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Steeped in tradition, with its own language and an enormous sense of pride in its separate identity, Catalonia is immensely rich in both cultural heritage and physical geography. It is no exaggeration to say that Catalonia really does have everything. To the north are the 3,000-m (9840-ft) peaks of the Pyrenees. The coastline is dotted with hundreds of beautiful sandy beaches and intimate rocky coves with crystal-clear waters. These staggering natural treasures are complemented by a wealth of fabulous churches and monasteries, many set in stunning, isolated mountain scenery. For the gourmet, the regional cuisine is particularly rewarding, while the locally produced cava easily holds its own against its French champagne counterparts.

Monestir de Santes Creus

Anywhere in Catalonia can be reached by car from Barcelona in less than three hours.


NOTE

Sights & Attractions
  1. Montserrat

    The dramatic mount of Montserrat, with its remote Benedictine monastery (dating from 1025), is a religious symbol and a place of pilgrimage for the Catalan people. The Basilica houses a statue of Catalonia’s patron virgin, La Moreneta, also know as the “Black Virgin”. Some legends date the statue to AD 50, but research suggests it was carved in the 12th century. The monastery itself was largely destroyed in 1811 during the War of Independence, and rebuilt some 30 years later. Montserrat forms part of a ridge of mountains that rise suddenly from the plains. Take the funicular to the mountain’s unspoilt peaks, where paths run alongside spectacular gorges to numerous hermitages.

    Tourist Info

    • Pl de la Creu

    • 93 877 77 77

    Basilica, Monestir de Montserrat
  2. Teatre-Museu Dalí, Figueres

    Salvador Dalí was born in the town of Figueres in 1904. Paying tribute to the artist is the fantastic Teatre-Museu Dalí, which is full of his eccentric works. Housed in a former theatre, the country’s second-most-visited museum (after the Prado in Madrid) provides a unique insight into the artist’s extraordinary creations, from La Cesta de Pan (1926) to El Torero Alucinogeno (1970). Thirty minutes’ drive away, near the beach town of Cadaqués, the Dalí connection continues. Here you can visit the Casa-Museu Salvador Dalí, the artist’s summer house for nearly 60 years until his death in 1989.

    • Pl Gala-Salvador Dalí, Figueres

    • 972 67 75 00

    • Open Mar–Jun, Oct 9:30am–6pm Tue–Sun (daily in Jun); Jul–Sep 9am–8pm daily; Nov–Feb 10:30am–6pm Tue–Sun

    • Adm

    Casa-Museu Salvador Dalí

    • Port Lligat

    • 972 25 10 15

    • Closed early Jan to mid-Mar

    • Guided visits only, Tue–Sun (15 Jun–15 Sep daily) by reservation

    • Adm

    Teatre-Museu Dalí
  3. Vall de Núria

    This enchanting Pyrenean hideaway, surrounded by crests reaching as high as 3,000-m (9,840-ft), is a ski resort in winter and a green, peaceful oasis attracting hikers and nature-lovers in summer. The mountain resort centres on a religious sanctuary and has a youth hostel and apartments for rent. The valley is only accessible via a silent cog railway, which trundles above the clouds through breathtaking mountain scenery.

    Tourist Info

    • Railway Station, Vall de Núria

    • 97 273 20 20

    • Rack railway train from Ribes de Freser, 10 km N Ripoll

  4. Alt Penedès

    Catalonia’s most famous wine region is the cava-producing area of the Penedès. The cava brands of Cordoníu and Freixenet have become household names worldwide. Many of the area’s wineries and bodegas are open to the public. One of the most spectacular is the Cordoníu bodega, housed in a Modernista building designed by Puig i Cadafalch, with a phenomenal 26 km (16 miles) of cellars on five floors.

    Tourist Info

    • C/Cort 14, Vilafranca del Penedès

    • 93 818 12 54

    • The tourist office has details on all winery visits in the region, including the Cordoníu winery

  5. Begur & Around

    The elegant hilltop town of Begur, with its ruined 14th-century castle, looks down on the nature reserve of Aiguamolla and some of the prettiest coves on the Costa Brava. The town’s population quadruples in summer as visitors make this their base for exploring nearby beaches and small, isolated coves. Many of the area’s beaches stage jazz concerts throughout the summer. This is perhaps the best stretch of coastline in Catalonia.

    Tourist Info

    • Av Onze de Setembre 5

    • 972 62 45 20

  6. Tarragona

    Entering the city of Tarragona, past the oil refineries and its huge industrial port, it’s hard to envisage the astounding archaeological treasures that await. Once the capital of Roman Catalonia, the city’s main attractions today are from this era. Highlights include an impressive amphitheatre and the well-kept Roman walls that lead past the Museu Nacional Arqueològic and the Torre de Pilatos, a tower where Christians were supposedly imprisoned before being thrown to the lions. Also in Tarragona is the Catedral de Santa Tecla.

    Tourist Info

    • C/Fortuny 4

    • 977 23 34 15

  7. Girona

    Said to have the highest living standards in Catalonia, Girona is a pleasant town surrounded by lush green hills. Hidden away in the old town, the atmospheric Jewish quarter (known as El Call) is one of the best-preserved medieval enclaves in Europe. Girona’s cathedral is a must (see Catedral de Santa Maria).

    Tourist Info

    • Rambla de la Llibertat 1

    • 972 22 65 75

    Riu Onyar, Girona
  8. Empúries

    After Tarragona, Empúries is Catalonia’s second most important Roman site. Occupying an impressive position by the sea, it includes more than 40 hectares (99 acres) scattered with Greek and Roman ruins, the highlights of which are the remains of a market street, various temples and part of a Roman amphitheatre. Coupled with lovely nearby beaches, it’s an ideal spot for those looking to mix a bit of history with a dip in the sea.

    Empúries

    • 972 77 02 08

    • Open Jun–Sep: 10am–8pm daily; Oct–May: 10am–6pm daily

    • Adm

  9. Port Aventura

    Universal Studios’ theme park is divided up into five areas: China, Far West, Mediterranean, Polynesia and Mexico, each offering rides and attractions. Thrill-junkies will appreciate one of Europe’s biggest roller coasters, Dragon Kahn (China). There are also shows, and the entire experience is like being on a film set.

    • Av Pere Molas, Vilaseca, Tarragona

    • 902 20 22 20

    • Open mid-Mar–Oct daily, call for seasonal hours

    • Adm

    • DA

  10. Costa Daurada & Sitges

    With its wide sandy beaches and shallow waters, the Costa Daurada differs from the northern Catalonian coastline. The sleepy town of Torredembarra is a pleasant and rarely busy family resort, but the jewel in the crown is undoubtedly Sitges. It’s the summer home to Barcelona’s chic crowd, as well as being a popular gay resort . All this gives it a cosmopolitan, frenetic feel, but the town never reaches the tacky excesses of some of the Costa Brava’s resorts.

    Tourist Info

    • C/Sínia Morera

    • 938 10 93 40

    Waterfront, Sitges
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