Exploring World Heritage Sites in Catalonia

For travellers staying in an apartment in Barcelona, there is not one but seven amazing UNESCO World Heritage Sites located in and around the city that all were designed by architect and modernist Antoni Gaudí. See below for just a few of these must-see marvels in art and architecture.

Poblet Monastery

One of Spain’s oldest abbeys, the Poblet Monastery is located in the lush green village of Vimbodí. The architecture and design, both inside and out, are breathtaking, but what really makes it stand out is that it’s actually one of the most complete Cistercian abbeys in the entire world. There are usually two tours of the abbey each day, and the monastery can be visited from your Barcelona villa as a day trip. You could also consider a Catalonia villa rental in Reus or Tarragona, which are a little closer.

Palau de la Música Catalana

Palau de la Música Catalana

This famous concert hall is one of the only World Heritage Sites in the centre of Barcelona that wasn’t designed by Gaudí. Instead, it was designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, who was instrumental in the 19th-century revival of Catalan culture. Take a guided tour to learn more, or book tickets to see a performance of local and international operas and symphonies, as well as lectures and conferences, too. Located right in the heart of historic Ciutat Vella (Old Town), it’s quick and easy to reach from many villas in Barcelona.

Hospital de Sant Pau

This World Heritage Site is located very close to another: Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia. A working hospital until fairly recently — 2009 — today the site is a popular museum and cultural centre attracting both locals and visitors, and it’s just as impressive on the outside as it is on the inside, designed in the classic Art Nouveau style. The hospital is situated in the El Guinardó neighbourhood, where you’ll find many luxury Barcelona holiday rentals, as well as great sights and attractions, like the Guinardó municipal park.

Hospital de Sant Pau

Tárraco

Although the town is today known as Tarragona, it was once referred to as Tárraco, and was one of the country’s most prominent Roman centres. The archaeological remains of Tárraco were declared a World Heritage Site in 2000, and are well worth visiting. It takes slightly more than one hour to drive from your Barcelona accommodation to Tarragona, and you pass through many other beautiful places along the way, including the fantastic coastal resorts of Sitges and Vilanova which are renowned for their beaches.


There’s more to Barcelona than Barcelona!

If you’re thinking about taking a vacation in Barcelona, will you visit the city itself, or will you see what else the province of Barcelona has to offer? Contrary to popular belief, Barcelona isn’t just a city; it’s also one of Catalonia’s four provinces, and there’s much more to the area than simply the city. In fact, the province is bursting with culture, history, and plenty of scenery.

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City Life

Along with Barcelona, there’s also a number of other busy, bustling cities within Barcelona province that demonstrate just how lively and active things can be in Catalonia. If you love the full, hectic atmosphere of major cities, then book a villa in Barcelona province in the city of Hospitalet de Llobregat, or “L’Hospitalet” for short, which is actually one of the most densely packed cities in all of Europe! While there’s not quite as much to do here as there is in the city of Barcelona, L’Hospitalet certainly has one mightily impressive skyline with some of the tallest skyscrapers in all of Catalonia.

For a completely different side to city life, try another city location in Barcelona province: Mataró. This is a quieter, compact city that’s very easy to navigate on foot, and is a little more laidback than L’Hospitalet or Barcelona. The main sights are the Roman ruins and the Puig i Cadafalch architecture. It’s located south of the Costa Brava, so you can easily visit Mataró from your Costa Brava vacation rental.

Sitges.

Mediterranean Beauty

Of course, many people who take a holiday in Spain want sun, sea, and sand, and Barcelona province has plenty! As well as the fascinating and historic cities, there’s also a number of smaller coastal resorts that scream “Mediterranean!”. Sitges is one of these areas, and it’s one of the most popular holiday destinations in Catalonia. It offers plenty for visitors, including sandy beaches, cultural museums, seafront restaurants, and luxury Costa Dorada holiday rentals overlooking the famous golden coast.

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Ecotourism in Catalonia

Many people dream about swimming with dolphins, but what about swimming with bluefin tuna? Ecotourism is becoming a huge attraction for people who take a holiday in Spain, and the region of Catalonia is ripe with such opportunities.

Ecotourism

The idea behind ecotourism is to encourage visitors to look after and care for the environment, teaching them more about the local area, its vulnerabilities, and demonstrating how we can all help to do our part for the environment. Tuna tours take place in the Terres de l’Ebre region of Catalonia, where it’s possible to not only swim with endangered bluefin tuna, but also to learn more about sustainable fishing methods.

The Tuna Tour

The Tuna Tour leaves from Ametlla de Mar for a 30-minute catamaran ride into the depths of the Mediterranean Sea. Sailing away, you’ll get a great view of the coastline, as well as the beautiful villas on the Costa Dorada. The swimming season lasts from June to October, so plan your trip accordingly.

Although this is open-sea swimming in the Mediterranean, the tuna pool is completely enclosed making it safe for both swimmers and the fish. You’ll be provided with a wetsuit so you can keep your swimsuit clean and dry, ready to throw on once you get back to your villa with private pool on the Costa Dorada!

Ametlla de Mar

If a Costa Dorada vacation rental sounds ideal, then consider staying in Ametlla de Mar, a southern town with gorgeous beaches, plenty of watersports, great museums, a few castles, and truly fantastic views. As one of Catalonia’s primary fishing ports, the local seafood is delicious (and much of it is sustainable, too!). Ametlla de Mar is big enough for couples and families to enjoy a range of activities, while also basking in the small fishing town feel.

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The best museums and galleries in Barcelona

Barcelona is packed with places to visit if you feel like accepting some culture into your life. The amount of world-class art galleries and museums the city has to offer is staggering. Capture your imagination in the National Museum of Modern Art of Catalunya or if you have a penchant for all things maritime with a dash of Gothic architecture, head to the Maritime Museum. Wherever you wish to visit during your stay, there is a place to suit your tastes close to your Barcelona accommodation.

MNAC – Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
This is one of the world’s grandest museums, showcasing a variety of Catalan artwork that ranges from the Romanesque period to Gothic art and Modernism.

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Museum of History of the City – Museu d’Historia de la Ciutat
This museum tells the tale of the ancient city of Barcelona and explores her drainage systems, public baths, and even wine storage areas. You can also revel in Palau Reial, a former Royal Palace where you can admire the 14th-century banquet hall.

Maritime Museum – Museu Maritim
In days of yore much of Barcelona’s prosperity was dependent on trade from the sea. These ancient Gothic shipyards give a sense of the adventure and history of the area from the age of rafts to steam. There is also a full-size replica of the flagship belonging Don Juan of Austria. The story brings to life the existence of volunteers, prisoners, and slaves who lived aboard the ship.

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Museum of Contemporary Art Barcelona – Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona
The expanding art collection at MACBA begins in a Gothic chapel and extends across the plaza into a glistening building of white. This museum showcases the best international, Catalan, and Spanish contemporary works of art. In addition to the temporary collections, there are also 1,600 pieces in the museums own collection, so they have to rotate the artwork.

Fundacio Antoni Tapies
If you have seen Gaudi and wish to delve deeper into the architecture and artwork of other famous Catalan visionaries, here is your chance. This foundation experiments with Catalonias Modernist art for which the city is renowned. The building itself is a delight to behold, with Tapies designing the structure to reflect his own mind at the time. Tapies political messages are hidden in his works; they are not easily decipherable but admirers can try to discover the meanings behind the collection.

Wherever you plan on visiting during your stay, there are museums and galleries on every street corner of the city. You are sure to find one close to your Barcelona holiday rental that fascinates and mesmerizes.

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Blanes: The gateway to the Costa Brava

Blanes was originally an old fishing town located approximately one hour north of Barcelona. The modern-day beach town is also just 50 minutes from Girona making it easily accessible from both of the region’s major airports. If you rent a villa on the Costa Brava it’s the ideal place to explore with all of the family. With over 4 kilometres of sandy beaches, characterful coves, and a town centre steeped in history, it is worth adding a day here to your travel itinerary.

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The Beach

The main attraction in Blanes for families is the beach. A pretty promenade flanks the entire coastline which is dotted with shops, bars, and restaurants. On Cala de San Francesc and Playa de Sabanell you can sign up for boats trips, hire sun loungers, and indulge in a multitude of water sports such as windsurfing, paragliding, sailing, and jet-skiing. Playa de Capellans is perfect for diving as the area of Santa Ana Point is particularly abundant with marine life.

 

The Gardens

Blanes is blessed with two wonderful botanical gardens with more than 11,000 species of plants such as aloes, cacti, and yucca palm plants. These gardens, popular with visitors to the town, exide natural beauty, shade, and seclusion which contrasts with the hustle and bustle of Blanes.

 

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The Culture

In addition to the archaeological ruins in the town centre and the myriad of shops, restaurants, and local bars, Blanes also hosts many markets and festivals throughout the year. Climb the hillside to the Castle of San Juan to visit the chapel and fortress, and enjoy views over the town, golden beaches, and azure Mediterranean Sea. If you do climb the steep walk to the top, remember to bring plenty of sunscreen as there aren’t many shaded areas – and don’t forget your camera!

If you are staying close to Blanes or a short drive or train ride away, take a day trip from your Costa Brava vacation rental to the charming coastal city of Blanes.


Summer festivals in Catalonia

The Catalans love their festivals! They fully immerse themselves in the wonderful spectacles, firework displays, street parades and party atmosphere. Many famous festivals such as Easter parades, town fiestas, Saints´ days, and flower displays can be enjoyed all over Spain. Specifically, the region of Catalonia has its own incredible festivals held throughout the year. Here are a few dates to put on your calendar to ensure you reserve your vacation rental in Spain and don’t miss any of the fun!

 

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JUNE

In the coastal resort town of L’Estartit you can enjoy a wonderful Catalan folk music and Sardana dancing festival held between the 15th and 17th of June. It’s a wonderful way to experience the local music and dancing as all the residents take to the streets to enjoy the party atmosphere.

Also held around the 23rd June in all major towns and villages on the coast is the festival of Sant Joan, a summer solstice celebration where bonfires are lit on the beaches and in town squares, firework displays go off over the sea, and music echoes through ancient streets all through the night.

JULY

One of the most popular festivals you shouldn’t omit when visiting Catalonia is the Habanera. Named after a genre of music brought back from the Caribbean by sailors from the region, these are traditional fisherman songs which are sung in the Costa Brava villages. Every first weekend in July ,the Habanera comes to life in the pretty village of Calella de Palafrugell. Fisherman sail into the picturesque bay on their boats singing sea shanties – a warming drink of cremat (rum set alight) is offered on their arrival to the shore.

The evenings are spent on the sandy beaches and in local bodegas, dim lights illuminating the boats as they continue to sail into the cove. Songs are sung and visitors are more than welcome.

 

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AUGUST

If you are staying in the region during the month of August, head to see the Habaneras at Portbou, Sa Riera and other areas along the Costa Brava. In L’Escala during the last weekend of August you can enjoy the Festival of Giants – men and women dressed as giants parade the streets in a weekend full of fun and laughter.

SEPTEMBER

The myriad of festivals continue into September. Take a trip to Begur where the Indianos Colonial Fair occurs. During the 1800s many people of Begur began a pilgrimage to the new world to seek their fortune. Many townsfolk remained there building business and colonial mansions where they settled with their families. This festival celebrates the town’s ancestry connection with the Caribbean island of Cuba and the people who left from Begur to experience a different slice of life.

In the beautiful coastal town of Cadaques you can enjoy the summer festival, Catalan folk dancing, music, activities and games for children and plenty of firework displays.
The Catalan National Holiday is held on the 11th of the month in most towns and villages across all of Catalonia. The date commemorates the end of the siege of Barcelona by the Spanish.

If you are planning on reserving a Costa Brava vacation rental, this summer these are just a few of the local events you won’t want to miss.


Cool off in Catalonia´s best water parks

Catalonia, Spain is famous for being family friendly, and their many water parks are no exception. A plethora of attractions await from dolphinariums (dolphin aquariums) to swimming pools and kamikaze water slides.  If you are renting a villa with private pool on the Costa Brava or you are staying in a Costa Dorada vacation rental you have many options when it comes to finding a water park to visit in your area. Here is a short guide to the water parks within traveling distance from your villa in Spain.

 

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Costa Brava
Marineland Catalunya
Marineland Catalunya is one of the most popular water parks on the Costa Brava. Located in Palafolls near the seaside resort of Malgrat de Mar, Marineland will keep all of the children (and adults) entertained throughout the day. There is a free shuttle bus which runs from the popular towns of Lloret de Mar, Blanes, Malgrat de Mar, Santa Susana, Pineda and Calella. Expect to see exciting dolphin shows, a myriad of exotic birds, sea lions and a wide selection of water slides and wave pools. If you have a child celebrating a birthday during your trip, let the park know in advance and the park entertainers will organise something special for the birthday boy or girl!

AquaBrava
The AquaBrava waterpark is located in Roses in the northern Costa Brava, while Marineland caters for the south of the area, Aquabrava is perfectly located to visit if you are staying near L’Estartit, Llafranc and Calella de Palafrugell. The park hosts 19 amazing rides with wild rivers, relaxation pools and twisting, undulating water slides. Their newest attraction is the Cobra water ride, which will take your breath away! For younger children there is also Tropic Island and Kids Lagoon, perfect for the toddlers in your family.

Costa Maresme
Illa Fantasia
Illa Fantasia is a vibrant water park set on the Costa Maresme, approximately one hour north of Barcelona by train. With more than 20 water slides and three huge swimming pools, you will find many places to chill out and cool down during the hot summer days. Adults can lounge in the sun or under a shady canopy as the kids hit the water slides. The park´s picnic areas make it easy to bring your own food prepared in your Barcelona holiday rental, so there is no need for any additional expense. There is also a supermarket right next to the park if you wanted to shop for some essentials just before you enter the park.

Costa Dorada
Aquopolis
Aquopolis is located in La Pineda near Tarragona, and you can travel here from Cambrils, Salou and Sitges via bus. If you seek high excitement check out the Hurricane, Boomerang and the Black Hole which is a wild water slide in the dark! If you have a competitive streak, challenge the family to a speed race where you can all compete against each other on the water slides. There are also many relaxing wave pools and river rapids to enjoy together. The children’s mini park caters for the tiny tots, too.

With the plethora of water parks located up and down the coastline in Spain, you will definitely find one close to your Spain vacation rental!


Barcelona: An exhilarating place, both inside and out(doors)

Finding excitement in Barcelona is not just for those who love a big city; there are a multitude of different outdoor activities that this amazing area has to offer during your holiday.

 

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Of course, Barcelona´s beaches need no explanation: With more than 6 kilometers of bright blue Mediterranean shoreline, the Barcelona beach is a classic outdoor option. It seems like seven wonders of the world. What makes this beach truly special is the array of art and activities that are available such as the Biblioplatja (beach library) where you can borrow reading books to help you pass the time as you soak up the sun.

 

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If you want a more active beach experience, you can exercise on the outdoor gyms and admire the famous art and architecture that line the coast. While you´re at it, you can even take a windsurfing course on the Mediterranean Sea at Base Naútica! When it comes to surfing and skating, Barcelona is legendary. The large MACBA skate park in Raval district will provide an unforgettable skating experience.

 

If you´re into rock climbing or hiking, Barcelona´s very own Montjuïc serves as one of the best opportunities in the city to experience stunning Spanish scenery. At the top of the mountain, there is a beautiful castle that turns into a unique outdoor cinema in July.

 

You can also escape the buzz of the city street to relax in a row boat in Parc de la Ciutadella, surrounded by ornamental gardens and Gaudi´s grandiose waterfall. There are also urban safaris offered by the Jane Goodall Institute that are fun for all ages, and show off the incredible flora and fauna that bless the region.

 

If you prefer more relaxing activities, you can observe Sardanes, Catalonia´s national dance, in Plaça de Catedral. It involves gently bobbing in a linked circle of people, and it can seem hypnotizing when it is performed with large group. As well as dancing, Barcelona has enjoyable music concerts in Parc Central de Poblenou and El Turó Park.

 

Clearly, Barcelona has a wide array of activities to please all tastes. For this reason, Barcelona remains unmatched as the most well-rounded vacation destination!


Helpful tips for holiday travel with a group

Holidays can be hectic: deciding what to pack, organizing transportation, and arranging accomodation can all be holiday stressors. When traveling with your friends or family, follow the tips below to ensure that you next vacation is as stress-free as possible.

 

Plan, plan, plan. Travel can get crazy once you’re on the road. Bring the group together before you depart to draft a tentative plan for your holiday. While you’re at it, draft a Plan B in case weather or unforeseen circumstances get in the way. Spain is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.

 

Search for group discounts. Loosen your travel budget by looking for group discounts for accomodation, excursions, and vehicle rentals.

 

Take time for yourself.
Take time for yourself.

 

Take private time. When you’re not used to people around you 24/7, it’s perfectly normal to get a bit overwhelmed when traveling with a group. Take a step away from the group if you need to and seek out relaxing activities.

 

 

Communication is key. Telling your travel mates about what you want to see and do will help you learn who shares your desires and can help the group organize the agenda. If problems arise, get them out in the open right away so that the issues do not weigh on the group throughout your holiday.


Fun family activities during your Spain holiday

While on holiday with family and friends, children can get restless, and sometimes the beach isn’t enough to compete with their tireless spirits. Parents, you are in luck! We are providing a list of activities that both children and the adults can enjoy together. It is like watching one of the 7 wonders of the world.

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Amusement Parks are obvious entertainment options that offer kilometers of thrilling attractions. One of the notable amusement parks in Catalonia is PortAventura. This adventure park in Salou, Costa Dorada, is both a theme park and a water park, all in one. At the Costa Caribe Aquatic Park in PortAventura, you can go water rafting, slip and slide downs water slides, or spend the day lounging by the water. Its one-hour distance from Barcelona makes it an accessible day trip destination.

 

If you´re keen to explore other water parks to keep cool under the Spanish sun, you might consider Aquopolis Costa Dorada or Water World in Lloret de Mar. Both parks have various rides and attractions for all ages and offer ultimate refreshment during the hot summer days.

 

Lovers of the outdoors will enjoy Arbre Aventura Park and Gnomo Park. For children with adventurous spirits, Arbre Aventura Park has zip lines, suspension bridges, balance logs, and networks connecting between trees to challenge your athleticism. Gnomo Park is a movie-themed park set in a pine forest with obstacle courses, indoor playgrounds, and even film screenings.

 

For calmer days, the city of Barcelona has abundant attractions that will bring out children´s curiosity and wonderment.

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The Barcelona Aquarium and the Barcelona Zoo are perfect for exploring and snapping photos with the animals. Those with a sweet tooth and imaginative spirit will delight in the Chocolate Museum. If the history of chocolate is not educational enough for you, there is also CosmoCaixa Barcelona, a hands-on science museum that features exhibits like the “Flooded Forest” and the “Room of Matter.

 

Regardless of what you choose to do, take advantage of this precious time with your family as you create memories that will last a lifetime!

 

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