Things to do in Barcelona
Nou Camp Stadium Experience (pictured), you can't mention Barcelona without mentioning football. FC Barcelona's motto is "Mes Que Un Club" (More than a Club), reflecting what this football team means to the city. With seating for almost 100,000, the Camp Nou Stadium is the largest in Europe. Some of the most famous footballers ever have played here, including Diego Maradona, Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi. So if you have time, why not go on a stadium tour to take on the magnitude of this iconic club.
The Magic Fountain of Montjuic first opened in 1929, but it had to close due to severe damage during the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s. After considerable hard work and investment, the fountain was re-opened in 1955. But it wasn't until the 1980's that the light and music were added to the dancing water formations. (Recycled water is used!)
20-minute shows are free to enter every Thursday to Saturday from 20:00 to 22:00 in the summer or 20:00 to 21:00 the rest of the year at 30-minute intervals. (Please check in case the fountain is closed for maintenance before you go.) The display is truly magical, and you will find yourself entranced waiting for the next show to begin when you had only planned to stay for one!
The Gothic Quarter juxtaposes old and new, with historic buildings and trendy bars. Wander the narrow streets and get lost in the history of this atmospheric part of Barcelona. Take a walking tour, marvel at the stunning architecture or go to a cocktail bar. There is something here for everyone! You will also find much more authentic Catalan restaurants here than you will generally find on the prominent tourist spot of La Rambla.
With its diverse geography and landscapes, from the rocky Pyrenees to the Mediterranean coastline, each producing their own local specialities, it is little wonder that the region of Catalonia is world renowned for being a bit of a foodie-lovers paradise!
From the sea to plate
600km of coastline mean there is ample opportunity to eat delicious fresh seafood in Catalonia! White fish is very popular in the Costa Brava. Some specialities include Esqueixada (a delicious salad tossed with salt cod), Suquet de Peix (a fish stew using bits of hake, monkfish, clams and mussels mixed with saffron) and the best Palamós prawns.
Hearty mountain food
The pastoral landscapes of the Pyrenees are ideal for producing tasty vegetation and fauna, giving rise to some of the finest meat, vegetable and cheese specials. Mongetes amb botifarra is a hearty sausage and beans dish, very popular in the mountains. Calçots are hugely popular, a type of onion cooked in hot ash and served with a spicy salsa sauces. And Costa Negra is a unique black cheese sour and tart in flavour.
Around 55 restaurants throughout Catalonia have 1 or more Michelin-stars, the prestigious award given to top-rated eateries. The famous Roca brothers are some of the most famous chefs in Catalonia, and their restaurant in Girona, El Celler de Can Roca, actually owns 3 Michelin stars and has been named the best restaurant in the world - twice!
Of course, you can't eat amazing food without having it accompanied by some delicious wine, and this is another area Catalonia is expert in. There are 11 Designation of Origin (DOA) wines in the region as well as 1 for cava. With over 50 wineries in the Costa Brava region alone to discover, you are sure to discover a new favourite! The Garnatxa de l’Empordà is a famous sweet wine from this region.
One of the best ways to try some Catalan specialities is to have a wander round one of the many markets. There is not only the famous Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona on the Ramblas. Try the Mercat de Palafrugell for sampling lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, the Mercat de Girona, in the central Plaza de Lleo, and the Mercat de Sant Feliu de Guixols with over 100 stalls near the sea.
Traditions and Customs of Catalonia
This fiercely independent region is home to a whole host of unique customs and traditions from the quirky to the downright crazy!
Ball de bastons - a Catalan folk dance which can be seen at most Catalan festivals. Dancers dress in white costumes with red or blue sashes and perform a unique dance by hitting wooden sticks together, accompanied by bagpipes.
Sardana - another dance which celebrates the Catalan identity and unity, where dancers join their hands in a circle and raise them as a proclamation of pride.
Els Castells - one of Catalonia's most iconic cultural events, the Els Castells are essentially "human towers". They are formed by a base (the strongest performers), the trunk, and then right at the top the anxaneta. They are performed throughout the year in different towns and cities throughout Catalonia and the crowning moment is when the anxeneta (usually a child) scrambles to the top and gives a four finger salute, said to represent the four stripes of the Catalan flag.
Cagatio - one of the slightly more wacky traditions, this happens around Christmas time when a wooden log is brought into homes around Catalonia and "fed" on orange peel and dried fruits. If taken good care of, the Cagatio (poo uncle) will bring gifts. On Christmas Day, the log is wrapped in a rug and then beaten, before presenting or "pooping" its gifts!
Els Segadors - the official national anthem of Catalonia since 1993 but dates back to 1639 when the War of the Catalans was fought against the king of Spain. Make sure you try and spot at least one of these Catalan traditions on your adventure here!
Correfoc (fire-run) - a high-energy performance which has its origins in a medieval practice called Ball de Diables where performers dress up as devils, arm themselves with pitchforks and set off fireworks in a fight of good against evil! You might see Correfoc at most major Catalan festivals.
There are many more very special and unique Catalan customs and traditions, but make sure you try and catch at least one of these whilst on your Catalan adventure!