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Catalonia has a beautiful coastline with great beaches, picturesque seaside villages and some great beach resorts. Couple this with the magnificent city of Barcelona with its incredible architecture; quaint medieval villages; art and architecture by Salvador Dali and Anton Gaudi; and gastronomic treats including some of the world's best restaurants and you see why this is one of Spain's most popular tourist destinations.
Catalonia tourist sites and places to visit
For a summary of the most popular sights in Catalonia see also Catalonia places to visit.
Catalonia, also known as Catalunya (or Cataluna in Castilian Spanish) is at the north-eastern tip of Spain. Its capital, Barcelona is a vibrant city with superb museums and art galeries, many examples of the architecture of Antoni Gaudi, attractive shopping boulevards and a lively night life.
With fabulous beaches, the incredible city of Barcelona, many artistic and architectural treasures and lots of wonderful little towns and villages there is a lot to see. Too much to discover in just a fortnight!
Below we introduce you to the four provinces of Catalonia and offer suggestions as to the highlights in each to help you get the most from your holiday in Catalonia.
Girona province - north eastern Catalonia
The beautiful coast of the Girona province is known as the Costa Brava and is home to some great beaches and beautiful coastal towns and villages. Inland are some historic medieval villages and the charming city of Girona.
The Costa Brava, 'wild coast', is a beautiful, rugged, strech of coast and this area has a rich medieval history, beautiful scenery and a great artistic heritage. It has been voted one of the "Best of the World Destinations in 2012" by National Geographic Traveler Magazine and deservedly so.
With pretty fishing villages like Calella de Palafrugell and attractive larger resorts like the lovely Tossa de Mar the coastal area has something to delight everyone. Palamos is a port town and a busy resort and Begur is a lovely village on the Costa Brava coast.
L'Estartit is a popular resort in the middle of the Girona province and nearby are the ancient ruins of Empuries. Roses is an ancient Greek settlement and is now the biggest resort on this stretch of coast. Lloret de Mar is another large resort and nearby Water World is fun for the family.
Near to Calella de Palagrugell are the Jardins de Cap Roig which are stunning gardens in a beautiful cliff-top location with sweeping views over the sea.
Inland The city of Girona makes for a wonderful excursion of even a pleasant weekend-break taking advantage of cheap flights to Girona, and the medieval town of Besalu is a real treat. Also the lovely village of Peratallada is considered one of the most beautiful villages of Spain. Pals is a lovely medieval town inland of Begur.
Whether you are an art lover or not the the Salvador Dali museum at Figueres is definitely not to be missed. His seaside home at Portlligat near Cadaques is also delightful and Dali fans will also want to see his former home in Pubol castle.
Close to Figueres is Castello d'Empuries - an interesting medieval village with a huge church.
The countryside in the Gironde province is also a treat and a trip to Olot, Hostalets-de-Bas and Santa Pau will allow you to enjoy the volcanic countryside in the area. This area is known as the La Garrotxa volcanic area and is a nature reserve.
There is also a nature reserve, the Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de l'Emporda which is worth a visit especially for fans of bird-watching. Blanes, a must for garden lovers with the Blanes' Botanical Garden, the Jardi Botanic Mar i Murtra, designed by Karl Faust in 1928.
Skiing is possible in the Catalan pyrenees in the north of this area.
See the Detailed Costa Brava guide for lots more highlights and attractions.
Barcelona province - eastern Catalonia
The vibrant city of Barcelona is one of Spain's top destinations and this along with the miles of sandy beaches along the Costa Dorada make the province of Barcelona a great holiday destination.
South of the Costa Brava you get to the extraordinary coastal city of Barcelona with its medieval, Modernista and modern architecture and many architectural treasures including the many buildings by Anton Gaudi. An easy trip from Barcelona is the beautiful Montserrat Monastery. There is another beautiful monastery at Saint Cugat del Valles, a little inland from Barcelona.
However whilst Barcelona is a must, the region as a whole is diverse and beautiful. With a beautiful coastline, mountains, plains and forests there is something for everyone.
North of Barcelona are the coastal towns of Calella, Santa Susanna and Mataro. Canet de Mar has great beaches coupled with some great Modernista buildings.
South of Barcelona on the Costa del Garraf is the coastal town of Castelldefels overlooked by the castle of Fels. Sitges is another popular and attractive resort.
Inland in the province is the historic town of Vic with its impressive cathedral. Also be sure to visit Cardona with its wonderful castle - now a luxury parador.
Tarragona province - southern Catalonia
The Roman ruins at Tarragona, the 'Gold Coast' and Europe's biggest theme park are just some of the attractions for visitors to Tarragona Province.
Called the Gold Coast for its long sandy beaches the Costa Dorada (Costa Daurada) runs south of Barcelona to the Delta de L'Ebre, a large nature reserve. Salou is the largest of the resorts on the Costa Dorada. This is next to Port Aventura - one of the biggest theme parks in Europe. Visit also the coastal towns of El Vendrell, El Perello, Alcanar and L'Ametlla de Mar.
Inland of Tarragona is the historic town of Santa Coloma de Queralt with many attractive buildings to admire. Also the beatuiful walled town of Montblanc.
Lleida province - western Catalonia
Beautiful mountain scenery, a National park and two nature reserves makes this department a favourite with skiers and walkers.
The Pyrenees, the Aigüestortes y Estany de Sant Maurici National Park and the nature reserves in this area are the main interest with various sports and birdwatching being popular activities.
Whilst here be sure to visit the splendid medieval walled village of Montfalco Murallat. Balaguer is a lovely small town in a stunning location and has some great buildings to explore. Espot is both a beautiful town and an excellent ski-resort.
Tremp, with its attractive historic centre, makes an excellent base for walkers and climbers and Solsona is an ancient town with the remains of its moated fortifications.
The city of Lleida (Lerida) has an attractive historic centre and a lovely cathedral.
Catalonia tourism and sightseeing
Museums in Catalonia
Salvador Dali Museum, Teatre-Museu Dali, in Figueres displays Dali artwork
Casa Museu Castell Gala Dali, in Pubol, a medieval castle Dali bought for his wife Gala and containing artworks and furniture Dali gave to Gala
Casa Museu Salvador Dali, near Cadaques, Dali and Gala's home created from a number of fishermen's huts
Monasteries in Catalonia
Monestir de Santes Creus
Monestir de Santa Maria, Ripoll
Monestir de Vallbona de les Monges
Take the 'Cistercian Monastery Route' for a lovely scenic route including the monasteries.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Catalonia
World Heritage sites in Catalonia
Catalan Romanesque Churches at Vall de Boí
Poblet Monastery, Poblet, Tarragona province
Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona
Rock Art of the Mediterranean Basin on the Iberian Peninsula
Works of Antoni Gaudi
Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
Parc Güell, Barcelona
Palau Güell, Barcelona
Casa Milà, Barcelona
Parc Naciona, Aigüestortes
The National Park of Aiguestortes is the only National Park in Catalonia. It is a mountainous area in the Spannish Pyrenees and contains some of the most spectacular scenery to be seen in the Pyrenees. The park covers an area of more than 100 square kilometres. Lakes, tarns, waterfalls and forest of fir, silver birch and beech can all be seen.
This Park has been designated as both a RAMSAR site and an Important Bird Area. The Park is built on marshy land and shelters predominantly aquatic birds. More than 300 different species have been sighted here.
Parc Natural de la Zona Volcanica de la Garrotxa
This park contains cones of thirty extinct volcanoes and is a beautiful and interesting area.
Skiing in Catalonia
Vielha, modern ski resort in the Vall d'Aran
Baqueira Beret, one of the best ski resorts in Spain
La Masella and Boi-Taull for intermediates and advanced skiers
Nuria, Port-Aine and Super Espot are best for beginners and famillies
Paradors in Catalonia
Parador de Aiguablava - Aiguablava
Parador de Arties - Arties
Parador de Cardona - Cardona
Parador de la Seu d'Urgell - Seu d'Urgell
Parador de Tortosa - Tortosa
Parador de Vic-Sau - Vic Sau
Parador de Vielha - Vielha