Catalonia –Catalunya – is one of the seventeen autonomous communities of the Kingdom of Spain. Catalonia comprises four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona. Its capital city is Barcelona. Catalonia covers an area of 32,114 km² and has an official population of 7,535,251. It borders France and Andorra to the north, Aragon to the west, the Valencian Community to the south, and the Mediterranean Sea to the east (580 km coastline). The official languages are Spanish, Catalan and Aranese (Occitan). Catalonia is legally recognized as a “nationality” of Spain. The name Catalunya (Catalonia) began to be used in the 11th century in reference to the group of counties that comprised the Marca Hispanica. The origin of the term is subject to diverse interpretations. A theory suggests that Catalunya derives from the term “Land of Castles”, having evolved from the term castlà, the ruler of a castle (see castellan). This theory therefore suggests that the name Castille and Catalonia have the same etymology, though critics question this. Another theory suggests that Catalunya (Latin Gathia Launia) derives from the name Gothia (or Gauthia), “Land of the Goths”, since the Spanish March was first known as Gothia, whence Gothland > Gothlandia > Gothalania > Catalonia theoretically derived. Yet another less accepted theory points to the Lacetani, an Iberian tribe that lived in the area and whose name, due to the Roman influence, could have evolved by metathesis to Katelans and then Catalans.
Located between the sea and the mountains, with a river on either side of it, Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia. Barcelona is a lively, dynamic and active city in which history and modernity coexist alongside the historical buildings in the old quarters of the city: the Barri Gòtic, Ribera and Raval.
Barcelona is the capital and the most populous city of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain, after Madrid. It was founded over two thousand years ago and has always been known for its vocation as a major metropolis. It is located on the Mediterranean coast between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besòs and is bounded to the west by the Serra de Collserola ridge. A location which in ancient times had already made it the gateway, by sea and land, to the Iberian Peninsula and the European Continent. Barcelona is today one of the world’s leading tourist, economic and cultural centres, and its influences in commerce, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world’s major global cities. It is a major economic centre and a growing financial centre and one of Europe’s principal Mediterranean ports can be found here as well as Barcelona international airport.
Barcelona’s strategic location, outstanding transport network and air links makes it the main hub from where you can discover the immense wealth of the landscape and culture of Catalonia.
Heading north we find the landmark city of Girona, and Figueres, the vibrant capital of the Alt Empordà, with its Dalí Museum. Along the coastline of the counties of Girona we find the Costa Brava, or wild coast, which lives up to its name with a continuous succession of coves and cliffs where the pines seem to embrace the sea. The ruins of Empúries bear witness to the Greek and Roman settlements in the region.
And bordering with France, the Pyrenees: this mountain range which offers so many possibilities for experiencing and enjoying nature. The Boí Valley has a series of Romanesque churches of exceptional value, which have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Other highlights include the Núria Valley, with the shrine from which it takes its name, a pleasant spot, which is only accessible by the rack railway that runs from Ribes de Freser. Just two hours away from Barcelona you can go skiing at the ski resorts in the county of La Cerdanya.
Just 60 kilometres west of Barcelona stands the natural park of the mountain of Montserrat, with its myriad cylindrical, rounded rocks, and monastery and shrine dedicated to the Black Madonna, the patron saint of Catalonia. Nearby is the county of the Penedès, which is renowned for its wines and cava.
And 35 kilometres south of Barcelona lies the bohemian town of Sitges, on the Garraf coast, famed for its carnival and the Cau Ferrat museum founded by the multi-faceted artist Santiago Rusiñol. Sitges marks the beginning of the Costa Daurada, which stretches along the coast of Tarragona with its long beaches of fine sand.
Tarragona preserves important relics of Roman architecture, such as the city walls and amphitheatre. Heading inland, the monasteries of Poblet, Santes Creus and Vallbona de les Monges are unmissable landmarks. And if you’re looking for fun, you’ll find it at the PortAventura theme park, which will take you to the most exotic corners of the planet without travelling there.
Situated 100 km to the north of Barcelona, a short distance from the Costa Brava, Girona is one of the best- preserved historic cities in Catalonia. Highlights include the medieval Jewish Quarter, El Call, where we find the Centre Bonastruc Sa Porta with the Jewish History Museum, the Museu d’Història dels Jueus and Nahmànides Research Institute. Recommended visits: the cathedral, built between the 11th and 18th centuries where the magnificent Tapestry of the Creation is on display; the Episcopal Palace (home of the Museu d’Art de Girona); the archaeological walkway; the brightly painted houses on the banks of the River Onyar; the church of Sant Pere de Galligants (home of the Museu d’Arqueologia); the Arab Baths; the church of Sant Nicolau; the convent of Sant Domènec; and La Rambla de la Llibertat, now the city’s shopping district. You can also visit the city’s cinema museum
The Costa Brava stretches along 200 km of the Mediterranean coastline to the north of Barcelona, from Blanes to the border town of Portbou. The diversity of its countryside and the quality of its beaches have made many of its towns and villages into major tourist resorts
The Vall de Núria, on the southern slopes of the Catalan eastern Pyrenees, 120 km north of Barcelona, is the highest point in the Ribes Valley. It is surrounded by a ring of mountains, crowned by Puigmal peak (altitude 2.913 m). A rack railway runs between the town of Ribes de Freser and the Vall de Núria, via Queralbs (there are no roads to the valley and this is the only means of transport). Here you will find the Núria shrine set among landscape of breathtaking beauty.
The Vall de Boí, located in the Alta Ribagorça county, brings together the most important legacy of Catalan Romanesque architecture, which has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Examples are the churches of Sant Climent de Taüll and Santa Maria de Taüll, with their magnificent ensembles of frescoes, which currently form part of the holdings of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC). Other churches in the Vall de Boí include Santa Eulàlia d’Erill-la-Vall, Sant Feliu de Barruera, Sant Joan de Boí, Santa Maria del Coll, Santa Maria de Cardet, Santa Maria de Viu de Llevanta, Corroncui, and the beautiful porticoed Santa Maria de Durro.
A number of architects and artists worked in Reus – the town where the architectural genius Antoni Gaudí was born and grew up – and made the town into a veritable showcase of modernisme. Although Gaudí retained strong links with his birthplace, it was Lluís Domènech i Montaner who left his firm imprint in Reus, with the building of the Institut Pere Mata, the Casa Rull, the Casa Gasull and the Casa Navàs, The Gaudí Centre Reus is the new, permanent interactive exhibition about the work and figure of the architect. It is housed in a modern building in the Plaça Mercadal, in the city centre.
The Central Market of Sabadell (Catalonia, Spain) is a large building designed between 1927 and 1930 by local architect Josep Renom i Costa, spanning both the “monumentalism” typical of the construction craze at the end of Miguel Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship and the beginning of the Second Spanish Republic.
Santa Coloma de Gramenet is a city in Catalonia, Spain. It is situated on the south-east side of the Litoral range, with the Puig Castellar (299 m) as its highest point, on the left bank of the Besòs river: the municipalities of Sant Adrià de Besòs and Badalona separate it from the coast.
The Pyrenees and the Mediterranean have been the scene of world history for thousands of years. The foothills of the Pyrenees contain a rich treasure of historical monuments, as well as a large number of historic religious sites with a rich variety of sacred art.
Three Cistercian monasteries of outstanding interest: Santes Creus, Poblet and Vallbona de les Monges, are the main landmarks on a trail that also visits the surrounding medieval villages. A multi-ticket is available providing admission to the three monasteries.
Santes Creus Monastery
The monastery was founded in 1160, and fortified in the 14th century. It is the only monastery on the Cistercian trail that is not the home of a religious community. It is located in the municipal borough of Aiguamúrcia.
Founded in 1150, Poblet is the largest inhabited Cistercian monastery in Europe. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1991. The church houses the tombs of the kings and queens of Aragon. Poblet is located in the municipal borough of Vimbodí.
Santa Maria de Vallbona Monastery
The monastery was fully integrated into the Cistercian Order in 1176. It is the only convent on the trail and is unique because it has been occupied by a community of nuns, without interruption, for over 800 years. Small, with a unique beauty, it is the clearest manifestation of the importance of women during the Middle Ages. It is located in the municipal borough of Vallbona de les Monges
Catalonia has many protected areas of environmental importance with interesting landscapes, covering almost 6,500 km2, approximately one fifth of the region’s total surface area
Aigüestortes National Park and Sant Maurici lake
Located in the Lleida Pyrenees, Aigüestortes is one of Spain’s 18 national parks. The park stands high in the mountains and comprises a natural landscape of extraordinary beauty. It has been a protected site since 1951. There are two ways of reaching the park: from Espot Valley, in the Pallars Sobirà county, and from Boí Valley, in the Alta Ribagorça.
Aiguamolls or wetlands of the Empordà
An extensive marshy area in the northern Costa Brava, located between Empúries and Roses, comprising a series of lakes and lagoons, meadows and fields which become flooded at the confluence of the Muga and Fluvià rivers. The wetland reserve provides a privileged habitat for waterfowl and migrating birds. It is also an excellent place for birdwatching at certain times of the year.
The Ebro Delta Natural Park is Catalonia’s largest wetland area, spanning the mouth of the Ebro river, at the southernmost point of the region. It is one of the most important bird habitats in the Mediterranean.
Volcanic zone of La Garrotxa
Located in the inland county of La Garrotxa, a former volcanic area which is highly valued by geologists. It is the finest example of a volcanic landscape in the Iberian Peninsula, containing some 40 volcanic cones and over 20 basaltic lava flows. The relief of the site, the soil and climate provide varied vegetation, which is frequently lush, with holm oak and standard oak groves and beech woods of exceptional value for the landscape.
The Medes Islands Marine Reserve
The Medes Islands form a small archipelago that stands just off the Costa Brava coastline, opposite the town of L’Estartit. The seabed is of exceptional value and features important types of seaweed, coral and starfish, as well as many other species.
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