boqueria market, the Liceu Opera house and the Plaza Real, one of the city’s most beautiful squares.

  8. Drink from the fountain of Canaletes

    At the top of the Ramblas near Plaza Catalunya is the fountain of Canaletas. Famous for being where Barça’s fans congregate to celebrate club’s victories, legend has it that anyone who drinks from the fountain will return to Barcelona one day.

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