Dine with the stars at Barcelona’s Fabra Observatory

If you’re looking to enjoy a romantic getaway with a loved one, why not consider a holiday in Barcelona? They may say that Paris is the ‘City of Love’, but Barcelona is the ‘Capital of Romance’, and it has fast become a favourite holiday destination for lovers from across the globe.

There are plenty of romantic options in and around Barcelona for a night out for two. First, opt for booking a villa with private pool in Spain for the ultimate in luxury and relaxation, followed by a dinner underneath the stars at one of the city’s most romantic restaurants.

 

 

Dinner With Stars’ (or Sternalia) isn’t a restaurant, it’s an experience. Taking place in the summer months, availability is limited as couples from all over the world flock to Barcelona to enjoy this unique outing that includes fine dining with a view of the solar system. While cooking up a romantic dinner at your Barcelona villa is certainly a wonderful option, nothing quite beats the incredible experience of Dinner With Stars.

The Dinner With Stars experience takes place at the Fabra Observatory. Built in 1904, it is one of the world’s oldest working observatories, and the 32P/Comas Solà comet was actually discovered here. Located on Mount Tibidabo, the observatory is easy to reach from most Barcelona accommodations.

Fabra Observatory

All dishes at the Fabra Observatory are themed and take on galaxy-related names. Some of the top choices include the ‘Star Nebula’ salmon, and the ‘Textures in Cosmos’ beef tenderloin. If you’ve booked a family villa in Barcelona and have brought the little ones with you on your romantic getaway, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s also a great children’s menu here, with macaroni, French fries, and ice cream! Whether you have the kids in tow or it’s just you and your beloved, the experience is an unforgettable way to celebrate your love.

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Barcelona: Catalonia’s ‘Smart City’

Catalonia may appear to be a very quiet and historic part of the world ― and it is! ― but it also is one of the most technologically advanced hubs in Europe and is considered to be one of the world’s only ‘smart cities’. Along with destinations such as Amsterdam, Madrid, Manchester, and Stockholm, Barcelona is changing the way we live, work, and take holidays.

Image from barcinno.com.

What is a Smart City?

A smart city is a city that makes use of digital technology to improve everyday life for both residents and visitors. At some locations in Barcelona, for example, you may notice that live traffic data is transmitted to road signs to provide drivers with up-to-date, real-time information to help them determine the most efficient route. Another example is in in Stockholm where snow clearance data can be transmitted.

Smart Barcelona

How can technology help visitors have a safe and enjoyable holiday in Barcelona? The city’s ‘smart’ street lamps that illuminate when the sun goes down help improve safety in the city at night, and urban development programmes help make cities like Barcelona a great place to explore and discover.

View from Parc Guell.

Barcelona is home to an impressive fibre network which allows for excellent internet connectivity for residents and visitors, especially in the city. Many villas in Barcelona are able to offer their guests a fast and reliable internet service, although some properties in the rural parts of the region are still working to make the connection as efficient as that in the city, and have made tremendous strides in recent years.

Old & New

Catalonia is a fascinating mix of old and new, combining tradition with the latest technological advancements. This makes it one of the most interesting places to take a holiday in Spain, and allows you to enjoy a touch of history and culture while staying in a very modern and contemporary environment.


Exploring Plaça de Catalunya

Plaça de Catalunya is one of Barcelona’s most beautiful and stunning plazas, located within an easy reach of many popular sights and attractions. Large, airy, and open, there’s a true metropolitan feel here, and there is plenty for visitors to see and do in and around the square.

Old Meets New 

Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of Plaça de Catalunya is that it acts as the meeting place of the two different sides of the city: Old Barcelona and New Barcelona. To the south of the plaza, you’ll find the historic district of El Gotico (the Gothic Quarter), while to the north you’ll find the more modern, 19th-century neighbourhood of L’Eixample. Ultimately, Plaça de Catalunya is a great place for seeing just how diverse Barcelona really is.

Things to Do

From shopping for souvenirs to admiring some of the best in Catalan art, there’s lots do at the Plaza:

Shopping

If you want to bring home some souvenirs from your holiday in Spain, then Plaça de Catalunya’s main shopping centre, El Corte Ingles, is the place to go. This massive department store offers everything from toys and fashion to electronics and home decor from some of the world’s biggest and best brands.

Art

In addition to a whole host of intricate mosaics, there’s a great deal of jaw-dropping Catalan art dotted around the plaza. By simply strolling around the square, you’ll find statues by famed Catalan sculptor Josep Clarà i Ayats, and renowned Spanish painter Pablo Emilio Gargallo.

Atmosphere

Perhaps one of the best things to do at Plaça de Catalunya is simply soak up the atmosphere. This is considered to be the main meeting point in the city; a place for socialising and celebrating. Its central location means it’s easy to get to on foot or by bus or train, no matter where your Barcelona holiday rental is.


Costa Brava’s most beautiful museums

If you found your vacation rental in Costa Brava, the next step is to decide how you want to spend your time in this gorgeous, peaceful region of Catalonia. When planning your stay, here are four of the area’s top museums to give you something to ponder, plus a bit of information about each to help you make an informed decision.

Ruins of Empuries

This unique experience is called the Ruins of Empuries, which was part of both the Greek and Roman civilizations. It has more than 2,500 years of history to explore in this ancient once-city. You’ll find ruins of homes, factories, streets, an amphitheatre, a forum, a basilica, and plenty of statues, mosaics, and artwork. You can check out the Greek god of medicine statue, Asclepios, the Greek wharf, and the Archaeology Museum. Plus, this amazing historical site is surrounded by picturesque beaches with gorgeous views of the Mediterranean Sea.

Museu d’Historia de la Joguina

If you’re interested in historical toys, and especially if you have children, you are certain to love the Museu d’Historia de la Joguina. But this museum isn’t just for kids! It is located in a beautiful 19th-century home with gorgeous stained glass windows, amazing architecture, antique furniture, wrought ironwork, and a special glimpse into the life and times of 19th-century living.

Museo del Far de Tossa

There is so much to see in the seaside town of Tossa de Mar, and the Museo del Far de Tossa is no exception. It is located in the lighthouse at the top of the hill and offers not only the history of the lighthouse, sea travel, and Tossa de Mar, but also a gorgeous view of the sea and the surrounding town and beaches. You can also walk the beach, check out some of the shops, grab some delicious food, or just explore the area and take amazing pictures to help you remember your trip.

Tossa de Mar

The Municipal Museum

The Municipal Museum is one of the best art museums in Costa Brava. Not only will you enjoy the art, but you’ll love the gorgeous views. Head there for sunset and grab some amazing photos!

Now that you’re more informed about the historic region that is Costa Brava, you can plan educational and scenic day trips from your gorgeous rental villa in Costa Brava and leave with a new appreciation for Catalonia.


‘Game of Thrones’ filming spots in Barcelona and around

Are you a die-hard Game of Thrones fan? You’ll probably already know that the cast have been filming in Barcelona and in other areas of Catalonia, especially throughout Girona. Barcelona’s cobbled old town and Girona’s medieval streets make for excellent backdrops for this popular fantasy series.

If you’re keen to see these filming locations with your own eyes, here’s a DIY walking tour for you:

Begin your tour at the Tourist Information Centre in Girona. If you’re staying in a villa in Barcelona, you can catch the train directly from Barcelona Sants Station to Girona, which takes around 40 minutes. Cross the Sant Feliu Bridge, pass by the River Cafe, and head down Carrer del Bellaire. Take the steps down at Carrer del Riu Galligant, and you’ll be in the GoT ‘Old town’.

The large, imposing monastery you see before you is actually called Sant Pere de Galligants, and it’s home to the city’s archaeology museum. However, to GoT fans it’s none other than the Maesters’ citadel. Stroll around the garden, then cross the bridge and climb the stairs to Plaza del Jurats. You’ll recognise this plaza as being the theatre backdrop for some of Arya’s scenes.

By taking the stairs from the plaza, you’ll find yourself in the Arabic Baths, which is where the Braavos market scenes with Arya were filmed. Walk down Carrer de Ferran el Catolic (it eventually becomes Via Augusta) until you reach the beautiful Girona Cathedral which is, of course, the Great Sept of Baelor. The church played a huge role in the series 6 finale!

After exploring the cathedral, you’re in a great spot for strolling around the main city centre before heading back to the station to catch a train to your Barcelona accommodation. Alternatively, rent a villa on the Costa Brava, in towns such as Blanes and Lloret de Mar, which offer easy access to Girona.

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Exploring Barcelona’s El Born neighbourhood

There are many great locations to consider when choosing where to stay for your holiday in Spain, but perhaps one of the most exciting is the El Born neighbourhood. The lively, eclectic neighbourhood is located in the Ciutat Vella (Old Town), nestled between Plaça Catalunya and the beach.

About El Born

On the surface, El Born appears to be remarkably similar to the historic Gothic Quarter with its narrow, cobbled streets and old time charm. However, situated just a tiny bit further from the main city centre, El Born tends to have less of a touristy feel, making it a great place to learn more about ‘real’ local life. Despite not being within the main hub of hustle and bustle, there is still plenty to see and do in El Born, including the Picasso Museum, Ciutadella Park, and the Barcelona Zoo. El Born is also recognised as an up-and-coming ‘hip’ district, doing for Barcelona what Brooklyn did for New York City.

What to See and Do

Passeig del Born is one of the city’s top nightlife hotspots, located along the beautiful, tree-lined street. The neighbourhood is also home to some of the most breathtaking architecture in all of Spain, including the mesmerising Santa Maria del Mar church. Thanks to the presence of the Picasso Museum, there’s also a very definite artistic vibe running through the streets, and El Born has fast become a favourite Bohemian hangout.

Staying in El Born

While there may be fewer larger options (big family villas in Spain are often located in more spacious areas, for example), what you will find in El Born is a wide range of cozy and charming apartments that are full of character and personality. With rooms often located above the shops and restaurants within the pedestrianised streets, you will find stunning rooftop terraces and views of the city, mountains, and beyond.

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Barcelona’s Christmas markets

Travellers come from all over the world to the famous European Christmas markets, which are a festive blend of handmade decorations, beautiful gifts, local foods, and, of course, plenty of grog. So if you’re considering taking a holiday in Spain during December, here’s what to expect from the Christmas markets like in Barcelona.

As a winter festive location, Barcelona isn’t quite as renowned as places in Germany or Poland, for example. If you’ve visited the markets in Northern Europe in the past, you may find Barcelona’s offerings to be a little less atmospheric, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth making the trip. In fact, Christmas is actually one of the very best times in Barcelona, accompanied by winter sun, mulled wine, and sparkling cava.

There are two main markets in Barcelona, both of which are centrally located so they’re very easy to get to from your Barcelona accommodation. The biggest market (which is still relatively small by European standards) is the Santa Llúcia market which is held in the square at the front of the Barcelona Cathedral. This is an excellent place to pick up some Catalan decorations for your Christmas tree. The smaller market is located at La Sagrada Família, and is a wonderful place to peruse unique and unusual trinkets.

It’s not just the markets that make Barcelona a great holiday choice for the winter. Shops and department stores often feature amazing Christmas displays, and twinkling lights illuminate the street at dusk. So while Barcelona’s Christmas markets aren’t the biggest or most spectacular, they’re still incredibly magical, and they help make Barcelona a great year-round destination. Take a few days away from the stresses and strains of Christmas shopping back home, and enjoy a relaxing pre-Christmas break in Spain!

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The hidden coves of the Costa Brava

There are heaps of reasons to book a villa on the Costa Brava, but one of the biggest reasons is to be close to the ‘rough coast’, with its wild scenery, rugged landscape and, of course, those famous, secluded coves. While we don’t want to give away the locations of all of the great coves of the Costa Brava (that’s for you to figure out during your holiday in Spain!), here are just a few that you may want to check out for some peace and beauty.

Cala Pi

Also known as Platja del Pi, this secluded little cove is located just a short distance away from Portbou Beach. As Portbou Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the Costa Brava, many people naturally flock here, leaving Cala Pi relatively quiet and peaceful. Getting there isn’t easy — you’ll need to take the Cami de Ronda path from the main beach — but this helps keep the crowds to a minimum.

Cala Maset

Access to Cala Maset is simple (ideal for those who can’t manage the rugged Cami de Ronda path) yet Cala Maset is still a very quiet and serene spot. Why? Because the location of the beach means that it’s largely shaded throughout the day, so it’s not a favourite of the sun worshippers. However, for those who don’t mind a bit of shade, Cala Maset is fantastic and has plenty of large rocks to climb and jump from into the sea (at your own risk!).

Cala Vallpresona

This is yet another beautiful little cove that’s quite easy to get to, so why is it so quiet and secluded? Because the beach at Cala Vallpresona is largely made up of large pebbles and stones, so sunbathers can find it a little uncomfortable. However, for those who don’t mind a few rocks here and there, this is a really great place close to Tossa del Mar for those who have a Spain holiday rental in the town.

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This autumn, stop by the Platja D’Aro Beer Festival!

If you’re staying in a villa on the Costa Brava in October, there’s one very important cultural festival that you shouldn’t miss. Although it’s officially known as the Autumn Festival, this big Catalan event has become much better known as the ‘Beer Festival’ thanks to the high number of international beers on tap.

Activities 

As well as sampling more than 30 international beers, there are plenty of other activities at the Autumn Festival. One of the biggest draws to the festival is the range of artisanal produce which is available to sample and purchase (and which is great for enjoying back at your Costa Brava vacation rental at the end of the day!). There’s also live music in the form of brass bands and orchestras which you can dance along to. Don’t leave the festival without picking up a Beer Festival commemorative drinking mug!

Where to Stay

The obvious answer is to rent a house in Spain in the Platja D’Aro area, although the region can become quite crowded around the time of the festival. Thus, any villa on the Costa Brava would do, especially in the nearby towns of Palamós to the north and S’Agaró to the south.

Exploring Platja D’Aro 

Even if you’re not a beer fan, Platja D’Aro is still worth exploring. This beautiful seaside town is home to one of Catalonia’s best beaches, offering fantastic swimming opportunities. It’s also home to the Magic Park amusement park with adrenaline-pumping rides! If you’d prefer a calmer, more relaxed holiday in Spain, then strolling the beachside Passeig Maritim is the ideal activity as it is flat enough walk to walk for any age and any activity level.


Explore Catalonia’s ancient ruins

As you probably already know, Catalonia is famous for its rich history. The region is actually home to some of the best-preserved Medieval towns and villages in the world, making it a truly fascinating place to explore.

If you’re interested in delving back even further in the region’s history and learning more about the Greek and Roman eras on your next holiday in Spain, then be sure to check out some of Catalonia’s ancient ruins. From historic walled remains to first-century racecourses, the Catalonia region has plenty to uncover. Here are three of the region’s best-preserved ancient ruins that are open to the public.

Empúries 

The old town of Empúries was founded in 575 BC by the Greeks, although the town was eventually taken over by the Romans. Excavations on the town began in the 1900s, and today it’s possible to see old homes, temples, walls, and mosaics, and there’s even the Museum of MAC-Empúries which provides a little context for the ruins that you’re seeing.

The highlights are the gardens, where you can learn more about traditional Roman medicine, and the underground crypt, which has only recently opened to the public. Book a Costa Brava vacation rental or stay in L’Escala and take the pedestrianised coastal path right along the water to the town.

Tarragona Amphitheatre

Built in the 2nd century, the Tarragona Amphitheatre is one of the main attractions in this old town, which was once a thriving Roman colony known as Tarraco. Taking on a traditional colosseum appearance, it is believed that the amphitheatre could once hold up to 15,000 spectators at a time, making it one of the largest in Europe.

When Islam took over from Catholicism as the primary religion in Spain, the amphitheatre was abandoned, and over the years it has housed a church and has been used as a prison. Luckily for those taking a vacation in Spain, the theatre was somewhat recovered in recent years and today is a remarkably well-preserved site, one of many ancient ruins dotted around Tarragona.

Circ Roma

Another great location in Tarragona is Circ Roma, or the Roman Circus. Built in the first century, this was the place to see and be seen, and it played a major role in leisurely life during Roman ruling. Somewhat of an ancient alternative to the modern Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the Roman Circus was the best place in Catalonia to watch fast-action chariot races. Perhaps one of Catalonia’s best-preserved ruins, remaining inscriptions have led experts to believe that the racetrack remained in use until the fifth century, when it was abandoned.

A part of the track is still very much intact, making it a truly amazing place to explore. Tarragona is easy to reach from most villas on the Costa Dorada, but it’s also just a one hour drive from Barcelona, making it a top choice for a day trip during your Barcelona holiday.

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