Situated in the extreme eastern portion of Spain, bordered by France and the blue Mediterranean, Catalonia is one of the most intriguing and engaging places to visit in Europe. Home to Barcelona, the second-largest city in Spain, it is a region apart, providing a striking contrast to the rest of the country. In fact, Catalonia is fiercely independent, and even has its own language – Catalan.
Any visit to Catalonia has to start with Barcelona. The city has some of the most beautiful architecture in Spain, including many buildings and monuments designed by the famous architect Gaudi. You will see signs of his handiwork everywhere – ranging from balconies that seem to emerge organically from the sides of buildings, through to the enormously impressive Sagrada Família. Started in 1882, this is a large basilica that combines the Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms that are the signature of Gaudi’s work. Although the church is still not finished, it has already been declared a UNESCO world heritage site.
Another area of Barcelona that is absolutely de rigueur when it comes to places to visit is La Rambla, an 8-mile-long avenue that dates back to 1440 and has served as the center of Barcelona city life since that time. The avenue is home to many markets and museums, as well as baroque palaces and even the Liceu opera house – one of the finest in the world. Step into the side streets of the Ciutat Vella – or Old City – and you will enter a warren of narrow passages that suddenly open out into spacious courtyards where people gather on warm sunny days. There are also many fine restaurants within the Ciutat Vella, as well as more reasonable establishments that serve the local cuisine. However, you need to remember that dining here is a late evening activity, as it is in much of Spain – don’t expect to find a restaurant open before 9 o’clock.
If you are looking for somewhere to stay in Barcelona, there are a number of good upscale hotels situated on the Avinguda Diagonal, a broad avenue that dissects Barcelona from west to east. However, if you want to experience Barcelona life to its fullest, consider staying right on La Rambla at somewhere like the Citadines Ramblas Barcelona – you can find out more about this on the Royal Holiday LinkedIn page.
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The attractions of Catalonia, however, are not limited to Barcelona. For instance, if you are looking for a rugged taste of the outdoors, pay a visit to the Parque Nacional de Aiguestortes, located in the wild mountainous landscape of the Pyrenees. Here you can enjoy trekking through the unique flora and fauna, or take a bike out on one of the park’s paved routes. Alternatively, visit the old town in Tossa De Mar, located about 60 miles from Barcelona. This is the only fortified medieval town still in existence along the Catalan coast, and has remained largely unchanged since the end of the 14th century. Here you will see ancient battlements, turrets and parapets surrounding a charming area of narrow cobblestone streets.
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