Catalonia is rich in scenery and heritage, where you can travel from vibrant cities like Barcelona to the beauty of the Pyrenees Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea.
There really is so much to do in this part of Spain that it could be difficult to fit in everything. The region is also well known for its cuisine, with foodies raving about the area’s local delicacies.
So, with this in mind we have created a guide to the top things visitors can do whilst on a trip to this beautiful part of the world, as well as give an insight into some of the foods you could try.
Getting a one or two day ticket to PortAventura is a must as visitors will experience a world of adventure and visit the likes of China, Cambodia, Polynesia, Mexico and the Mediterranean…in spirit rather than reality!
PortAventura is great for thrill seekers as they can go on the eight-loop Dragon Khan, which reaches speeds of over 70mph, and test their nerves on the Hurakan Condor, which is over 100 metres tall and lifts its riders slowly to the top. Other great rides include Furius Baco, Tutuki Splash and Shambhala.
There are a range of family-friendly rides too, especially in the SésamoAventura area, which is inspired by the iconic Sesame Street and is where you can meet its famous characters.
Barcelona is one of the most iconic cities in the world and should certainly be on the itinerary list of visitors to Catalonia.
He said, “Barcelona of course is the jewel in the region's crown with everything from urban beaches to amazing architecture and culture. I'm not going to tell you about Gaudi, because you should know about him already, but Picasso also has a strong association with the city. He had his first ever exhibition in the legendary Els Quatre Gats cafe and many paintings from his Blue Period were inspired by Barcelona. His museum in the city offers a fantastic insight of his evolution as an artist.”
With so much to do in Barcelona, we take you through some of the places you should visit in the city.
Forever Barcelona, who offer tours around the city, say a highlight of Barcelona is the street of La Rambla.
They added, “Said to be one of the most beautiful streets in the world, this pedestrian walk connecting the city centre with the port is an avenue that changes as you walk down it.
“First the old-fashioned Canaletes fountain, meeting point of the FC Barcelona followers when they celebrate important victories, then the traditional press kiosks (unfortunately the birds market has been gone for a few years now), and the flower stands that precede the entrance to the Boqueria Market. Beyond the outdoor cafés (all of them tourist traps, so please skip them), you still find artists making portraits like in Montmartre in Paris, a lively artisan market (weekends only) and living statues performing right before you reach the Statue of Christopher Columbus and the Port Vell marina.”
The local districts
Barcelona has a number of beautiful local districts that are slightly off the beaten track, but really should be high on the to-do list.
Duncan Rhodes, added, “Other than that you should take the time to explore the local districts, either by yourself or an alternative tour. Tapas & Beers offer a fun local tapas tour of Gracia for example, whilst the once neglected, now resurgent, district of Poblenou is best explored via bike. You can do a pintxos (Basque style tapas) crawl of Carrer Blai in the Poble Sec district yourself, as all along the street you'll find quality venues side by side. Raval is one of my favourite districts, and a great place to go shopping for vintage clothes, skateboard in front of the MACBA museum, or check out the bar scene.”
Home to F.C. Barcelona, arguably the most famous football club in the world, the Camp Nou welcomes thousands of holidaymakers who are eager to get a glimpse of Messi, Neymar JR, Suarez and Iniesta.
Forever Barcelona also recommends this famous old stadium, “No sport lover should leave Barcelona without visiting the Stadium of the best soccer team in the world: FC Barcelona.
“The visit will take you into the visitors changing rooms, the grass level, the press boxes at the very top of the stadium with impressive views over its almost 100,000 seats, the VIP area, the conference room and a newly renovated museum featuring interactive displays and giant screens, as well as vintage uniforms, boots and footballs and of course... all the trophies won by the team since its foundation in 1899.”
Casa Milà, popularly known as ‘La Pedrera’, is one of the most famous buildings in the world of architecture.
Visitors will gain a great understanding of the work of Antoni Gaudí and, in particular, his last civil work, La Pedrera.
Tours of the building are highly recommended as guests get to see the Provença and Passeig de Gràcia Courtyard, the Exhibition Room and the spectacular Roof-Terrace to name a few.
Casa Milà is the only Gaudí interpretation centre in Barcelona and is why visitors head to this UNESCO World Heritage Site in their droves.
Sagrada Familia Church
Regarded by many as the most famous attraction in the whole of Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia Church is a spectacular piece of architecture designed by the late Antoni Gaudi. The UNESCO World Heritage site is certainly worth a visit according to Forever Barcelona.
The tour guide operator said, “If there is one site every single person needs to see in Barcelona, this is definitely this Gaudi church - his last masterpiece.
“The project was started in 1882 and it's still unfinished: while the inside was completed in 2010, there are still 10 more towers missing, all of them taller than what you can see so far. A working basilica consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI, the naves are designed to look like a forest of stone, with magnificent colours and light filtering through the stained glass. You'll be wowed as soon as you step in.”
Barceloneta Beach is great for families with children as it is a lifeguarded beach and offers activities such as windsurfing and kite surfing.
If you are a bit thirsty or hungry during your Go Car Barcelona tour, then there are plenty of restaurants nearby.
Montserrat is a multi-peaked mountain and is close to Barcelona. The Caribbean island of Montserrat is believed to have been named after the mountain range by Christopher Columbus.
The Benedictine abbey Santa Maria de Montserrat is located at Montserrat and Duncan Rhodes says visitors should try to visit the mountain range.
He said, “The sacred mountain of Montserrat, with its jagged peaks and wonderful abbey, is a pilgrimage for the faithful as well as rock climbers and hikers.”
Sticking with the nature theme, the Catalan Tourist Board says nature lovers will find Catalonia a great place to visit.
In all there are 18 protected areas in the region. The Alt Pirineu Nature Reserve is the largest in Catalonia and visitors can enjoy a number of walks in the area as well as potentially see brown bears.
At Cap de Creus visitors can see the wildest cliffs that have been sculpted by winds from the north, while other areas like the Pedraforca and its huge biodiversity and unusual geological formations and the volcanic area of La Garrotxa are also certainly worth visiting.
Catalonia’s coastal towns
Catalonia is renowned for its beautiful beaches and coastal towns and the Urban Travel Blog’s editor, Duncan Rhodes says they are well worth visiting.
He said, “Outside of Barcelona you should try to visit at least one of the charming coastal towns on the Costa Brava and Costa Daurada. Cadaques - incidentally a favourite of Picasso's - is probably the most picturesque, with its whitewashed buildings and red roof tiles, whilst the lively Sitges is a free-spirited Bohemian place popular with gay travellers and beach lovers.”
The Catalan Tourist Board highly recommend visiting the remains of the city of Tarraco, a ruined city that has gained UNESCO World Heritage status.
The Tourist Board recommend starting at the Museu Nacional Arqueològic de Tarragona and to use an audio-visual system to learn about the different places of interest.
Visitors can see two Roman defensive walls, which once covered the perimeter of the city, and three towers that are still standing in the Passeig Arqueològic. There is a Praetorian tower that connects with the 4 arena where a number of chariot races took place.
Between Via Augusta and the El Miracle beach stands the stunning amphitheatre. It still boasts the arena where gladiators fought and the stands where crowds bade for blood.
The arena is regarded as one of most iconic landmarks as it also shows the remains of a Visigoth basilica and a Romanesque church.
Duncan Rhodes from the Urban Travel blog also recommends seeing the arena. He said, “Further south and Tarragona offers history lovers a glimpse of Spain's Roman past with a well preserved amphitheatre by the sea, and the remains of Roman walls and aqueducts.”
Surf and Turf cuisine
Duncan Rhodes recommends visitors try ‘surf and turf’ cuisine, which combines seafood and red meat.
The editor of Barcelona Life, said, “Wherever you go in Catalonia you'll eat well. The region is famous for its ‘surf and turf’ cuisine, drawing from local products from both the mountains and sea. Most traditional restaurants offer a tantalising three course ‘Menu de Dia’ for lunch, normally for less than €15 (including a drink!), whilst the region also has a glut of Michelin-starred restaurants, such as the triple-starred Restaurant Sant Pau by Carme Ruscalleda, or Tickets in Barcelona by Albert Adria.”
If you like paella then you will love Fideuà.
Forever Barcelona, adds, “Everyone knows about paella, but did you know there is a noodle version of it? In Barcelona, fideuà is made with thick noodles that slowly rise vertically and brown as they are baked, and it is served with aioli garlic sauce. You'll find it in pretty much any seafood or beach restaurant that also serves paella. Order this instead of the famous rice dish to distinguish yourself as a well-informed traveller.”
Botifarra amb mongetes
This is a famous Catalan dish and it is best to try and find a local restaurant to taste the true deliciousness of this meal.
Forever Barcelona, said, “One of the most typical Catalan dishes is botifarra, a thick pork sausage grilled and served with white beans (mongetes or seques) on the side. You'll find it as a main course in most traditional restaurants as well as in many tapas bars of the Boqueria Market.”
Forever Barcelona describes this dish as the king of tapas, which is an extremely bold statement considering Spain is famed for its tapas.
The guided tour firm, said, “Tapas are dishes meant to be shared with friends and family, either as a snack to go with your drinks or as a full meal. And if there is a tapa that could be considered the king of tapas, that's patatas bravas: fried potatoes topped with a tomato mildly spicy sauce and white garlic aioli. People will pilgrim to certain bars in Barcelona said to have the best ones in town. Our favourite are those in Bar Tomàs, in the Sarrià district.”
Catalonia was one of the last strongholds of the dinosaur, and eggs, tracks and skeletons have all been discovered in the region.
In the Pyrenees in the town Sant Romà d’Abella a hadrosaur has been found. Visitors looking to see dinosaur bones and remains should head to Basturs and la Posa.
At Fumanya visitors can see fossilised dinosaur footprints, called ichnites. The main site comprises some 2000 ichnites, the majority of which are from titanosaurus. More fossils can be found at Mata del Viudà and these make up the last dinosaurs to roam the Eurasian continent before becoming extinct a staggering 65 million years ago.
Image Credit: Jeremy Thompson, Catalunya-La Pedrera Foundation, Forever Barcelona, Go Car Barcelona, Catalan Tourist Board.