Sandwiched between the snow-dusted peaks of the Pyrenees and the sparkling blue Mediterranean Sea sits Catalonia, a proud and distinct region packed with personality and blessed with gorgeous beaches, a rugged coastline and stunning mountains. With its own language, parliament and customs, Catalonia is a part of Spain, but is very much in a world of its own. The seaside city of Barcelona, Catalonia’s capital,
is Spain’s most buzzy destination (which is saying something), welcoming countless crowds to its shores every year. A vibrant, friendly, endlessly fascinating city, it’s easy to fall in love with the easy charm that envelopes you the moment you arrive. The sights to behold here are endless and the La Sagrada Familia - an extraordinary historic church - is the most legendary. Despite the tourists that arrive hourly on masse, this emblematic monument of the Catalan capital is the city’s most prized possession and no amount of people can dampen its majesty – prepare for the neck strain as you gaze at Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece towering above you. And the culture doesn’t end there. Barcelona’s winding maze of streets offer surprises at every turn, from the shadowy twists and turns and Roman relics of the Gothic Quarter to the crazy concoction of colours in the UNESCO-listed Parc Guell, Gaudí’s whimsical surrealist park. Make your way to the city’s most famous street, Las Ramblas, and get set for a wild ride that shows off the best and worst sides of the city - artists peddling fantastical wares, human statues, dance troupes, giant floating street performers and pick-pockets line the streets to create a hive of activity that enthrals all who enter. Barcelona and Catalonia holidays are a hot-ticket to one of the most exciting trips around.
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What can you find in Catalonia and Barcelona that you can’t find elsewhere?
The illustrious capital of Catalonia, Barcelona, is as much a vibrant seaside city as it is an epicentre of culture. Best known for the lavish works of Antonio Gaudí, which are scattered throughout – from the dreamlike Casa Batlló to the Art Nouveau Casa Vicens, walk the streets of Barcelona and chances are you’ll spot a Gaudí work of art. But he is not the only artist featured here: The Fundacio Joan Miro museum of modern art - a white temple-like structure that sits atop the Montjuïc hill - is home to thousands of works by the Catalan artist. If that’s not enough artistry for one day, the Picasso museum and Dali Theater-Museum, will no doubt satiate your creative curiosity. Sports lovers can rush to the immersive Camp Nou stadium, home to the world-famous Barca team and gawk at its impressive trophy room (fast fact: the Camp Nou is tied for the city's most visited spot with Sagrada Familia. Two cathedrals, albeit one secular). Las Ramblas, the pulsating artery of the city, packed with street musicians and hawkers, is also a must-visit, just make sure to escape the madness for a moment with a sundowner on the city’s breezy beaches.
Who are Barcelona and Catalonia holidays best for?
Anyone with a thirst for architecture and artistry will never tire of strolling the streets of Barcelona, eyes pointing upwards, to admire beautiful Gothic facades and hidden Gaudi treasures. Hungry night owls won’t be disappointed either. Spend your days eating patatas bravas (fried potatoes topped with a spicy tomato sauce) and drinking chilled wine in sun-dappled courtyards and come evening, squeeze into music-filled bars serving every kind of cocktail you could imagine. Lovers of the sun and anyone craving an urban adventure will find themselves supercharged by the crackling energy of the city.
Special things to do in Catalonia and Barcelona:
Falling for Barcelona big-time is easy in a weekend – in just three days you'll feel the soul of the spirited Catalan city. Overflowing with handsome hotels, you're spoilt for choice when it comes to picking where to rest your head at night. Perhaps you fancy being close to the ocean to drink in plenty of fresh sea air and wake up to the sound of waves crashing on the shore. Or maybe you'd prefer to stay in the centre of the city in one of the many trendy hideaways and luxurious boutique hotels. Once you've had your fill of city chic, you'll find that that Barcelona is also a great starting point for exploring further into Catalonia: discover the Costa Brava’s stunning coastline, hop your way around the picturesque villages of Emporda and wander the narrow alleys of the Jewish Quarter in Girona.
Beyond Barcelona, the region holds an astonishing array of natural beauty; volcanic plains give way to windblown capes, and sandy beaches are bordered by sprawling vineyards. To the north, the Pyrenees tower over the surrounding landscape, providing ample hiking trails which weave between peaceful valleys, Romanesque churches and secluded villages. Along the Costa Brava, the best Roman ruins in Spain mingle with the coastline, which appears to alternate seamlessly between wild and woolly and perfectly manicured, and the area positively fizzes with summer fun and fairy tale castles. One of our favourite ways to explore the region is by bike, taking in the spectacular scenery, fantastic food, and (more than a little of) the wonderful wines along the way. The towns of Girona and Figures are also among Original Travel's favourites; Girona, for its fascinating Jewish history and culinary witchcraft, and Figueres for its gloriously surreal theatre-museum, courtesy of the town's most famous son, Salvador Dali.
Experiences in Catalonia and Barcelona
- Cycling tracks are numerous in Barcelona and what a pleasure they are, too. See the city in a different light and wheel your way around, pedalling down the Ramblas, along the seafront and to the city’s biggest and oldest park, Parc de la Ciutadella. A day spent on two wheels is definitely a day well spent.