Things to Do in Catalonia - page 5
The Barcelona Pavilion was built for the city’s 1929 International Exposition by German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and stands today as important building for both the city and the modern architecture movement. It once served as the official opening for the German section of the exhibition, and is now admired for its simple design and intelligent use of special materials. It was constructed in less than one year, following World War I, with materials such as travertine, Greek marble, steel, glass, and golden onyx. Its emphasis on simplistic structure and minimalism makes this a peaceful place to visit, and still a model of expert design.
Perhaps the highlight of a visit to the Barcelona Pavilion is the prestigious and iconic Barcelona Chair, also designed by Mies van der Rohe. The Barcelona Chair was purposefully designed and keeps with the minimalistic style of the building. The Barcelona Pavilion continues to inspire modernist artists all over the world.
Tucked away among the countless alleyways and courtyards of Barcelona’s atmospheric Barrio Gotico (Gothic Quarter) east of Las Ramblas, triangular George Orwell Square is named after the English author whose novel Homage to Catalonia was published in 1938 after he had spent six months fighting for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. He lived in the square briefly and a small plaque marks his house. Formerly a grungy backwater of the Barrio, the square has been radically refurbished and cleaned up alongside much of Barcelona’s Ciutat Vella (Old City), and now has a lively, Bohemian atmosphere; it is surrounded by tall, narrow townhouses decorated with wrought-iron balconies and by cafés, bars and (many vegetarian) restaurants, whose tables spread out on to the square in sunny weather. Standing tall in the center of the square is a bizarre, swirling metal installation by Surrealist Catalan sculptor Leandre Cristòfol.
Down the centuries the Port de Barcelona has played a strategic role in the development of the city it serves; its geographical location on the Mediterranean Sea made it an important trading port that brought great wealth into Catalonia. Today it is a major stopover on cruising itineraries as well as the base for ferry services to the Balearic Islands and Mediterranean ports such as Rome, Genoa and Algiers; it is currently being extended in a development that will see it double in size and capacity.
Port Vell is adjacent to the ferry port, an historic area of fishing fleets and marinas into which new life was breathed in 1995; it is Barcelona’s number-one spot for destination shopping and dining, strolling along the seafront promenades and taking boat trips out onto the Med. It’s also the place to learn about Catalan history in the sprawling 19th-century Palau de Mar and travel by cable-car high above Barcelona to the museums and Olympic stadium at Montjuïc.
Barcelona is filled with parks and unique art, and the Parque del Laberinto de Horta is one of the city’s oldest and least well known. The historic artistic gardens are part of a large former estate, containing both an 18th-century neoclassical garden and a 19th century romantic garden. The neoclassical garden was designed with the help of an Italian architect, while the romantic garden added details such as gazebos, waterfalls, and additional beds of colorful flowers.
Once the site of garden parties and socialite events, it was handed over to the city of Barcelona by the Devalls family in 1967. Visitors can still see the original mansion that the family once lived in, built in neogothic and neoarabic styles. A stroll throughout the grounds offers views of the many classical statues, fountains, Italian-style pavilions, and the hedge maze that gives the garden its name.
El Tablao de Carmen is a top-rated flamenco show that plays tribute to one of the world’s greatest flamenco dancers, Carmen Alaya. She once performed at this very site for King Alfonso XIII of Spain during the opening of the Poble Espanyol for the 1929 Universal Exposition. Known for her skill, passion, technique, and fiery personality, Carmen Amaya was widely adored for her dancing. Born in Barcelona, she danced internationally including across Europe, South America, and Central America before returning to the stage at home.
Visitors now can experience the allure of an authentic flamenco show in an intimate venue. Often the show of live music and 10-12 different professional dancers includes tapas, drinks, and/or dinner. In the spirit of true flamenco, no choreography or rehearsal is done — everything is wild and improvised.
Discover an unexpectedly delightful corner of Barcelona, and at the same time a world of figurative art, by visiting the European Museum of Modern Art. Located in the Born neighborhood, and just steps away from the Picasso Museum, this isn’t your average modern art museum, featuring only on the finest of contemporary figurative art from the 20th to 21st centuries.
The MEAM’s art collection focuses less on the abstract and instead on other curious pieces such as sculptures, photorealistic paintings, and more. Many of these works have been created by living artists, to which the museum extends support. MEAM’s venue is a delight, too, as it is housed in the Gomis Palace, a neoclassical building erected in 1790. Expect your relatively quick visit there to both rewarding and relaxing thanks to the intriguing artwork and the music-filled and crowd-free galleries.
More Things to Do in Catalonia
Once the sun goes down on the beaches of Salou, there’s still a lot more to see here: a proper magic show. Head to the House of Illusion, a fan-favorite for its evening performances packed with magicians, comedy, mind reading, audience participation, and loads of magic.
The show is more than just magic, too, as it begins in a pre-theater parlor before moving into a grand theater of candle-lit tables. It is there that you not only marvel at the wizardry but also chow down on an all-inclusive meal that comes with an unending flow of wine, beer, and soft drinks. Not hungry? Join the later show, which includes only the eternal supply of drinks, but still with all the entertainment.
When Barcelona gets a little toasty, forgo the beach and head to the water wonderland at Costa Caribe Aquatic Park. It’s home to 50,000 square meters of splash-filled fun, and sits just over an hour away from Spain’s coastal metropolis.
The park boasts 16 different attractions and slides, the pinnacle of which is Europe’s tallest free-fall waterslide, reaching 31 meters in height! Those who wish to stay a little closer to dry land can tube their way down a river of rushing rapids and waterfalls, slip down the slides of the playground-meets-pirate ship, or dodge waves in the Bermuda Triangle. For a slightly less intrepid experience, take the little ones to Sésamo Beach, a tranquil children’s pool where you’ll find shallow, calm waters. Once you’ve had your fill of getting wet, you can escape to one of the park’s many green areas. Or, if you wish to get out of the sun, head to the indoor zone, where you’ll find all the outdoor fun, but in the cool shade.
Dating back to the 18th century, La Casa de la Seda was once home to the guild of silk-sail-makers in Barcelona. The 300-year-old exterior reflects the elegance and social status that guilds had at the time and much of the original façade remains, rendering the home a popular stop among architecture aficionados. Visitors will encounter intricate Baroque work and a corner balcony featuring a figure of Our Lady of Angels, as well as interior rooms decorated with fine wood, silk walls and religious items, such as an ivory Christ figure and a 17th-century cabinet decorated with religious paintings. Today, La Case de la Seda is home to the College of Mayor Art Seda de Barcelona. Guided tours take visitors through the guild hall, presidential office, meeting room and the library, which holds more than 3,000 historical documents.
With its jumble of stone-brick houses clinging to the edge of a soaring basalt cliff and a backdrop of forested mountains, the tiny town of Castellfollit de la Roca offers some striking photo opportunities. From afar, this is one of Catalonia’s most unmistakable postcard images, but looking out from the 50-meter-high clifftop provides an equally mesmerizing view, spanning the lush valleys of the Fluvia and Toronell rivers.
Despite its magnificent location, Castellfollit de la Roca has little more than 1,000 inhabitants, making it one of Catalonia’s smallest towns and the smallest in Girona. Visitors, however, are plentiful and the narrow streets, medieval squares and 13th-century church of St. Salvador offer a fascinating glimpse into a time long gone.
Located about 30 miles (50 km) northwest of Barcelona is Montserrat - the 'Serrated Mountain'. The mountain gets its name from the rock formations which look like they've been sawed and sculpted.
This unique rock formation is home to a Benedictine monastery and is a famous pilgrimage spot as it is home to the 12th century wooden statue of La Moreneta (The Black Virgin), Catalonia's patron. During the regime of Franco, the monastery continued to hold Catholic ceremonies in the Catalan language and became a stronghold of Catalan culture.
Besides the religious and cultural importance of Montserrat, the mountain also boasts unbeatable views from it's peaks. A cog wheel train takes visitors to a lookout point where all of Catalonia and the Pyrenees can be seen.
The region of Girona offers so much more than just Catalan culture and historic towns; it’s also got a veritable nature wonderland called Garrotxa Volcanic Natural Park. And volcanic, indeed, as it is home to 40 (dormant) volcanic cones, and 20 basaltic lava flows, making it the most prized volcanic landscape on the Iberian Peninsula.
You can explore Garrotxa’s park by setting off on one of its 28 different walking routes, many of which interconnect, and many that take you beyond the region to others. During your adventures, climb to the top of Santa Margarida volcano to spy the see-it-to-believe-it Roman chapel that sits within it; get lost in the beech tree-filled forests of La Fageda d'en Jordà; and make stops at some of the region’s most beloved villages, such as Olot and Besalu.
Between France and Spain lie the Pyrenees Mountains. This 305 mile (491km) mountain range stretching from the Bay of Biscay at Cap Higuer to the Mediterranean Sea at Cap de Creus forms a natural border between the two countries.
The Pyrenees are well-loved for their lakes, hot springs, alpine-skiing, mountaineering, hiking, cross-country running and cycling. Challenging stages of the Tour de France pass through the Pyrenees. The mountains can be explored on a great day trip from Pamplona in the north or Barcelona in the south of Spain, or from Lourdes or Perpignan in France, or take a few days out to hike the Pyrenees and really explore.
There are numerous options for wine tasting trips from Barcelona but few offer such a unique backdrop as Oller del Mas, a 10th century castle set in a scenic 1000-acre estate. A popular detour for those visiting the Benedictine Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey on the nearby Montserrat mountain, Oller del Mas offers an atmospheric setting for a wine tasting session, effortlessly combining Catalonian culture, history and gastronomy.
Whether you stop by for a quick tasting session, take a half-day tour of the winery or couple your wines with a leisurely lunch of traditional cuisine, there’s something to please every type of wine lover at Oller del Mas. Those with a real enthusiasm for wine can learn the secrets winemaking from harvest to glass, strolling around the picturesque vineyards, the production plants and the wine cellars, and witnessing the winery’s popular Bernat Oller and Arnau Oller wines being produced.
The small coastal town of Figueres, just north of Barcelona, is known for only one thing - Salvador Dalí. Though the artisit's fame brought him to more glamorous parts of Spain, near the end of his career, Dalí returned to his hometown to began building his greatest masterpiece.
The Dalí Theatre-Museum is the largest surrealistic object in the world, replacing the town's former Municipal Theatre which was destroyed in the Spanish Civil War. Not only is the museum an artwork in itself, it's also home to many famous paintings by Dalí. The building holds the broadest range of the artist's works, including everything from his earliest pieces to his final paintings. Dalí also chose to include some pieces from his personal collection by other artists such as El Greco and Antoni Pitxot.
Dalí himself is now a part of the Teatre-Museu as well - his crypt and grave are located, quite fittingly, in the center of the museum.
Whether you’ve managed to snag tickets for a home game or booked on a behind-the-scenes tour of the legendary Camp Nou Stadium, a visit to the FC Barcelona Museum is a must for football fans. One of the city’s most popular museums, drawing an average of 1.2 million visitors each year, the FC Barcelona Museum is right next door to the stadium and offers an unbeatable glimpse into the city’s top football team.
Completely refurbished back in 2010, the ultra-modern museum now features a giant interactive glass touch screen, audiovisual displays and a 3D cinema, alongside its vast collection of football memorabilia, personal memoirs and photo galleries. The largest exhibition deals with the team’s illustrious history from its humble beginnings in 1899, through a stream of international championship winnings, to becoming the world’s second-richest football team.
Add listening to the ethereal choir songs of one of Europe’s oldest boys choirs to your list of reasons to explore the craggy Montserrat mountainside not far from Barcelona. The boys choir, which dates back to the 13th or 14th century, is not only historic but also world famous, having recorded albums and toured to countries around the globe.
The boys, who range from ages 9-14, go to school here at the monastery, and sing in the basilica, where the public can come to watch. The roughly 50 singers are carefully selected based on a handful of criteria, one of course being their musical ability. Lucky for Montserrat visitors, the choir usually performs twice daily, making a visit to the mountainside getaway just that much more magical.
Things to do near Catalonia
- Things to do in Barcelona
- Things to do in Tarragona
- Things to do in Girona
- Things to do in Midi-Pyrénées
- Things to do in Languedoc-Roussillon
- Things to do in Balearic Islands
- Things to do in Mallorca
- Things to do in Toulouse
- Things to do in Zaragoza
- Things to do in Montpellier
- Things to do in Aragón
- Things to do in Provence
- Things to do in Aquitaine
- Things to do in Costa Blanca
- Things to do in Basque Country