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Things to Do in Catalonia - page 5

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CosmoCaixa
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3 Tours and Activities

With its unique, modern design and interactive exhibits, the CosmoCaixa is frequently recognized as one of the best science museums in Europe. With hands-on displays and activities for both children and adults, the museum explores the earth through environmental and natural exhibits and the skies through its large, 3-D planetarium. There are educational experiments set up throughout, incorporating the senses of touch, smell, and sight.

Visitors enter the museum space (one of the largest in Spain) down an impressive five story winding staircase that ends at an Amazonian tree standing 30 meters tall. One of the most notable exhibits is the “Flooded Forest,” a replica of a tropical rain forest ecosystem in the Amazon with over 1,000 species present. The Geological Wall features cuts of rock formations from around Spain, and topics like evolution, intelligence, and physics can be explored in the Hall of Matter.

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El Tablao de Carmen
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El Tablao de Carmen is a top-rated flamenco show that plays tribute to one of the world’s greatest flamenco dancers, Carmen Alaya. She once performed at this very site for King Alfonso XIII of Spain during the opening of the Poble Espanyol for the 1929 Universal Exposition. Known for her skill, passion, technique, and fiery personality, Carmen Amaya was widely adored for her dancing. Born in Barcelona, she danced internationally including across Europe, South America, and Central America before returning to the stage at home.

Visitors now can experience the allure of an authentic flamenco show in an intimate venue. Often the show of live music and 10-12 different professional dancers includes tapas, drinks, and/or dinner. In the spirit of true flamenco, no choreography or rehearsal is done — everything is wild and improvised.

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House of Illusion

Once the sun goes down on the beaches of Salou, there’s still a lot more to see here: a proper magic show. Head to the House of Illusion, a fan-favorite for its evening performances packed with magicians, comedy, mind reading, audience participation, and loads of magic.

The show is more than just magic, too, as it begins in a pre-theater parlor before moving into a grand theater of candle-lit tables. It is there that you not only marvel at the wizardry but also chow down on an all-inclusive meal that comes with an unending flow of wine, beer, and soft drinks. Not hungry? Join the later show, which includes only the eternal supply of drinks, but still with all the entertainment.

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European Museum of Modern Art (MEAM)
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Discover an unexpectedly delightful corner of Barcelona, and at the same time a world of figurative art, by visiting the European Museum of Modern Art. Located in the Born neighborhood, and just steps away from the Picasso Museum, this isn’t your average modern art museum, featuring only on the finest of contemporary figurative art from the 20th to 21st centuries.

The MEAM’s art collection focuses less on the abstract and instead on other curious pieces such as sculptures, photorealistic paintings, and more. Many of these works have been created by living artists, to which the museum extends support. MEAM’s venue is a delight, too, as it is housed in the Gomis Palace, a neoclassical building erected in 1790. Expect your relatively quick visit there to both rewarding and relaxing thanks to the intriguing artwork and the music-filled and crowd-free galleries.

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PortAventura Caribe Aquatic Park
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When Barcelona gets a little toasty, forgo the beach and head to the water wonderland at Costa Caribe Aquatic Park. It’s home to 50,000 square meters of splash-filled fun, and sits just over an hour away from Spain’s coastal metropolis.

The park boasts 16 different attractions and slides, the pinnacle of which is Europe’s tallest free-fall waterslide, reaching 31 meters in height! Those who wish to stay a little closer to dry land can tube their way down a river of rushing rapids and waterfalls, slip down the slides of the playground-meets-pirate ship, or dodge waves in the Bermuda Triangle. For a slightly less intrepid experience, take the little ones to Sésamo Beach, a tranquil children’s pool where you’ll find shallow, calm waters. Once you’ve had your fill of getting wet, you can escape to one of the park’s many green areas. Or, if you wish to get out of the sun, head to the indoor zone, where you’ll find all the outdoor fun, but in the cool shade.

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More Things to Do in Catalonia

House of Silk (La Casa de la Seda)

House of Silk (La Casa de la Seda)

Dating back to the 18th century, La Casa de la Seda was once home to the guild of silk-sail-makers in Barcelona. The 300-year-old exterior reflects the elegance and social status that guilds had at the time and much of the original façade remains, rendering the home a popular stop among architecture aficionados. Visitors will encounter intricate Baroque work and a corner balcony featuring a figure of Our Lady of Angels, as well as interior rooms decorated with fine wood, silk walls and religious items, such as an ivory Christ figure and a 17th-century cabinet decorated with religious paintings. Today, La Case de la Seda is home to the College of Mayor Art Seda de Barcelona. Guided tours take visitors through the guild hall, presidential office, meeting room and the library, which holds more than 3,000 historical documents.

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Montserrat Mountain

Montserrat Mountain

103 Tours and Activities

Located about 30 miles (50 km) northwest of Barcelona is Montserrat - the 'Serrated Mountain'. The mountain gets its name from the rock formations which look like they've been sawed and sculpted.

This unique rock formation is home to a Benedictine monastery and is a famous pilgrimage spot as it is home to the 12th century wooden statue of La Moreneta (The Black Virgin), Catalonia's patron. During the regime of Franco, the monastery continued to hold Catholic ceremonies in the Catalan language and became a stronghold of Catalan culture.

Besides the religious and cultural importance of Montserrat, the mountain also boasts unbeatable views from it's peaks. A cog wheel train takes visitors to a lookout point where all of Catalonia and the Pyrenees can be seen.

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Oller del Mas

Oller del Mas

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There are numerous options for wine tasting trips from Barcelona but few offer such a unique backdrop as Oller del Mas, a 10th century castle set in a scenic 1000-acre estate. A popular detour for those visiting the Benedictine Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey on the nearby Montserrat mountain, Oller del Mas offers an atmospheric setting for a wine tasting session, effortlessly combining Catalonian culture, history and gastronomy.

Whether you stop by for a quick tasting session, take a half-day tour of the winery or couple your wines with a leisurely lunch of traditional cuisine, there’s something to please every type of wine lover at Oller del Mas. Those with a real enthusiasm for wine can learn the secrets winemaking from harvest to glass, strolling around the picturesque vineyards, the production plants and the wine cellars, and witnessing the winery’s popular Bernat Oller and Arnau Oller wines being produced.

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Dalí Theatre-Museum (Teatro-Museo Dalí)

Dalí Theatre-Museum (Teatro-Museo Dalí)

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50 Tours and Activities

The small coastal town of Figueres, just north of Barcelona, is known for only one thing - Salvador Dalí. Though the artisit's fame brought him to more glamorous parts of Spain, near the end of his career, Dalí returned to his hometown to began building his greatest masterpiece.

The Dalí Theatre-Museum is the largest surrealistic object in the world, replacing the town's former Municipal Theatre which was destroyed in the Spanish Civil War. Not only is the museum an artwork in itself, it's also home to many famous paintings by Dalí. The building holds the broadest range of the artist's works, including everything from his earliest pieces to his final paintings. Dalí also chose to include some pieces from his personal collection by other artists such as El Greco and Antoni Pitxot.

Dalí himself is now a part of the Teatre-Museu as well - his crypt and grave are located, quite fittingly, in the center of the museum.

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Girona Cathedral (Catedral de Girona)

Girona Cathedral (Catedral de Girona)

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There are many reasons to fall in love with Girona, but if there’s one thing — one sight — that will make your jaw actually drop, it will probably be the city’s main cathedral. That’s because its Baroque façade stands gloriously atop a massive staircase of some 90 steps. What you’ll find beyond its grand entrance is an impressive Romanesque-meets-Gothic church that claims the widest Gothic nave in the world.

Constructed between the 11th and 18th centuries, the cathedral sits upon the foundations of a former Roman temple. During your visit there, you can scope out its tranquil courtyard cloister, as well as the cathedral’s museum of religious artifacts, which includes noteworthy tapestries. Considering you’ve made it up this far, after the cathedral visit take advantage of your high altitude to go on a stroll along Girona’s ancient walls, which offer unparalleled views of the city.

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Girona Jewish Quarter (El Call de Girona)

Girona Jewish Quarter (El Call de Girona)

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Girona, easily one of Catalonia’s tourist destinations, is perhaps most famed for its Jewish quarter, also referred to as the Call. Considered one of the best-preserved Jewish quarters in the world, the Call dates back to the 12th century, when Girona was home to a thriving Jewish community. This was, of course, until the Catholic monarchs expelled Jews from Spain in 1492.

Despite this, the neighborhood is still reminiscent of what it would have been like in those times, with its cozy, almost-ethereal interior patios, and its hauntingly beautiful maze of narrow medieval streets. Apart from soaking up the historic vibe while wandering the Call, you may wish to head also to the Museum of Jewish History to learn more about Catalonia’s Sephardic history. Other worthy sights include the city’s hilltop cathedral, the nearby 13th-century Arab baths, and scoping out views from above the walls that surround this old part of town.

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Onyar River (Riu Onyar)

Onyar River (Riu Onyar)

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The Onyar River will likely be your first and most lasting impression of Girona, its rainbow-colored-building-lined waters a warm welcome and unforgettable sight. Their dazzling appearance invites you to journey to the other side of the bank — the eastern side — where you’ll discover more of the city’s treasures, held within its old town.

But before you get there, you’ll likely cross one of the Onyar’s many bridges. Your eye will undoubtedly be drawn to its most peculiar and perhaps even familiar bridge, the Pont Eiffel. Indeed, this red, cage-like crossing is reminiscent of a more famous structure of the same name, the Eiffel Tower. This is, of course, because they share the same designer (the bridge was constructed in 1877, just before the tower). Once you arrive on the eastern bank, feed your river curiosity by visiting Casa Maso, the only waterside building open to the public, and once home to its namesake architect.

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Passeig de la Muralla

Passeig de la Muralla

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Girona Arab Baths (Banys Arabs de Girona)

Girona Arab Baths (Banys Arabs de Girona)

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If you tire of the crowds at many of Girona’s most popular sights, then the Arab baths will be just the perfect remedy. These 12th-century baths – or, rather, what used to be baths – are Romanesque in style and feature typical components such as cool and warm rooms, a changing room and a steam room. What they don’t feature: the hustle and bustle of other tourist stops.

A visit includes a guided brochure that will take you through each of the different rooms. Highlights include the octagonal, column-surrounded central pool that sits below a light-filled cupola, and a visit to the rooftop, where you can spy unique views of the city and cathedral. And though the visit is short, the entrance fee is nominal, making this otherworldly escape a worthy stop during your time in Girona.

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L'Escolania de Montserrat

L'Escolania de Montserrat

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Add listening to the ethereal choir songs of one of Europe’s oldest boys choirs to your list of reasons to explore the craggy Montserrat mountainside not far from Barcelona. The boys choir, which dates back to the 13th or 14th century, is not only historic but also world famous, having recorded albums and toured to countries around the globe.

The boys, who range from ages 9-14, go to school here at the monastery, and sing in the basilica, where the public can come to watch. The roughly 50 singers are carefully selected based on a handful of criteria, one of course being their musical ability. Lucky for Montserrat visitors, the choir usually performs twice daily, making a visit to the mountainside getaway just that much more magical.

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La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park (Parque Natural de la Zona Volcánica de la Garrotxa)

La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park (Parque Natural de la Zona Volcánica de la Garrotxa)

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The region of Girona offers so much more than just Catalan culture and historic towns; it’s also got a veritable nature wonderland called Garrotxa Volcanic Natural Park. And volcanic, indeed, as it is home to 40 (dormant) volcanic cones, and 20 basaltic lava flows, making it the most prized volcanic landscape on the Iberian Peninsula.

You can explore Garrotxa’s park by setting off on one of its 28 different walking routes, many of which interconnect, and many that take you beyond the region to others. During your adventures, climb to the top of Santa Margarida volcano to spy the see-it-to-believe-it Roman chapel that sits within it; get lost in the beech tree-filled forests of La Fageda d'en Jordà; and make stops at some of the region’s most beloved villages, such as Olot and Besalu.

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Sitges

Sitges

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Known for its nude beaches, and sporting one of the most vibrant gay communities in Europe, the Spanish beachside city of Sitges located South of Barcelona is a Mediterranean haven waiting for any visitor looking to fill in a tan, or just get some rest & relaxation. Whether it is a day out fishing or just enjoying the cheap eats and numerous sandy beaches, Sitges is a great place to relax and an escape for those who want to get away from Spain’s more densely populated areas.

There are countless restaurants and café’s to fit all tastes, and bars and clubs along ‘The Street of Sin,’

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La Roca Village

La Roca Village

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Bargain-hunters and brand-name lovers have one more destination they should add to their list of must-dos while in Barcelona: La Roca Village. Situated just over 30 minutes northeast of the coastal metropolis, and on the way to Costa Brava, the village-like shopping center is home to more than 130 boutiques, offering deals of up to 60% off retail price.

What you’ll find there is an open-air town of sorts packed with shops by high-end international brand names, and that sell products ranging from clothes to furnishings and other goods. La Roca also has a selection of quality restaurants and cafes to keep you fueled during your shopping excursion. To maximize your visit, note that there are a few stores located just outside the village as well.

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