Things to see & do in Catalonia

Catalonia feels like a country apart from the rest of Spain. You’ll find the Catalan language on menus, signposts and brochures, while the local inhabitants often speak of Spain as if it’s a foreign country. Its most famous attraction is, of course, Barcelona, and the shores of the Costa Brava are high on the tourist agenda. But to get a true flavour of the region, you have to head away from the city and coastal resorts.
A Catalonia holiday specialist will introduce you to the north, where you’ll find the wild backdrop of the Pyrenees. Or the south, which hides the Roman ruins of Tarragona and the rice paddies, forests, wildflower meadows and mountains of the little-known Ebro Delta. Read on to discover our Catalonia holiday highlights.

Tours on two wheels

Pedalling the peaks and pathways is a rewarding way to pass the time in Catalonia, and there’s a healthy clutch of cycling holidays that allow you to explore the countryside and coastline. One of the best mountain biking spots in the world, Catalonia frequently plays host to international teams who come to train in its varied terrain. But novices shouldn’t be put off; roads are quiet and there are plateaus and the perfectly flat Ebro Delta, as well as plenty of off-road tracks, including the Greenways – a network of disused railway lines that have been converted into walking and cycling trails.

Most cycling holidays in Catalonia are self guided. You’ll either be based in one spot, leaving your base to explore a different area every day, or you’ll move from point to point. In case of the latter, you’ll receive comprehensive maps, 24-hour support and convenient luggage transfers between (small, locally owned) hotels to ensure that you can relax and enjoy the ride. The fact that you can go at your own pace makes these holidays an excellent choice for families, too.

You’ll also have time to take it easy, stopping to take a dip in the sea, tour a vineyard, visit a cheese producer, and drink your fill of history and culture. You could head inland, exploring mountains, farmland, medieval villages and ancient sites, or make the seaside the focus of your touring, exploring an untouched coastline a world away from Catalonia’s touristy resorts.

Activity holidays

To inject some adrenalin into your Catalan capers, opt for an activity break. On a multi activity holiday you could end up horse riding one day, kayaking the next and doing a rope course the day after that, with plenty of biking, hiking and swimming thrown in too. Or you could go hardcore and spend a week doing triathlon prep. When you travel with a Catalan holiday specialist, the organising is all done for you, so you’re free to enjoy your adventure.
Activity breaks are well suited to families, with activities tailored to suit the ages and abilities of your brood. Meanwhile, accessible activity holidays might offer you a ground floor bedroom in a country house hotel close to the Paralympic base of Banyoles Lake.

Walking

Catalonia’s walking trails pass along rugged cliffs, up snow-capped mountains, and along disused railway lines, with stop-off points at ancient monasteries, pretty coves and flamingo-filled wetlands along the way. The majority of Catalonia walking holidays are self guided, so you’ll be given detailed maps, restaurant recommendations, sightseeing tips and personally tailored itineraries, while being able to move at your own pace.

You might be based in one spot, going out to explore a different area each day, but returning to the same hotel at night. Or you might walk from hotel to hotel, with your luggage transported for you. Accommodation ranges from boutique hotels in medieval villages and converted farmhouses, to four-star beachfront hotels.

Getting acquainted with the past

History abounds in this proud and unique corner of Spain. Consider giving Barcelona a break, though – its residents have suffered through relentless overtourism in recent years. Instead, seek out other history-rich spots that offer beauty minus the beastly crowds.

Some 45km northwest of Barcelona, Montserrat Monastery dates back to the 11th century and stands guard over the surrounding plains from a height of 1,236m. To the northeast of Barcelona, meanwhile, the 9th-century walls of Girona hide a city with plenty of charm. Parts of the city date back to Roman times and there’s a large medieval quarter.

South of Barcelona, the city of Tarragona holds numerous Roman ruins, including a coliseum. The mountainous province of Lleida offers not just jaw-dropping Pyrenean scenery, but also fascinating ancient architecture, some of which is UNESCO rated, including the Boí Valley with its early Romanesque churches.

Our top Spain Holiday

Catalonia family self guided cycling holiday, Spain

Catalonia family self guided cycling holiday, Spain

Customised road cycling tour in Girona, Catalonia

From €306 to €425 8 days ex flights
Tailor made:
This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Spain or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Family holidays

Travelling in Catalonia with kids couldn't be easier. If you're restricted to the July and August summer holidays, a Spanish holiday specialist can find you a holiday in the milder climes of the Pyrenees. And as with all of Spain, children are welcome virtually everywhere with minimal fuss. If you want to spend your time beachside, there are safe, sheltered bays away from the busy resorts and plenty of outdoor activities such as kayaking, horse riding and zip lining for older children. A great tour operator will match you up with the best child-friendly places to stay, including self-catering options with swimming pools.

Practicalities

If possible, it’s best to avoid the summer months of July and August, when the weather can be uncomfortably hot and European school holidays bring out the crowds and raise prices. The mild, dry weather in April, May and September is ideal for cycling, walking and city sightseeing. June is the sweet spot – not too hot for high-energy activities, but hot enough to enjoy the beach too.
Catalonia’s main airport is in Barcelona. Public transport – especially trains – in the region is pretty well developed, so you’ll easily be able to get where you need to go to begin your holiday though transfers will usually be included – just check with your operator. Alternatively, opt for a self drive holiday; you’ll pick up your car from the airport or starting city.
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: Aleix Rafegas Farre] [Top box: xiquinhosilva] [Activity: Barney Moss] [Practicalities: Eneko Bidegain]
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