• Catalonia, Spain
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    Travel to Catalonia for adventure on the Costa Brava

    By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile
    Catalonia is not only one of the most politically exhilarating places in Spain right now but it also buzzing in every sense of the word. With its capital city of Barcelona home to some of the most famous creative landmarks in the world, music played at every corner and delicious food spilling out of quirky cafés you will never be bored. The beaches flow along the coastline; there are other completely original cities like Girona and Sitges, and there is an authentic atmosphere wherever you go within this infectious region of Spain.

    Travel guide

    Buzzing Barcelona

    Beautiful, colourful, original, Barcelona is a city unlike any other. With art galleries, beautifully traditional old Spanish buildings, culture jumps out at you at every turn, even via the delicious tapas! The Catalan atmosphere is one of exceptional pride, and you can understand why with the selection of amazing spots to visit. The unbelievable Gaudi presence makes Catalonia and Barcelona itself one of the most unique places in the world, the Sagrada Familia has taken more than one hundred years to complete and yet still looks completely timeless, more of Gaudi's masterpieces in the forms of his houses in the centre of the city and Parc Guell, a fantasy world where nature has come alive not just through the selection of plants, but through the concrete creations he put together. Picasso, Dalí and Miró all have major ties to Barcelona too, making it a city where the art is incomparable through amazing exhibitions and quirky galleries. The Museu Picasso is a masterpiece in itself, located in a magnificent medieval mansion tucked away in the heart of the city's cobbled streets, the setting brings alive the amazing collection of the Spaniard's inspiring works. The Miró foundation is another incredible gallery to visit, located in the hilltop park of Montjuic, where you will also find the Palau Sant Jordi, the impressive Botanic gardens, and the palatial Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. The impressive park area stands proudly above the city centre, giving views of the stunning coastline and the bustling city below with colourful buildings smiling at you from afar.

    Along with the amazing art scene, the different pockets of Barcelona also make it the unique city that it is today. With the Gothic quarter's dramatic greyness and ornate architecture, the up-and-coming area of Gracia, the hipster's favourite of El Born, the retro old Olympic town of Poble Nou and the busiest tourist area around Plaza Catalunya, there is a spot for everyone. La Rambla is the most famous road to walk along in Barcelona, starting at the impressive Plaza Catalunya and leading all the way down to the beach passing a selection of great shops, restaurants, intriguing stalls and the jaw-dropping covered food market which is home to colourful fruits, ham, fish and everything else fresh you could think of.

    One of the most unforgettable experiences for young travellers is the magical nightlife of Barcelona. As well as the visible culture, a friendly, fun-loving club culture is also very prominent in Catalan life. The long summer months see plenty of tourists venturing to the stylish city for endless raving opportunities. Whether you fancy Sonar festival, a week of beach parties or bar-hopping between the atmospheric, vintage buildings that house quirky drinking facilities, there will always be infectious people to meet and endless dancing to be done!

    Graceful Girona

    A classical, Roman city, Girona is filled with beautiful architecture and cobbled streets that will transport you back in time. As well as the traditional northern Spanish style, the city still has that unique Catalonian twist with colourful, modern buildings and apartments, and artistic bridges to make it the perfect combination of new and old Catalonian influence. The terracotta buildings wind along the river and build up the gradual mountainous terrain, leaving Girona spread throughout a green valley. As well as being visually lovely, the historical elements of the city leave little to be desired. The old walls still remain around the outskirts of the city, showing wonderful views of the surrounding land. The fantastic Museu d'Historia dels Jueus is housed in a 15th-century synagogue and tells the fascinating story of the enormous Jewish quarter in Girona. The stunning Placa de la Catedral also showcases the Gothic cathedral and original Baroque style. As well as an abundance of history to soak up, there are quirky art galleries and endless bars and restaurants that are ideal for sitting and chatting in long into the night.

    Classy Costa Brava

    By far the prettiest and classiest of the three of Spain's principal holiday coasts, the Costa Brava is home to quaint seaside towns and beautiful beaches. Despite some areas having been overdeveloped with resorts and too many English people, the majority of the northern coastal region is quite simply, stunning. The small coves, long beaches and friendly atmosphere make the Costa Brava an excellent summer holiday choice. With charming mountain villages just off the beaten track and cities like Girona and Figueres along the way, there are endless places to taste delicious, authentic seafood, magnificent wines and to stare out at magical views. However, the coastal settlements really are empty over the winter period due to the cold weather, so the best times to visit the charming seaside terrains is at the height of summer.

    Our Editorial team's advice

    It is important to remember that along with other autonomous communities in Spain, Catalans see themselves as either only Catalan, and not Spanish, or they see themselves as having a double identity. Catalans are fiercely proud of their heritage and their longing for separation so it is always important to remember that and not offend anyone.

    The best way to see the many wonderful cities of Catalonia is by walking around. Barcelona truly has it all, from insane views from the top of old palaces lurching on a hilltop, to the fantastic sandy beach with plenty of activities. It is an exceptionally easy city to manoeuvre, once you have purchased a map and know which way the sea is you will find it a very walkable place. However, if walking really isn't up your street, the metro system is very reliable and on some nights of the week it runs all the way through until morning. You can purchase a week-long metro ticket which is very economical. In addition to transport, there are also lots of museum tickets which incorporate several museums and exhibitions all at once, which is incredibly handy if you are an art fanatic and were planning on hitting some of the most popular galleries. However, be careful when planning your days because most museums and galleries are shut on Mondays. Also be aware that all shops will be shut on a Sunday, and that most weekdays things are firmly shut between 2 pm and 5 pm - after all, it would be a sin to miss a siesta! When looking for the perfect place to go out, El Born's winding streets with cheery, atmospheric bars makes a wonderful choice. The old Olympic port is more suited to those looking for swanky clubs with VIP tables and hopefuls looking to spot a partying member of the Barcelona football team. Sitges is another location you are sure to find fun filled activities, day or night. There are specific weekends in the calendar dedicated to night-long festivities too so be sure to plan around that if you're looking for a memorable night. It is the gay capital of Spain which means it is a prime location for LGBT parades and Gay Pride, which are usually celebrated with elaborate displays and parties across several days. It is a wonderful thing to be part of.

    Do not forget that Catalonia is like a country within a country, with endless mountainous terrain for hiking and skiing, and its own magnificent coast which can be explored to no end.

    pros

    • +The varied landscapes
    • +The offerings in terms of culture and entertainment
    • +The trendy restaurants
    • +The reliability of the hotel infrastructure
    • +The architectural wonders of many villages and cities
    • +The welcoming and friendly nature of the population

    cons

    • -The overcrowding of tourist sites in summer
    • -The high levels of noise and construction work, especially in the larger cities
    • -Catalan is very different from Spanish

    Traditions

    Catalonia is home to some incredibly unique traditions that are unlike any other regions of Spain, let alone the rest of the world! One of the most amazing traditions is the activity of castellers, which literally translates into English as 'towers.' Previously on Sundays and now normally just on special holidays, groups gather around to climb on each other's shoulders, forming towers of up to seven stories or higher. There are specific competitions in the autumn held in Tarragona. Sardana is the traditional dancing that slightly resembles traditional Greek dancing as it is done in large circles too. However, the Catalans enjoy being slightly more reserved and calm, and hold hands as they gently dance in and out of the circle to beautiful, traditional horn music. The correfocs is also one of the most astounding festivals in Catalonia, which consists of people dressed as 'devils' playing with fire close to onlookers and lighting fireworks. Sant Jordi is the Catalan addition to, or equivalent of Valentine's Day, when men give women roses and women give men books as a present. The day is not just about romance but the celebration of literature, as many people gather around book stalls and flower stands.

    Food

    Catalonia is renowned for its incredible tapas and more importantly delicious seafood that can be acquired at many restaurants and bars in the centre or by the port for very reasonable prices. As well as an abundance of seafood, there is also an abundance of meat and delicious hams, salamis and chorizo available in the area. Butifarra is a common dish, served with butterbeans, as well as paella made with local fish and seafood, which is a real treat. There are also wonderful sauces served with most meat dishes or even just as a little snack with crusty bread, sauces that you will never have tasted quite like before. Their simplicity is summed up in their traditional Catalan snack Pan amb tomaquet which translates as bread with tomato. Bread is rubbed with fresh tomatoes and drizzled with local olive oil and sprinkled with a touch of salt, and perfectly accompanied by local hams or cheese. The simple yet delicious Catalan cuisine is flavoursome but never too much, with Mediterranean tastes that are never too overpowering. Their scrumptious desserts and patisseries are something not to pass up either!

    Ideal Weather Search

    Find weekly weather forecasts for Catalonia . Different criteria make it possible to predict with precision the best time of year to go to Catalonia . A comprehensive weather score, made up of temperature indicators, bad weather predictions, sunshine levels and wind speeds, will allow you to choose the activities best suited to the weather conditions and therefore make the most of your holiday in Catalonia .

    Souvenirs

    Barcelona is world famous for its design industry. Furniture and designer objects are sold at the Passeig de Gràcia, where they are neighbours to designer boutiques, shops of Spanish designers, and art galleries. Delicatessens and herbal boutiques are very close by. In the Gothic district, you will discover antique and crafts shops. Charcuterie, cheese, canned food, and wine await you at Colmado Quilez, an establishment located in the Eixample neighbourhood. Let yourself be seduced by El Corte Inglés: the Spanish department store. On the Ramblas, Boqueria is amongst Europe's most spectacular food markets. The province of Valencia is famous for pottery, hand held fans, and the bright coloured blankets from Morella. The Basque Country makes cotton scarves and the Tolosa beret. Shops are open from Monday to Saturday from 9:30am to 1:30pm and from 4:30pm to 8:00pm. Shopping centres and department stores are open from 10:00am to 9:00pm or even 10:00pm.

    What to see

    The Route of the Cathars, Le Chemin des Bonshommes, Activities and leisure, Catalonia
    Le Chemin des Bonshommes
    Port Aventura Theme Park , PortAventura , Spain
    Port Aventura Theme Park
    Camp Nou , Spain
    Camp Nou
    The Circuit de Catalunya , Circuit de Catalunya , Spain
    The Circuit de Catalunya
    The region around Lleida , Spain
    The region around Lleida
    A cruise on an 18th century boat departing from Sant Feliu , A boat in Saint Feliu , Spain
    A cruise on an 18th century boat departing from Sant Feliu
    Nordic walking in Lloret del Mar , Nordic walking , Spain
    Nordic walking in Lloret del Mar
    Prueba el Nordik walk en Lloret de Mar , Spain
    Prueba el Nordik walk en Lloret de Mar
    Palau Güell , Spain
    Palau Güell
    The Casa Batllo , Spain
    The Casa Batllo
    Park Güell, Monuments, Barcelona, Catalonia
    Park Güell
    The Boqueria Market , La Boqueria market , Spain
    The Boqueria Market
    The Sagrada Família , Spain
    The Sagrada Família
    The Poblet Monastery , Poblet Monastery , Spain
    The Poblet Monastery
    The Casa Mila, La Pedrera , Spain
    The Casa Mila, La Pedrera
    Catalonia : Explore

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