The region known for its amazing beaches and architecture
Catalunya is one of the most popular destinations in Spain with amazing beaches like Costa Brava, Costa Barcelona and Costa Dorada and its world-class gastronomy. The unique architecture in Barcelona, Tarragona’s monastery of Poblet, the archaeological site at Tarraco, the churches of the Boí valley in Lleida are all not to be missed. You can also visit the National Art Museum of Catalonia and the Dalí Theatre-Museum. The water activities you can enjoy at the beaches and in marine resorts here are second to none. Conversely, the region is also blessed with mountains and hiking and skiing in the Catalan Pyrenees are other amazing adventures to indulge in. Catalunya is also one of the top wine destinations in Spain. The region boasts 12 subregions each with an amazing specialty DO wine to its name. The Cava grapes are used to prepare the famous Catalan sparkling wines.
Places – top 3 to visit if you are in Catalunya
1. Barcelona – The true heart and soul of Spain
Wherever you are in Barcelona, there’s always something to see nearby around the neighbourhood or district: jewels of home-grown Catalan architecture, modernisme, and contemporary architecture, markets that are a treat for the senses, treasures of the ancient Roman and medieval city, and parks where you can unwind
2. The Costa Brava – Explore the hidden coves and the sparkling coastline
The Costa Brava is the coastal area which runs all the way from just above the city of Barcelona to the French border. It’s characterised by cute little towns and villages, rugged rocky coastlines, mountainous peaks and stunning beaches, bays and inlets. The Costa Brava makes up a large part of the Spanish region of Catalonia. You can get to some places in the Costa Brava by bus, but the routes are not very extensive and journeys are long – stopping in all the small towns along the way. Many of the tiny villages and hidden coves cannot even be reached by public transport at all, so if you really want to see the best of the Costa Brava, it’s best to hire a car. One of the Costa Brava’s most famous former residents is the eccentric artist Salvador Dalí. Dalí was born in the town of Figueres, around 43km north of Girona. Today, this is also where you’ll find one of his most celebrated and arguably his best museums – The Dalí Theatre Museum. Converted from a former theatre by Dali himself, it’s home to some of his most famous works. Other Dalí spots you can find in the Costa Brava include his quirky summer home in Portlligat, close to the town of Cadaqués, and his castle in the town of Púbol. The Costa Brava is without a doubt home to some of the country’s best beaches. They may not be long and sweeping – but they’re small and intimate, surrounded by soaring clifftops and unusual rock formations. Many of the beaches can only be reached on foot too, scrambling down steep coastal paths to find pebbly shorelines lapped by clear azure waters.
3. Girona – A classic Spanish mediaeval town
Girona, located in Catalonia, Spain, sits between Barcelona and Costa Brava. It’s a gorgeous place to visit, with medieval walls, narrow winding city streets, and one of the best preserved Jewish Quarters in Europe. The historic city of Girona is filled with architectural landmarks, fascinating museums and an impressive array of churches, cathedrals and monasteries. When you’ve had your fill of history and quaint cobbled streets, however, you’ll find that there’s a lot more to Girona than meets the eye. The historic Catalan city of Girona is known for its well-preserved Jewish quarter, unique history, festivals and, of course, its architecture. Girona lies approximately 100km northeast of Barcelona, and is well worth a day trip for anyone staying in the area. Filled with historic churches, monasteries, fascinating museums and ancient narrow alleyways
Food and Drink – top 3 to try in Catalunya
One cannot think well, love well or sleep well if one has not eaten well
Catalunya and its surrounding areas have become renowned internationally for food and the culture of eating. In recent years, the new wave of experimental gastronomic chefs have brought the region to the world’s attention. However, Catalunya has been a must-visit location for food lovers for many years. Its location on the Mediterranean coast offers a generous and varied selection of ingredient options, allowing for some imaginative results. Due to Catalonia’s location on the coast, seafood dishes are impressive and vegetables such as tomatoes, red peppers, aubergines, mushrooms and artichokes are in abundance. However, it is easy to forget that a lot of Catalonia is also made up of mountains and fields where pigs and sheep can roam. Thus, the Catalan interest in ‘May Y Mantagna’ (‘Sea and Mountain’ – think ‘Surf n Turf’) – the concept of having fish and meat on the same plate.
1. Esqueixada de bacalla – The quintessential taste of Catalan
Esqueixada is a traditional Catalan dish, a salad of shredded salt cod, tomatoes, onions, olive oil and vinegar, salt, and sometimes a garnish of olives or hard-boiled eggs.Specific recipes vary, with some including ingredients such as red or green bell peppers.Esqueixada is particularly popular in warm weather and is sometimes considered a summertime dish. Esqueixada is sometimes described as the “Catalan ceviche” because it is made with raw fish (although the cod is salt-cured and dried) in a marinade.The name of the dish comes from the Catalan verb esqueixar, to tear or shred. The salt cod in the dish is always shredded with the fingers, never sliced or chopped, to achieve the correct texture
2. Espinacs amb panses I pinyons – Traditional spinach served with raisins and pine nuts
This traditional dish is made by boiling or frying fresh spinach. To the spinach, toasted or fried pine nuts are added as well as chopped garlic, raisins and often a few slices of finely chopped bacon.
3. Faves a la Catalana – The taste of Catalonia
Faves a la Catalana is a traditional Spanish dish originating from Catalonia. The dish is made with fava beans (broad beans) that are cooked in stock with a bit of botifarra negra (blood sausage). Apart from those key ingredients, the dish also contains bacon, onions, garlic, tomatoes, white wine, olive oil, and paprika. Faves a la Catalana was prepared since ancient times, and some of the recipes date back to the mid-19th century. Nowadays, this hearty stew is typically consumed during the harvest season (from February to late June), and it’s traditionally served in an earthenware dish.
Wine – Top 3 To Know About Wines Of Catalunya
Truly unique Spanish wines are found in Catalonia
Catalonia’s 10 denominated wine regions focus mostly on so-called Mediterranean grape varieties, primarily Garnacha and Carignan (also called Cariñena or Samsó) among red grapes, and Garnacha Blanca and ¬Xarel-lo among white grapes. There’s also Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Trepat planted throughout Catalonia, as well as the white varieties Parellada and Macabeo (Viura in Rioja) that are primarily used for the production of Cava, Spain’s premier sparkling wine.Catalonian wines tend to be full bodied and high in alcohol, due to the grape varieties and the region’s warm weather ¬conditions. But Catalonia’s best wines also feature ¬intense minerality derived from vineyards planted on granite, chalk and fractured slate soils.
Catalonia is a fascinating Spanish province, home to some of the most sought-after Spanish wines in the country. Penedès is the largest and most significant wine-producing region in Catalonia. It is also one of the oldest wine-producing regions in Europe with traces of early viticulture dating back to the sixth century BC. The diversity of its terrain makes it particularly well-suited for a variety of grapes. Today it is known as the home of some of the most avant-garde wine producers in Spain. Today perhaps the most well-known Catalan wine region on the international stage is Priorat. It is one of only two regions in Spain to have the special appellation D.O.C or Denominació d’Origen Qualificada, recognizing the outstanding quality and consistency of its wines. The special volcanic properties of the soil in the area lend the wine its flavor and mean that the yield on vines is particularly low compared to other regions. Located in the north-east of Catalonia, near the popular seaside area known as the Costa Brava, the Empordà wine region has a long history of making rosé wine. Today red wine accounts for 60 percent of its annual production. The reds tend to be full-bodied and are sometimes aged in oak barrels for added depth of flavor. There are more than 20 grape varieties allowed under the official appellation DO Empordà including the non-native Gewürztraminer white grape variety. The Tarragona wine region is named after the southern Catalan town of Tarragona around which it is situated. The area has long had a history of producing rich, heavy reds, similar to fortified wines such as port, which were already being enjoyed in the time of the Ancient Romans. Conca de Barberà is a historic wine-producing area in the province of Tarragona famous for its white wines, which account for more than 60 percent of its total production.
- Grenache blanche
- Moscatel de Alejandria
Style of wines
The wines of the Catalan wine region include sparkling Cava, dry white wines and powerful reds, known as “black” wine or vi negre in Catalan, due to the colour of the grape. The grapes of the region include the Cava and white wine grapes of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo and the red wine grapes of Garnacha, Monastrell and Tempranillo called Ull de Llebre in Catalan.The production of sparkling white wine is the largest contributor to the Catalan wine industry, followed by production of still red wines and then still whites.While the majority of the region’s wines are the Cava blends, many varietal wines are also produced. Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine which was first made as early as 1851,although the roots of the Cava wine industry can be traced back to Josep Raventos’ travels through Europe in the 1860s, where he was promoting the still wines of his Codorníu winery. His visits to the Champagne region sparked an interest in the potential of a Spanish version, using the same sparkling wine production methods.The local Macabeu, Parellada and Xarel·lo have since become established as the most popular grapes for producing Cava. Early versions were called Catalan champán or xampany after Champagne but this practice ended when the EU awarded Champagne Protected Geographical Status. Catalan’s main sparkling wine producers agreed and adopted the name Cava after the Catalan word for cellar, where the wines were traditionally stored. According to Spanish wine laws, Cava can be produced in six wine regions (such as Aranda de Duero, Navarra and Rioja) but 95% of Spanish Cava production takes place in the Penedès region. In order for the wines to be called ‘Cava’, they must be made in the traditional méthode champenoise. Wines made via the low-cost Charmat process may only be called ‘Spanish sparkling wine’. A rosé style of Cava is also produced in small quantities by adding still red wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha or Monastrell to the wine. The first Cava to use the Chardonnay grape was produced in 1981.Catalan Cava producers pioneered a significant technological development in sparkling wine production with the invention of the gyropallet, a large mechanized device that replaced hand riddling, in which the lees are consolidated in the neck of the bottle prior to disgorgement and corking
Nature – top 3 to visit in Catalunya
Bringing you closer to the natural world
Catalunya is home to a range of beautiful coves and beaches, tall mountains and uniquely sculptured mountain ranges, wide rivers that turn into deltas when they reach the sea, freshwater streams, endless natural parks, lakes, dormant volcanoes and loads of fun. Nature is ever-present in Catalunya in its multiple forms, and if you want to immerse yourself in it and explore it, you’ve got a thousand and one options to choose from.
1. Aiguestortes I Estany of Saint Maurici National Park – The embodiment of Pyrenese mountain beauty
The Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park presents the typical high mountain features of the Pyrenees, as well as its own distinguishing feature: water. This park is characterised by its crystal-clear waters that run through its many lakes and rivers, and make this Pyrenean landscape rich. As well as the torrents and waterfalls, there are thick forests which look extremely beautiful when it snows. But its landscape is not the only important thing – its biological wealth is extraordinary. It is a real paradise for nature lovers: lakes, torrents, waterfalls, peat bogs, rocky slopes, rugged peaks and thick forests of black pine, fir, Scots pine, birch and beech, home to many interesting alpine and northern plants and animals.
2. Cap de Creus National Park – A true ocean paradise
The peninsula of Cap de Creus constitutes the last buttress of the Pyrenees and the easternmost point of the Iberian Peninsula. The coast is abrupt and jagged, with towering cliffs and remote coves. It is the first natural park in Catalonia covering areas of both sea and land, and was created in 1998. The total area of the Park is 13,886 hectares, of which 10,813 are on land and 3,073 are at sea. Within the land area there are 3 natural zones of declared national interest (PNIN): to the North, the sector around Cap Gros-Cap de Creus; to the South, the sector around Punta Falconera-Cap Norfeu; and to the West, the sector of the Serra de Rodes. All the islands and islets located within the maritime area of the Natural Park also have the same status. Inside the Natural Park of Cap de Creus itself one can take part in a very large number of leisure activities and visits. The walking and mountain-bike itineraries are especially attractive. These offer the opportunity to get to know the Park while relating it to the municipalities that make it up. The majority of the walking itineraries follow the tracks of former cattle-trails, which gives them an added interest. A very interesting itinerary from the botanical, geological and scenic point of view is the path from Mas Paltré in Port de la Selva, to Cap de Creus, following the route of the GR-11 long-distance footpath.
3. Camino de Ronda – Exploring Catalunya by foot
The Camíno de Ronda (or ‘Costa Brava Way’) is a public footpath that traverses the rugged and picture-perfect calas all the way along the Costa Brava, presenting the perfect out-of-season adventure (or a welcome escape from the bustling beaches in summer) and the chance to discover the Catalan coast from a unique perspective. Dating from the 19th century, the Camíno de Ronda originated as a series of small pathways connecting one cove to the next, enabling fisherman, smugglers, sailors, travellers, lighthouse keepers and traginers (cart and mule drivers), to navigate this once remote coastal territory. During the 20th century, the path emerged as a key route for border control and was patrolled by the Guardia Civil, particularly during the post-war early-Franco period, when the country was in economic ruin, basics were running low and smuggling was rife. As time went on and the situation improved, path patrol ceased and the trail soon became dominated by the modern Spanish industrial power: tourism. The gradual restoration of this historic hiking trail invites visitors to follow in the footsteps of the many heroes and villains, artists and dreamers who once roamed these parts, and become acquainted with another Costa Brava. Spanning three comarcas in the province of Girona—Alt Empordà, Baix Empordà and Selva—the coastline owes its spectacular topographical features to the geological juncture of the Iberian Peninsula, the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees, and can be roughly divided into two sections—north and south. The Catalan coastal mountain range, which runs parallel to the coast, sets the backdrop for the southern stretch between Blanes and Pals, where tree-clad hills drop down to erratically-shaped rocky coves, crystal clear waters, secret sandy inlets and long golden beaches. Moving north, the landscape becomes progressively wilder, as towering limestone cliffs give way to bio-diverse wetlands and ancient Greco-Roman ruins, until, finally, the igneous Pyrenean foothills emerge dramatically out of the sea between Cap de Creus and the French border. Forming part of the extensive Grand Randonnée network, the Camíno de Ronda roughly follows the GR-92 footpath (which continues to southern Catalunya and beyond), marked by a red and white line, and is clearly signposted along the route. At times, it is possible to take a more scenic route along the coast where the GR-92 diverges inland. The overall trail can be broken down into 12 stages and is of easy-moderate difficulty. It can be undertaken in its entirety as a 12-day hike, backpack on tow, or simply a day or half day’s walk between resorts.