Best places to visit in Catalonia, region of Spain: Tips for the top 22 sightseeing, destinations and tourist attractions in Catalunya, such as Barcelona, Girona, the Costa Brava, Tarragona, Dalí museum and Montserrat tips.
Top 22 Things to do in Catalonia
In the northeast of Spain is Catalonia, or as the Catalans will call it ‘Catalunya’. It is one of the most popular tourist regions in Spain, partly due to the capital of Catalonia, Barcelona and destinations at the popular coastline including the Costa Brava and Costa Dorada. More than 7.5 million people live in Catalonia, for which you will find information in both Catalan and Spanish. The Catalans are very proud of their own identity and in recent years we have heard more and more the voices for Catalan independence. Catalonia is one of the three most prosperous regions in Spain, partly due to its tourist attractions. Catalonia is again divided into four provinces, namely Barcelona, Girona, Tarragona and Lleida. After reading this article, we hope to convince you that Catalunya has more to offer than just the beautiful city of Barcelona. A description of the best things to do, best places to visit, tourism and the 22 most beautiful destinations in Catalonia:
- Port Aventura
- Dalí Museum Figueres
- Tossa del Mar
- Medieval Villages of Catalonia
- Monasterio Sant Pere de Rodes
- Destinations: Sitges
- Colonia Güell & Gaudi's Crypt
- Monastery of Poblet
- Castle of Cardona
- Marimurtra botanical gardens (Blanes)
- Castle of Tortosa
- Lleida (Lerida)
- Reus & Gaudi Centre
- Visit a cava wineyard
- Lloret de Mar - Santa Clotilde Gardens
1. Sightseeing in Barcelona
The absolute number 1 tourist attraction is of course Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia. With numerous sights and landmarks such as Gaudí's masterpieces like the Sagrada Familia, Park Güell Güell and Casa Batllo or FC Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium. Other tourists come again for the art of Picasso, the beautiful city beaches, the vibrant nightlife or just for shopping. This city is so versatile that you can enjoy yourself for a week in Barcelona without any problems. With only the Barcelona tourist attractions and sights alone, we could have filled a large part of the Top 20 Catalonia. More info about Barcelona.
2. Port Aventura, tourist attraction for kids
The largest amusement park in Europe (119 hectares) is located a few kilometers from Tarragona and one of the most popular places to visit in Catalonia. Port Aventura World contains, among other things, two amusement parks (Port Aventura and Ferrari land), a fantastic aqua park and various hotels. The theme park Port Aventura is itself made up of six separate worlds. The amusement park is an absolute must do attraction with children. More info.
3. Places to visit in Catalonia: Montserrat
Montserrat, 50 km northwest of Barcelona, is a special rock formation with the highest peak at 1236 meters. The mountain is home to the Benedictine Monastery of Montserrat, which attracts many pilgrims because of the image of the "Black Madonna". You can visit the monastery of Montserrat and the top of the mountain on a fun trip with a cog railway or cable car, from where you have a magnificent view of the area or follow one of the marked walks. Read more about visiting Montserrat.
4. Dali Museum in Figueres
In the town of Figueres is the Dalí Theater-Museum, the museum of the surrealist artist Salvador Dalí. This 19th century city theater has been converted by the famous Catalan artist into a museum that is one grand surrealist object. Get a look at Dalí's life's work and see how he was inspired by his wife and muse Gala. Numerous creative objects and paintings will amaze young and old, making it one of the most popular sights in Catalonia. Afterwards you can take a short walk through the town of Figueres. Read more about visiting the Dalí museum in this article.
5. Visit Girona
Girona in Catalan (Gerona in Spanish) is a beautiful and old city 100 kilometers north of Barcelona. The city of Girona has had a rich history, including one of the largest Jewish districts in Europe in the Middle Ages. The old center is still a beautiful maze of narrow streets, squares and stairs and was therefore the setting for series such as the Game of Thrones for a reason. You can take a long walk on the medieval city walls. In addition, the city is known for the colored and hanging houses along the Onyar river. More info about Girona.
6. Tarragona and the Roman monuments
Tarragona is located in the province of the same name on the Costa Dorado. In the Roman period, "Tarraco" was the capital of a province that at the time contained much of Spain. The necessary remains of this Roman period have survived, such as the amphitheater, a forum, a racecourse, city walls and a beautiful aqueduct just outside Tarragona. Due to the fairly compact center, Tarragona is ideal for visiting most sights in one day. Read more about Tarragona.
7. Tossa de Mar
Tossa de Mar is a popular seaside resort and one of the prettier coastal towns in Catalonia. For example, part of the old town is still surrounded by city walls from the 12th century and it has a beautiful city beach located between the rocky coast of the Costa Brava. The narrow streets of the old town and the castle give you a medieval feeling during a walk.
8. Cadaqués & Dali House Museum
40 km east of Figueres, near the fishing village of Cadaqués is the Salvador Dalí Portlligat house-museum. At the time, this house was Dalí's only permanent residence, in which he lived and worked until 1982. Today it is possible to visit this museum with various paintings and art objects (more info). But the former fishing village of Cadaqués is also known as one of the more beautiful places on the Costa Brava. A picturesque village located on the bay with many white houses, small shops and restaurants. Next to Cadaqués is the Cabo de Creus nature reserve, an area full of jagged rocks and cliffs with a number of beach bays.
Hotel tip Cadaqués: Are you still looking for a place to spend the night near Cadaqués? Then a very unique location at a 10 minute drive is Hotel Sa Perafita - Celler Martín Faixó, a charming 14th century building nestled among the vineyards. A wonderful location to taste Catalan wine during your stay in the beautiful Cap de Creus Nature Reserve.
9. Visit Medieval Villages of Catalonia
In Catalonia there are still many small villages that still exude a medieval atmosphere, of which Besalú, Pals and Peratallada are the most appealing villages. Each village has its own unique appearance with narrow streets, old bricks, castles, towers and old churches. When you are on holiday in Catalonia by car, we definitely recommend that you visit one of these villages. Other nice medieval villages are Vic, Ripoll and Rupit.
Hotel tip Pals: Are you looking for a unique place to spend the night in the Pals area? Then check out Ses Garites, which is located in a traditional 13th century country house 2 kilometers from Pals. A beautiful and special location!
Hotel tip Peratallada: Would you like to combine the unique atmosphere of Peretallada with an overnight stay? Then check out Hostal Blau , a charming guest house located in a 14th century mansion which is tastefully and authentically furnished.
10. Monasterio Sant Pere de Rodes
Sant Pere de Rodes is a former Benedictine monastery located in the nature reserve Cap de Creus. The complex, built between the 10th and 12th centuries, is no longer used and is now partly in ruins at 520 meters above sea level. Another part has been thoroughly restored. After a nice drive you can take a walk from the parking lot to this monastery, which you can visit with an audioguide. As a reward, the monastery offers a beautiful view over the nature reserve of Cap de Creus.
Sitges, some 40 kilometers south of Barcelona, is known as a popular and lively seaside resort. But besides all the beautiful beaches, Sitges also attracts other tourists. This is due to the small and historic center with white houses, beautiful facades, modernist style houses and the Sant Bartomeu church. Especially in the 18th and 19th centuries the city has experienced enormous economic growth. In addition, Sitges has an attractive boulevard, the marina and the Bacardi museum. Just a nice place to visit while you are in the area.
12. Colonia Güell & Gaudi's Crypt
Colonia Güell is only 23 km from Barcelona and easily accessible by train. This village was founded in 1890 by the industrialist Eusebi Güell and served as a kind of community for his textile workers. He gave the order to Antoni Gaudí to build the local church. Due to a lack of money, this church was never finished and only the lower crypt was completed, a crypt with a lot of stained glass and mosaic. You can tour Colonia Güell as well as Gaudí's unfinished crypt. More information about Colonia Güell.
13. Destinations: Monastery of Poblet
This large monastery "Monestir de Santa Maria de Poblet" from 1151 is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage. The Cistercian Abbey is still in use by monks, but is open to visitors. The building once served as a military complex, royal palace, residence and pantheon for the kings of Catalonia and Aragon. The monastery is located in a beautiful area with vineyards with the best grapes for Cava. It can be nice to visit the medieval town of Montblanc, which is the wine capital of this area and is only 10 km from the monastery of Poblet.
Hotel tip: Would you like a special overnight stay? Nowadays you can spend the night in the monastery of Poblet. More info and bookings.
14. Tip: Spend the night in the castle of Cardona
Have you not booked your hotels for your trip yet? Then you will probably be happy with this tip. The town of Cardona has a medieval fortified castle, the Castell de Cardona. The origin of this castle is the 9th century, partly built because of the important salt mine in Cardona. The castle has great symbolic value for the Catalans, as it was the last place in the resistance against Castilian rule. You have a magnificent view here and nowadays the castle is decorated as a "parador". The Spanish government has chosen to convert a number of unique historical locations in Spain into state hotels, of which this castle is truly a unique location.
Hotel tip: this parador is one of the most special places to stay in Catalonia! More info and reservations about the Parador. It can also be nice to take a walk through the historic center of Cardona.
15. Marimurtra botanical gardens (Blanes)
Are you near the popular seaside resort of Blanes? Then visit the hundred-year-old botanical gardens of ‘Marimurtra’. On the cliffs you have a wonderful view of the Mediterranean Sea and you can walk through Mediterranean, temperate and tropical gardens. Special in the gardens are the many cacti and succulents. Another beautiful botanical garden in the area is the Pinya de Rosa Tropical Garden.
16. Point of interest: Empúries
Empúries is a group of ruins north of l'Escala and was the site of the Greek settlement Empórion, which was later renamed Emporiae by the Romans. From this settlement by the sea, from 600 BC. ruled this region for seven centuries, partly because of the grain trade. After the decline of the city, the remains were covered by a thick layer of sand. Here you will find an archaeological museum with mosaic floors and you can take a walk among the remains of an amphitheater, thermal baths and villas.
17. Spend the night at the castle of Tortosa
In Spain, I love the paradores, the state hotels that the government has built to preserve historic buildings. In Catalonia, as far as I am concerned, there are two paradores that really stand out, firstly the aforementioned Parador de Cardona, and secondly the Parador de Tortosa located in the castle of Tortosa, which was originally built for the Moorish king Abderramán III. The 10th century castle has been carefully restored into a luxury hotel, but still retains much of its original charm. The parador is located in the Beceite Mountains and has views over the green Ebro Valley and the ancient city of Tortosa. Tortosa is a town which is crossed by the river Ebro and has a small but interesting historical center. More info and reservations of the Parador de Tortosa.
18. Things to do in Catalonia: Visit Lleida
The university city of Lleida (Spanish: Lérida) is located in the west of Catalonia. The cathedral "La Seu Vella" built in Romanesque and Gothic style and located on the hill, is the most striking landmark of the city. In addition, you can visit the medieval castle Gardeny and the town hall "La Paeria" is a historical monument with intact remains from the Middle Ages. You can easily visit the city of Lleida in a day.
Hotel tip Lleida: Are you still looking for a hotel in Lleida? Then Parador de Lleida is an absolute must see in the city center of Lleida. The atmospheric hotel is located in a beautifully renovated monastery with spacious rooms.
19. Reus & Gaudi Centre
Reus is located 13 kilometers from Tarragona and is known as the birth town of Antoni Gaudí. In the center of Reus you will find the necessary modernist buildings, including Casa Navas on the Plaza de la Mercada. For example, you can take a walk along these buildings "Ruta del Modernista" or the "Ruta del Gaudí" past buildings that played a role in Gaudí's life, such as his birthplace. You can also visit the Gaudí Centre Reus, a museum that tells the life and story behind Gaudí's works of art on five floors.
Miravet, located in a bend of the Ebro river, is a town in the province of Tarragona with only 800 inhabitants. The place mostly attracts Spanish tourists because of the Castillo de Miravet, a beautiful ruin of the castle of the Templars with beautiful views. In particular, the hike from the village to this castle is a nice climb with the breathtaking view at the castle as a reward.
21. Visit a Cava wineyard
Cava is the well-known sparkling wine that is largely produced in the area south of Barcelona, of which Penedès is the main area due to its good calcareous soil. The basis of most cavas are the Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada grape varieties. Vilafranca del Penedès is the best town to taste cavas and has with the Vinseum a small wine museum. Another nice place to visit is Sant Sadurní d'Anoia where the Codorniu Winery is located. This family business discovered cava in 1872 and you can now take a nice tour of this beautiful bodega (book online). Keep in mind that most tours at bodegas only work with reservations. More activities where a cava wineyards will be visited:
22. Lloret de Mar - Santa Clotilde Gardens
Lloret de Mar is one of the most touristic seaside resorts in Spain and is located on the Costa Brava. Especially loved by young people and non-Spaniards. Yet the place has more to offer than just the beach and the vibrant nightlife. In the city center, for example, the 15th century Església Parroquial church with its brightly colored tiles stands out. The 11th century castle of Sant Joan is located on a high cliff. Also popular are the Jardins de Santa Clotilde located at Fenals Bay. These are beautifully landscaped gardens on top of the cliff overlooking the sea, where you will walk among numerous statues, fountains and beautiful plants.
FAQ Visit Catalonia SpainWhat are the things to do in Barcelona?
The most popular sights in Barcelona are the Sagrada Familia, Park Güell and Camp Nou. In this article you can read all about the Barcelona attractions.What are the best places to visit in Catalonia?
The most popular cities in Catalonia are Barcelona, Girona and Tarragona. In this article you can read all about the Top 20 destinations in Catalonia.What are the sights in Girona?
Visit the cathedral, the city walls and the strikingly colored houses on the river. In this article you can read more about the top 10 Girona sights.What are the attractions in Tarragona?
Tarragona has a number of Roman attractions such as the amphitheater and an aqueduct. In this article an overview of the other Tarragona sights.