Catalonia, or Catalunya in Spanish, is truly diverse, with its own language and its own unique culture. Bordered by mountains in the north, Catalonia is famous for its charming coastal area known as the Costa Brava and its beautiful seaside towns such as the artistic Cadaqués. From medieval Girona to historic Roman ports like Tarragona, there are plenty of beautiful spots where you can enjoy the Mediterranean Sea breeze and soak up the traditional Catalan culture.
Girona is a sparkling gem in Catalonia; this medieval city has a rich cultural heritage with diverse influences from the ancient Romans, Arabs, and Jews. The Old Town of Girona, built on the right bank of the Onyar River where colorful houses flank the waterside, is home to the beautiful 15th-century Girona Cathedral and the lively Rambla de la Libertat, a covered pedestrian street with shops and sidewalk cafés.
Within the Old Town, you find two areas enclosed within ancient walls: the Força Vella, which outlines the original Roman city and the Medieval Quarter. Both quarters with narrow alleys and impressive medieval buildings are perfect for a morning stroll. Don't forget to visit the well-preserved Jewish Quarter (El Call) - amidst the Força Vella quarter – and to get a glimpse of the nearby Arab Baths.
Tarragona is a beautiful seaside city that seems to have it all: charm and culture within its churches, medieval streets and ancient Roman buildings such as the incredibly well-preserved Roman amphitheater. Relax on one of the lovely beaches like the spectacular Playa del Milagro Beach that can be reached by foot from the historic center of the town.
For lunch or dinner, head to the old fishermen’s quarter El Serrallo where you can taste the most delicious seafood dishes in one of its atmospheric restaurants.
The traditional Catalan town of Figueres boasts a wealth of historical sights and interesting museums, such as the Salvador Dalí Theatre-Museum, the town’s main attraction and one of the most visited museums in Spain. The museum and the film library show an extensive collection of the artist's creative expressions. The name ‘Figueres’ is taken from ‘fig trees’ as historically they grew in abundance around the area. Don’t miss the prominent 18th-century fortress Castell de Sant Ferran and walk the lovely streets of the Old Town.
Cadaqués, situated near the Cap de Creus Natural Park, is a charming coastal town on the Costa Brava. The rugged and rocky shorelines are home to gorgeous hidden beaches and quiet coves. The whitewashed houses of this village embrace a little harbor and its historic quarter is home to some large mansions, built by the wealthy descendants of Cadaqués residents who emigrated to Cuba in the early 1900s. The village has charmed great Catalan artists Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, and Joan Miró for decades and still offers an impressive cultural scene, with many art galleries and museums.
This little coastal town truly is one of the hidden treasures of the Costa Brava, rich in historical monuments, fantastic restaurants, boutique hotels and some of the most beautiful and well-preserved beaches in the area. With its narrow streets of Moorish and Spanish architecture and the striking silhouette of the medieval castle overlooking the coastline, you find here a picture-perfect romantic setting on the Catalan coast.
With no doubt, Barcelona is the center of Catalan culture. World famous attractions (including the masterpieces of Gaudi), an impressive Gothic architecture, trendy neighborhoods, a buzzing nightlife, beautiful beaches, and a tasty local cuisine, will satisfy the needs of every traveler visiting Barcelona.
What to do in Barcelona?
One of Barcelona's top activities is admiring the works of Antoni Gaudí. Examples of Gaudi's “Modernista Architecture” can be found all over Barcelona. Gaudí's most famous creations are, however, the impressive La Sagrada Família church, and Park Güell, an astonishing space that seems to come out of a fairy tale with brightly colored mosaic twisted columns, animals, and a super long park bench, installed on a sunny terrace overlooking the park.
Don't miss the opportunity to see as well lesser-known Gaudí buildings such as Palau Güell, Casa Batlló, and Casa Vicens.
Climb Montjuïc mountain
Montjuïc is a prominent hill overlooking the harbor of Barcelona that played a strategic role in defending the city. Today Montjuïc is a cultural center for the town and a perfect place for a relaxing stroll immersed in a beautiful surrounding with spectacular panoramas. Art lovers can visit three major art galleries at the top of the mountain: the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), CaixaForum, and the Fundació Joan Miró.
If art is not your thing, you can check out the Olympic ring and stadium (built for the Olympic Games in 1992), the military fortress of Castell de Montjuïc, and the Jardi Botanic (botanical garden). You can reach the Montjuïc walking up through the gardens on the hill, proving spectacular views all around, or take it easier using the Montjuïc Funicular or the Port Cable Car that leave from downtown.
Visit the Gothic quarter
Walk through the maze of cobblestoned streets, alleys and quiet squares of the old Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic). This area is the center of the ancient city of Barcelona where you can find remains of Barcelona’s Roman settlement and many medieval buildings including the old Jewish quarter. In the heart of the Gothic quarter stands the Gothic ‘Catedral de Barcelona’; don’t miss out its magnificent domed ceilings which are especially impressive at dusk. Apart from its beautiful architecture, the Gothic Quarter is also the ideal place to chill out in one of the lively bars, dine or have a look at its cute little shops.
Explore the off-beaten El Raval
El Raval, once a rough red-light district, is today a vibrant place home to trendy bars, and restaurants, and vintage stores. It offers an exciting nightlife and some of the city’s best cultural programs in Barcelona’s Contemporary Cultural Center.
Discover Barcelona’s food markets
Barcelona’s most prominent food market is called La Boqueria. Since 1217 there has been a market on this place, and today many locals and restaurateurs buy here their fresh food like fruit and vegetables, cheeses, seafood, fresh and cured meats, and bread. It’s a perfect place to collect some delicacies for a picnic or to have a quick lunch in one of the tapas bars that are spread around.
Not far away lies the Mercado de Santa Caterina, known for its roof with about 325,000 mosaics, that can be even admired from Barcelona’s Cathedral. In 2005, the covered market was refurbished entirely giving space to stalls, eateries, and some top-quality restaurants serving, of course, the freshest food from the market.
Hop to Barcelona’s beaches
Barcelona has - within easy reach of the city - some fantastic sandy beaches where you can spread out your towel after a busy day of sightseeing. From the closest and most crowded Barceloneta to the quieter Icària or Mar Bella. Each of them has a selection of beach bars (“chiringuitos”) for a refreshment or something to eat.
Taste some tapas and pintxos
Pintxos are Basque tapas - plates of bite-sized food served atop a piece of bread - and are a culinary trend in Barcelona. If you crave for tapas, your options are endless. Everywhere in town, you find tapas bars, from traditional to new style cuisine, where you can try these tasty bites with a good glass of wine.
https://flic.kr/p/K1aitS Girona Old Town
https://pixabay.com/en/girona-spain-catalonia-1523769/ Girona’s waterside of Onyar River
https://flic.kr/p/McGxEN View on Tarragona
https://flic.kr/p/wTYury El Serrallo fishermen’s quarter, Tarragona
https://flic.kr/p/euUsyn Salvador Dalí Theatre-Museum, Figueres
https://flic.kr/p/8prdBZ View on Begur
https://pixabay.com/en/begur-girona-coastline-catalonia-720891/ Begur beach
https://pixabay.com/en/barcelona-gaudi-spain-catalonia-1535211/ Architecture Gaudi
https://pixabay.com/en/parc-guell-gaud%C3%AD-barcelona-spain-332390/ Parc Guell
https://pixabay.com/en/sagrada-familia-cathedral-552084/ Sagrada Familia
https://flic.kr/p/7KiHXY Gothic Quarter
https://flic.kr/p/nHAPMK Gothic Cathedral
https://flic.kr/p/ax3F2f Street in El Raval
https://pixabay.com/en/barcelona-spain-2107064/ La Boqueria
https://flic.kr/p/dprHVS Entrance La Boqueria
https://flic.kr/p/5NYeVF Roof Mercado de Santa Caterina
https://flic.kr/p/74mRmG Mar Bella
https://flic.kr/p/gTPFT Tapas Bar