Top 5 Cities: Costa Brava
When one thinks of Spain, certain images naturally come to mind: Flamenco dancing, beautiful beaches, football games, divine cuisine, bullfighting and famous artists. Spanish culture is bold, unique and welcoming. In fact, a common Spanish phrase is that “Spain is different!”, and after a holiday in the country, one would agree. There is much to do and see in the Costa Brava that reflects this saying, as you’ll see on your next holiday. Which city piques your interest?
Is it Girona or Gerona? The answer: both. Gerona is the name in Spanish (Castilian) and Girona is the name in Catalan. This diverse city is known for its medieval and Catalonian architecture, the Onyar River and its narrow alleys. It’s no wonder why Gerona has been the film set for many movies and television shows, such as “Game of Thrones”, “Perfume. The Story of a Murderer” and more. Strap on a pair of comfortable shoes, because Girona is the perfect city for those who love walking, sightseeing and taking brilliant photographs. The Old Jewish Quarter is a popular spot in Girona. Here you’ll find well-preserved, centuries-old buildings, small boutiques, charming cafes, all along the classic winding, narrow roads. For amazing views, you must walk along the Passeig de la Muralla, which is the old Roman walls from the medieval ages. This structure offers amazing vantage points to view the city and the surrounding area. Another popular destination in Girona is the Cathedral. Impressingly wide and expansive, this is a must do for those who wish to learn a bit about the history of Gerona, or those who appreciate Monolithic architecture and colorful tapestry. Some other top attractions worth checking out are the Film Museum, Lake Banyoles, Eglesia de Sant Feliu, the Museum of Jewish History and the Eiffel Bridge, constructed by Gustave Eiffel just before the Eiffel tower in Paris.
- El Delfin Verde: directly on beach, massive dolphin-shaped swimming complex, top campsite of Costa Brava
- Playa Brava: located in Mediterranean forest, Kids Club, nice swimming pools
- Cypsela: top campsite in Spain, unique restaurants, new swimming pool complex with pirate ship
- Interpals: situated on mountain, beach less than 500m from campsite, playground
- Valldaro: three swimming pools, large jacuzzi, extensive animation program
- Kings: directly on beach, many restaurants and shops, large swimming complex
- La Siesta: lagoon style swimming park, 600m from beach, large playground
- Internacional Palamos: directly on beach, quiet area, close to Aquadiver waterpark
The most appealing aspect of Blanes is the beachfront. One in particular you must visit while in Blanes, is Santa Cristina Hermitage. A truly beautiful spot that isn’t as busy as some of the other spots in the city. For those who love strolling through picturesque gardens, Jardin Botanico Marimurtra is the place to go. Marimurtra presents a large variety of flora from various countries and continents and also offers breathtaking views of the cliffs and the sea. In the warmer seasons, you’ll see how colorful this garden can be. If you’re on holiday with the kids, then you must go to Parc Francesc Macia, a park that has become famous in Catalonia for its larger-than-life statues from children's tales. For instance, the candy cottage from Hansel and Gretel and the shoe that “the Old Woman” lives. It’s a free park with mini ziplines, large musical instruments you can play, picnic tables and a playground. Other attractions you might wish to visit while in Blanes are the Popaire Brewery, the intricate Parish Church of Sant Roma, the pathway of Chemin de Ronde with caves and great views, the Sa Palomera lookout or the fortress named Castell d'en Plaja.
- La Masia: walking distance of beach, two swimming pool complexes, spa & wellness centre
The small town of Figueres is in the northeast of Spain. Figueres is most well-known for being the birthplace and also the final resting place of the surrealist painter, Salvador Dalí. Dalí, famous for his melting clock paintings and unusual facial hair, designed his own museum full of his work: Salvador Dalí Domènech. This is a must visit in Figueres, as well as his personal Theatre-Museum where Dalí is actually buried. Other Salvador Dalí monuments and structures can be found throughout the city. For those not as interested in the artist, there are plenty of other attractions in Figueres, including a beautiful castle on a hill: Castillo de San Fernando. Here you’ll find stunning views, shocking history, crumbling architecture and a delicious restaurant at the entrance that is surprisingly inexpensive. The city center is another popular spot, where tourists and locals alike can sit and have a nice coffee, meal or cocktail. La Rambla de Figueres is a pleasant place to enjoy the open air.
- Castell Mar: optimal beach location, Aiguamolls nature park, several dining options on site:
- Castell Montgri: 3 beautiful swimming pools, soundproof disco for teens, organized activities for all ages
If you’d like to get off the beaten path and experience true Spanish culture and history, Tarragona is a great place to go on holiday. This port city by the Mediterranean Sea was founded before the 5th century BC. The Roman ruins of Tarraco are undeniably impressive and surprisingly well-preserved, which is probably the reason they’ve been labeled a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bridge and aqueduct Pont del Diable is easily accessible, free entry, free parking and one of the most loved attractions of Tarragona. If you appreciate Roman cathedrals (and even if you don’t usually appreciate them), there is an amazing structure in the city: Catedral Basilica Metropolitana Primada de Tarragona. With its amazing statues, murals, balcony, sculptures and more. Another spot for ancient Roman ruins is the Circ Roma. Climb up the Praetorium tower to get fantastic panoramic views of the area. Look at the exhibits in the tower and wander the remains of the Circus. The old town of Casco Antiguo de Tarragona, with its small streets and lovely houses, is a great spot to stroll, have a cup of coffee or try some tasty tapas. Some other great spots are the Amfiteatre (Roman Amphitheatre), the Monumento a los Castellers and the Museu Nacional Arqueològic de Tarragona.
- Cambrils Park: fantastic swimming paradise, walking distance of Salou centre, several bars/restaurants on site
- Playa Montroig Resort: four large swimming pools with six waterslides, directly on the beach, two restaurants
Last, but most definitely not least, is the world city of Barcelona. Barcelona is the fifth most visited city in Europe (after London, Paris, Istanbul and Rome) and the twentieth most visited city in the world. Architecture, music, art, beaches, nature, parks, nightlife and countless other aspects of Barcelona make up the interesting and welcoming culture of the city.
The first stop is the Sagrada Familia. Of course, there are many beautiful churches in Spain, but it's hard to compare with this architectural masterpiece. Experience intimate glimpses of the construction, gorgeous views of the city and a whimsical trip down the spiral staircase. But the real magic is inside the heart of the basilica. For those who love a leisurely walk through beautiful streets to sightsee architecture, to inspect a few museums or to stop at charming shops and cafes, the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic) is the perfect idea. The Santa María del Mar (Our Lady of the Sea) is another great architectural sight, using light at an inspiring element. It is also free of charge, so there’s no excuse not to climb up the steep steps and enjoy the priceless view of the city. A few other famous architectural spots in Barcelona are the Casa Batlló with its colorful reflective roof, the Gaudi House Museum, the Sinagoga Mayor, and to get a bit off the beaten path, take a detour to the Claustro E Iglesia de la Concepción.
Music, Theatre and Art
The next stop is the Palau de la Musica Orfeo Catala, where beautiful architecture and Spanish tradition meet. Witness an awe-inspiring Flamenco dance or a customary Spanish guitar concert while surrounded in unbelievable glasswork, sculptures and architectural detail that provides amazing acoustics for live music. Another great musical endeavor is at the Palau Dalmases, where one will find an intimate atmosphere to enjoy Flamenco. For a glimpse of the fine, visual arts of Barcelona, a few great museums come to mind: the Museum of Modernism for glasswork and furniture, La Basilica Galeria for quirky fashion and jewelry, Fundacio Joan Miro for the work of Miro and other breathtaking pieces, the Gaudi Exhibition Center and for street art, the Base Elements Urban Art Gallery. Of course, one must not miss a stop at the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC), which displays traditional Catalonian visual art, such as religious relics and paintings. The world class MNAC also provides one of the best panoramic views of Barcelona which can be seen from the overlook. For the theatrical lovers, don’t miss the famous opera house Gran Teatre del Liceu, where one can enjoy an outstanding stage production.
Beaches, Nature and Parks
The popular oceanfront spot of Barceloneta Beach is beautiful, clean and worth a stop, but of course is quite crowded. Other great beaches one should visit in Barcelona are Nova Mar Bella Beach, Bogatell Beach, Platja de la Nova Icaria and Ocata Beach. When you’re ready to dry off and explore the other fects of Barcelonian nature, take a trip to the Jardins Joan Maragall-Palauet Albeniz. Only open on the weekends, this is a great place to relax without the buzz of tourists. Enjoy fountains, gardens, ornaments, trees and more. Take the wonderful opportunity to take a walk and enjoy a beautifully designed area at Guell Park. Here one will find gorgeous views, fantastic structures and a good workout to hike up the the top, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. Other nice parks in the area include Parc de la Ciutadella for a relaxing picnic, Parc del Laberint d’Horta with its beautiful and challenging maze and Mossen Costa i Llobera Gardens with stunning cacti and succulents. Although the city is known for its beaches, one geological formation of Barcelona that is undeniably worth a trip is the Pedraforca Mountain. This Pyrenee mountain offers great trekking routes and fantastic scenery.
Without a doubt, there are countless beautiful sights to see during the day in Barcelona, but a few spots are something special once the sun sets. One of these sights is the Magic Fountain (Font Magica). This is no ordinary fountain, for the Magic Fountain offers beautiful light and water shows for free, just be sure to look up the times it starts and arrive a bit early to find a good seat. Another great nightlife opportunity is the Mercat de la Boqueria, an evening street market that offers quality Catalonian cuisine, fresh smoothies and delicious cocktails.