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This autumn, stop by the Platja D’Aro Beer Festival!

If you’re staying in a villa on the Costa Brava in October, there’s one very important cultural festival that you shouldn’t miss. Although it’s officially known as the Autumn Festival, this big Catalan event has become much better known as the ‘Beer Festival’ thanks to the high number of international beers on tap.

Activities 

As well as sampling more than 30 international beers, there are plenty of other activities at the Autumn Festival. One of the biggest draws to the festival is the range of artisanal produce which is available to sample and purchase (and which is great for enjoying back at your Costa Brava vacation rental at the end of the day!). There’s also live music in the form of brass bands and orchestras which you can dance along to. Don’t leave the festival without picking up a Beer Festival commemorative drinking mug!

Where to Stay

The obvious answer is to rent a house in Spain in the Platja D’Aro area, although the region can become quite crowded around the time of the festival. Thus, any villa on the Costa Brava would do, especially in the nearby towns of Palamós to the north and S’Agaró to the south.

Exploring Platja D’Aro 

Even if you’re not a beer fan, Platja D’Aro is still worth exploring. This beautiful seaside town is home to one of Catalonia’s best beaches, offering fantastic swimming opportunities. It’s also home to the Magic Park amusement park with adrenaline-pumping rides! If you’d prefer a calmer, more relaxed holiday in Spain, then strolling the beachside Passeig Maritim is the ideal activity as it is flat enough walk to walk for any age and any activity level.


Explore Catalonia’s ancient ruins

As you probably already know, Catalonia is famous for its rich history. The region is actually home to some of the best-preserved Medieval towns and villages in the world, making it a truly fascinating place to explore.

If you’re interested in delving back even further in the region’s history and learning more about the Greek and Roman eras on your next holiday in Spain, then be sure to check out some of Catalonia’s ancient ruins. From historic walled remains to first-century racecourses, the Catalonia region has plenty to uncover. Here are three of the region’s best-preserved ancient ruins that are open to the public.

Empúries 

The old town of Empúries was founded in 575 BC by the Greeks, although the town was eventually taken over by the Romans. Excavations on the town began in the 1900s, and today it’s possible to see old homes, temples, walls, and mosaics, and there’s even the Museum of MAC-Empúries which provides a little context for the ruins that you’re seeing.

The highlights are the gardens, where you can learn more about traditional Roman medicine, and the underground crypt, which has only recently opened to the public. Book a Costa Brava vacation rental or stay in L’Escala and take the pedestrianised coastal path right along the water to the town.

Tarragona Amphitheatre

Built in the 2nd century, the Tarragona Amphitheatre is one of the main attractions in this old town, which was once a thriving Roman colony known as Tarraco. Taking on a traditional colosseum appearance, it is believed that the amphitheatre could once hold up to 15,000 spectators at a time, making it one of the largest in Europe.

When Islam took over from Catholicism as the primary religion in Spain, the amphitheatre was abandoned, and over the years it has housed a church and has been used as a prison. Luckily for those taking a vacation in Spain, the theatre was somewhat recovered in recent years and today is a remarkably well-preserved site, one of many ancient ruins dotted around Tarragona.

Circ Roma

Another great location in Tarragona is Circ Roma, or the Roman Circus. Built in the first century, this was the place to see and be seen, and it played a major role in leisurely life during Roman ruling. Somewhat of an ancient alternative to the modern Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the Roman Circus was the best place in Catalonia to watch fast-action chariot races. Perhaps one of Catalonia’s best-preserved ruins, remaining inscriptions have led experts to believe that the racetrack remained in use until the fifth century, when it was abandoned.

A part of the track is still very much intact, making it a truly amazing place to explore. Tarragona is easy to reach from most villas on the Costa Dorada, but it’s also just a one hour drive from Barcelona, making it a top choice for a day trip during your Barcelona holiday.


Celebrate Halloween and All Saints’ Day in Barcelona

If you choose to take a holiday in Barcelona during the week of October 31 and November 1, you’ll have the chance to take part in Barcelona’s yearly Halloween and All Saints’ Day celebrations.

Halloween

On the night of Halloween, people of all ages dress in costumes and decorate their houses and businesses in scary decor. Children go trick-or-treating, or truco o trato in Spanish, while adults choose to party at popular local venues. There are many nightclubs available for Halloween parties like Opium Mar, Sala Razzmatazz, and Sala Apolo.

If you prefer restaurants, the Enigmatium offers an interactive show that promises a night of comedy, mystery, and puzzles. Be beware, this restaurant doesn’t reveal its location. You must find it by following the clues! Alternatively, check out La Posada Maldita, where the waiters dress as scary creatures and the entire theme of the restaurant is horror. You can even check out a horror show while you dine!

There are many other great options to help you celebrate such as the Nocturna Festival, PortAventura, and the Sandemans New Halloween Tour.

All Saints Day

After you spent time recovering in you Barcelona villa from your experiences the night before, make sure to check out the culture and traditions that encompass the solemn celebration of All Saints’ Day.

Many locals go to church to remember the saints or visit the graves of their loved ones to lay flowers.

On the streets of Barcelona, you’ll find vendors, dancers, artists, and food. The most common food is panellet, a Catalan pastry of cinnamon bread with sugar, potatoes, almonds, eggs, pine nuts, and cherries. Also served are boniatos (sweet potatoes), candied fruit, and muscatel wine.

Panellets

Catch a production of the famous “Don Juan Tenorio” which will be performed in many theaters throughout the city as well as in the Poblenou cemetery.

The city also offers its annual Castanyada, which is a festival where everyone gets together over a huge fire in an open space. There they place a pan on the hot coals and cook castañas (chestnuts), which are available for sampling to get into the autumn spirit!

Take a break from your beautiful Barcelona vacation rental and make sure you check out these unique holiday celebrations, great for all ages!


Catalunya’s referendum vote to take place on 1 October

Catalonia represents one-fifth of Spain’s 1.1 trillion-euro economy and enjoys a great deal of self-government. However, on 1 October, the Catalan people are going to have a vote to choose whether want to be ruled independently from the rest of Spain. If the referendum is passed, they will be able to vote on their own laws and government.

According to polls, less than half of Catalonia’s 5.5 million voters want self-rule, although most of the wealthy at least want the chance to vote on the issue.

The constitutional court of Spain ruled that any referendum on independence is illegal; however, the Catalan Parliament plans to declare independence within the first 48 hours of a “Yes” vote.

Because the Catalan people stand firm in their demand for a right to vote, the central government called in between 3,000 and 4,000 national police officers who are under orders to prevent the staging of the referendum.

On 20 September, 14 Catalan government officials were arrested because they were involved in organizing the vote. And it didn’t stop with arrests. Electoral materials were seized from millions of ballot papers to hundreds of ballot boxes.

These actions by the Spanish government have caused the people of Catalunya to organize peaceful protests against the current government and for their own right to vote independently.

Tensions are high in the city of Barcelona. Every night at 22:00, locals bang pots and pans together in what is called a cacerolada, a form of protest to unite the people together in solidarity.

The President of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, told the separatists to resist the provocations of the central government and remain peaceful. If things become violent, they will have more reason to stop the vote.

Although Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariana Rajoy, demands that the Catalan officials stop their “disobedience”, the Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, says that the vote will continue as planned on Sunday, 1 October.


Autumn on the Costa Brava

Thinking of booking a Costa Brava vacation rental? There’s never a bad time of year to take a holiday in Spain, but there’s something extra special about autumn on the Costa Brava. Here’s what to expect.

Great Weather

Autumn on the Costa Brava is surprisingly bright and clear, a far cry from the conditions in northern Europe! These bright and clear days mean that there are usually excellent views toward the mountains, and as the leaves begin to fall from the trees this view only keeps getting better and better.

A Quiet, Local Feel

Known as the ‘off season’, this time of year sees very few visitors so you’ll find that there’s a very local feel. A big advantage of this is that there tends to be greater availability for restaurants and accommodations. In fact, you may be able to get an amazing deal on a holiday rental on the Costa Brava!

A Natural Environment

Washed up driftwood replaces the crowds of people on the Costa Brava beaches, while the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà is not to be missed at this time of year, with migratory birds stopping off on their way back to Africa for the winter. The Costa Brava loses its resort feel and returns to nature during autumn.

Serene Mountains

Autumn is a great time for hiking. Not only is it often very dry and comfortable, rather than being overly sunny and warm, but it’s also one of the quietest times of the year in the mountains. The ski season hasn’t yet started, so many people find the mountainous areas to be very peaceful and serene.

Summer is by far the most popular time of the year to take a holiday in Spain, but it’s worth considering the benefits and beauty of travelling at other times of the year. Autumn still brings lovely weather and tends to be a little quieter than mid-summer, making it excellent for those who appreciate the calm.


Why choose a Catalonia villa rental over a hotel?

Looking back just a few years, the obvious go-to choice for a Barcelona accommodation was a hotel. After all, hotels aim to be a ‘home away from home’, providing travellers with a decent selection of amenities such as on-site restaurants, cleaning services, and concierge assistance. However, today things are a little different. An increasing number of travellers are now turning their attention to Barcelona villas instead. Why? Because there a number of advantages of villas in Barcelona that hotels simply can’t offer.

These advantages include the following:

Separate Bedrooms

While some larger hotel rooms can comfortably accommodate families and groups, there’s nothing like having your own private space! If you’re travelling with family or friends, a family villa in Barcelona allows you to be together under the same roof, but also have your own space to acquire some private time. It really is the best of both worlds!

Kitchen Area

When you’re on holiday in Spain it’s important to immerse yourself in the local culture and try out some of the delicacies on offer at the nearby restaurants. However, being able to whip up some cheese on toast as a midnight snack or warm up some milk for the kids in your own kitchen is a huge benefit. 

Additional Privacy

Hotels are a great way to meet other like-minded travellers and make new friends, but sometimes you just need a bit more privacy. Staying in a Barcelona holiday rental means you never have to worry about the pool being busy or having loud neighbours in the next room. It’s your space.

Flexibility

Your time off is precious, so why spend it trying to fit in with someone else’s schedule? Staying in a vacation villa in Barcelona means that you can do what you want, when you want. While hotels may offer breakfast between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., you can enjoy a nice bacon sandwich at 3 in the afternoon!


Exploring World Heritage Sites in Catalonia

For travellers staying in an apartment in Barcelona, there is not one but seven amazing UNESCO World Heritage Sites located in and around the city that all were designed by architect and modernist Antoni Gaudí. See below for just a few of these must-see marvels in art and architecture.

Poblet Monastery

One of Spain’s oldest abbeys, the Poblet Monastery is located in the lush green village of Vimbodí. The architecture and design, both inside and out, are breathtaking, but what really makes it stand out is that it’s actually one of the most complete Cistercian abbeys in the entire world. There are usually two tours of the abbey each day, and the monastery can be visited from your Barcelona villa as a day trip. You could also consider a Catalonia villa rental in Reus or Tarragona, which are a little closer.

Palau de la Música Catalana

Palau de la Música Catalana

This famous concert hall is one of the only World Heritage Sites in the centre of Barcelona that wasn’t designed by Gaudí. Instead, it was designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, who was instrumental in the 19th-century revival of Catalan culture. Take a guided tour to learn more, or book tickets to see a performance of local and international operas and symphonies, as well as lectures and conferences, too. Located right in the heart of historic Ciutat Vella (Old Town), it’s quick and easy to reach from many villas in Barcelona.

Hospital de Sant Pau

This World Heritage Site is located very close to another: Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia. A working hospital until fairly recently — 2009 — today the site is a popular museum and cultural centre attracting both locals and visitors, and it’s just as impressive on the outside as it is on the inside, designed in the classic Art Nouveau style. The hospital is situated in the El Guinardó neighbourhood, where you’ll find many luxury Barcelona holiday rentals, as well as great sights and attractions, like the Guinardó municipal park.

Hospital de Sant Pau

Tárraco

Although the town is today known as Tarragona, it was once referred to as Tárraco, and was one of the country’s most prominent Roman centres. The archaeological remains of Tárraco were declared a World Heritage Site in 2000, and are well worth visiting. It takes slightly more than one hour to drive from your Barcelona accommodation to Tarragona, and you pass through many other beautiful places along the way, including the fantastic coastal resorts of Sitges and Vilanova which are renowned for their beaches.


Pla de Bages: Catalonia’s smallest wine region

When we think about Catalan wines (which are perfect for enjoying at your luxury villa with private pool in Spain!), we tend to think about the major wine-growing regions such as DO Empordà from northern Catalonia and DO Alella wines from the Mediterranean coast. We rarely stop to consider one of Catalonia’s smallest wine-growing regions: Pla de Bages, located within the Province of Barcelona.

About Pla de Bages

Covering just 600 hectares, Pla de Bages is the smallest DO region in all of Catalonia, but despite its size it certainly has a lot to offer. Believed to be named after Bacchus, the Roman God of Wine, a large number of grape varieties are grown here, including the red varieties of Garnatxa and Ull de Llebre and picapoll for white wines. Boasting two different types of soil, Pla de Bages is renowned for its diverse offerings.

Right on Trend

Believe it or not, Pla de Bages is actually one of the oldest locations in Barcelona for wine growing, but its agricultural challenges of the past have made growth and development slower than other regions. However, thanks to the influx of ‘boutique’ wines on offer here, Pla de Bages is said to the ‘the next big thing’ in Catalan wines, offering trendier reds, whites, and sparkling cavas than their competitors.

Visiting Pla de Bages 

There are a number of tours that you can take of Pla de Bages, which take you right into the heart of the 13th-century chateau where the magic happens, and demonstrate the processes that help this region offer the highest quality wines in Barcelona. For easy access to the region, rent a house in Barcelona and rent a car locally; it’s less than an hour’s drive from the city centre to Pla de Bages.


What to do in Tossa de Mar

Tossa de Mar is one of the most popular destinations for people booking a holiday in Spain, and it’s easy to see why. As one of the best coastal resorts in Catalonia, this former fishing town thrives on tourism and features a number of beaches, seafront activities, and watersports centres to entertain visitors.

But what if the beach isn’t really your thing? What if you want a vacation in Spain that’s less about the sunbathing, and more about Catalan history and culture? Is Tossa de Mar still a good choice? Yes!

There’s so much more to Tossa de Mar than just the beach. Here are a few of the town’s attractions:

12th-Century History

In the 1100s, Tossa de Mar became a walled city, and parts of this historic wall still remain today. A section of the wall is open to pedestrians and offers breathtaking views in every direction as it weaves around the edge of the town. Remember: it’s old, and some of the terrain can be quite uneven in certain places.

Hollywood Glamour

Think there’s only good film locations in Barcelona? Think again! The 1951 British drama Pandora and the Flying Dutchman starring Ava Gardner was filmed in Tossa de Mar! The castle and beach areas look just the same today, although the overall landscape has certainly changed during the past 60 years!

Museums

The town’s main museum is the Municipal Museum, and it’s a great place to learn more about the history of Tossa de Mar. It is located in the Old Town and is home to everything from painting and mosaics to glass works and sculptures. It’s compact, but only costs a few euros to enter.

Roman Ruins

If you’re interested in seeing what a villa on the Costa Brava used to look like, then be sure to visit the Roman Villa of Ametllers. Discovered in 1914, the ruins are believed to date from somewhere prior to the 6th century. This villa in Spain tells us a great deal about Roman-Mediterranean farming of the time.

 

 

 

 


A tapas crawl in El Born

No matter where you choose to rent a villa in Barcelona, you’ll be within walking distance of a great tapas restaurant! The city has plenty of great places that serve up small plates of classic Spanish dishes such as patatas bravas, calamares, and croquetas. However there is one particular location in Barcelona that is especially known for its tapas offerings: the neighbourhood of El Born in Ciutat Vella (the old city). Join us as we take a look at some of the highlights of an El Born tapas crawl!

Stop 1: Tapeo

Begin your El Born tapas crawl at Tapeo. Run by husband-and-wife team Daniel Rueda and Natalia Ferran, the menu features modern, creative tapas that you won’t find anywhere else, and it’s the perfect way to begin your evening. How about meatballs with cuttlefish, wasabi-topped salmon, or a burger with mushroom mayo?

Stop 2: El Xampanyet

El Xampanyet should be your second stop on your El Born tapas crawl for two reasons: first, it’s right across the road from Tapeo, and second this traditional watering hole is extremely popular and it gets busy, so arriving early is essential. Authenticity is key here and you won’t find any ‘crazy’ menu items, just good old-fashioned Spanish tortillas and plenty of chorizo. While the tapas is delicious, many people flock here for the homemade cava!

Stop 3: Cal Pep

A short walk through El Born will bring you to Cal Pep, a Mediterranean-style restaurant famous for its fresh seafood offerings. With menu items changing depending on the ‘catch of the day’, there’s always something different to sample here, and there’s usually more than 70 dishes available, including tapas, meats, fish, vegetables, soups, and salads.

Stop 4: Ten’s Tapas OR Vinya del Senyor

Now it’s time to make a decision: Either head toward Barcelona Zoo and you can visit Ten’s Tapas, run by renowned chef Jordi Cruz, or head toward Port Vell and stop in at Vinya del Senyor, a wine-themed tapas restaurant that commands spectacular views of the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar from the outdoor patio. If you enjoy people-watching, then this is a true Barcelona hotspot.


How to reach the summit of Barcelona’s Montjuic mountain

You’ve seen the towering castle from the streets of Barcelona that rests atop the city, but how do you reach the summit of Montjuic? Luckily, the castle that stands at the top of the hill is actually very accessible, and there are a number of different ways to get there. The best way will depend on your budget and fitness level. Here is a brief look at the different transport options.

By Funicular

A fun way to travel, the funicular is also very convenient as it connects to the city’s metro system at Paral-lel Station and takes just two minutes to reach the summit. If you’re staying in a family villa in Barcelona with the kids, they will love taking the funicular, which is a train car that travels up and down the hill.

Cost: A single journey costs just 2 Euros.

By Cable Car

Another fun way to travel, the cable car offers spectacular views of Barcelona (can you spot your villa in Barcelona from way up here?). Departing close to the funicular, the cable car is convenient but more costly than the funicular. This method of travel is not recommended for travellers who are afraid of heights!

Cost: 12.50 Euros for an adult return, or 9.00 Euros for a return ticket for children aged 4 – 12.

By Bus

The local Barcelona bus 150 departs from Plaça d’Espanya and travels up the hill to the castle. If you’re not confident taking the bus on holiday in Spain, don’t worry — the castle is the last stop on the line so it’s easy to know where to get off! This isn’t a very exciting option, but it is a very cost-effective one!

Cost: A single bus journey (valid to the end of the line) costs 2.15 Euros per person.

By Taxi

Taking the taxi can be more expensive than taking the bus, but the advantage is that you can travel on your own schedule (perfect if you’re with young children), and you have a bit of added privacy, too. However, keep in mind that a taxi isn’t the most interesting or fun way to travel to the summit.

Cost: Cost will vary depending on your starting point, but this is probably the most expensive option.

By Foot

Feeling fit? Why not walk to the top? The best way is to leave from the funicular station and head up through the park, taking the winding footpath to the summit. The walk should take between 20 and 30 minutes, although it can be steep in parts. You can rest your legs at your Barcelona vacation rental afterwards!

Cost: Free!


Crema catalana: The perfect local treat for something sweet

There are lots of reasons why travellers choose to take a holiday in Spain, but one of the main reasons is the food! Spanish cuisine is arguably some of the best in the world, and Catalonia is famous for its local delicacies. One such dish is crema catalana; a creamy, silky pudding topped with burnt sugar.

Dessert History

When you’re on holiday in Barcelona, you’ll hear that the Spanish invented the crema catalana sometime around the 14th century. If you’re on holiday in France, you’ll hear that it was, in fact, the French that created the dessert, naming it crème brûlée. And if you’re on holiday in England, you’ll no doubt hear that the dessert originated in Cambridge! All three countries lay claim to the pudding, but the reality of the rightful owner is still up for debate!

Crema Catalana 

Traditionally crema catalana has been served on St Joseph’s Day in March, but you can enjoy this creamy dessert at all times of year, whether you’re taking a Barcelona vacation in the summer or winter. Many local restaurants offer this pudding, and it has become a firm favourite of travellers from around the world.

Crème Brûlée v. Crema Catalana

If you can find both crème brûlée and crema catalana, then why not pick up both, take them back to your Spain holiday rental, and do a taste test to see which is better? While both are made in a similar way, crema catalana is thickened with cornflour and is not cooked in a water bath, like traditional crème brûlée. This gives it a little more texture. Many types of crema catalana are also flavoured with citrus and cinnamon, which gives it more flavour. Which one will be your favourite? Try them and see

 

 


Celebrate Barcelona’s La Mercè Festival this September!

If you’re staying in a villa in Barcelona during September, you may be wondering why there’s an extra special atmosphere surrounding the city and why everyone appears to be in good spirits. It’s because of La Mercè, a lively and exciting festival that is one of Barcelona’s most important annual calendar events. The festival takes place on 24th September each year and is not to be missed!

History of La Mercè

Catalans have celebrated La Mercè since 1871, although the celebrations as we know them today were largely introduced during the early 20th century. The event is thrown in honour of the Mare de Déu de la Mercè, or Virgin of Grace, who is believed to have saved Barcelona from a plague of locusts. If you’re staying in a Barcelona vacation rental in or near to the Gothic Quarter, you can visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Mercy, which displays a statue of the Virgin at the top of the church.

Festivities

Street performances, parades featuring giant statues (gegants i capgrossos), and human towers (castellers) are all standard events that take place throughout the festival. However, each year there’s something new and different, including ‘fire runs’, fire-breathing dragons, and light projection shows. The festivities continue well into the night, but don’t worry too much about how to get back to your vacation villa in Barcelona; there are often late night train services in operation.

Catalan Produce

La Mercè is one of the best times to sample some authentic Catalan food and drink, especially at the Catalan Wine & Cava Festival which takes place as part of the event. Beverages from local Catalan vineyards are available to taste and purchase, and they make great souvenirs or gifts to bring back to friends and family from your holiday in Spain.

 


Catalonia’s fairy-tale town

Are you staying in a family villa is Spain with children who love magic, mystery, and fairy tales? Then you must make time to visit the tiny, stone-clad village of Rupit, located roughly halfway between Girona and Torelló in Barcelona Province. With historic architecture dating to the year 968, and with old buildings peeking out from masses of green woodland, Rupit is truly a fairy-tale town.

 

Exploring Rupit

For those who want to enjoy a totally ‘different’ holiday in Spain; a vacation that’s less beaches and watersports and more exploring and discovering, Rupit has everything you could ask for. Look down to see the streets carved from the natural rock formations in the area, and look up to see the red brick roofs, providing shelter to the old stone buildings. Take a walk to hear the sounds of the crashing Sallent waterfall, or edge across the wood-slat suspension bridge that crosses the flowing river. Bend down to smell the delicate white hawthorns, and marvel at the castle-like turrets atop the monastery. Watch as vultures and eagles swoop down from the trees, and enjoy being transported back in time.

Weather in Rupit

Unlike Barcelona, which is very warm, Rupit is noticeably cooler, making it the ideal place for those who find high heat to be uncomfortable. While Rupit is often busier in the summer and remarkably quiet at other times of the year, autumn and winter are still excellent times to visit. With crisp orange leaves and just a shimmer of frost, Rupit looks even more stunning in the off season.

A Day Trip 

Catalan poet Josep Maria de Sagarra famously described Rupit as ‘distinguished and hidden’, so it may come as some surprise that the village is less than two hours from the centre of Barcelona. It’s an easy day trip from your Barcelona villa, or you could choose to look at Catalonia villa rentals in the town itself which gives you an opportunity to stay longer and perhaps see more of the local area. If you do decide to stick around, be sure to check out the natural area of Collsacabra, one of Spain’s best hidden gems.


Where to swim in Barcelona

Whether you take a holiday in Spain during the summer or prefer to take your Spain vacation in the winter, there’s usually one thing you can always rely on: great weather! While the temperatures in the winter months can be a little cooler and much more unpredictable, winters can often be very mild and pleasant, and you may still need to cool off a little! So where are the best places to swim in Barcelona? Here are three of the best options.

Option 1: Your Villa with Private Pool in Barcelona

A villa with private pool in Spain is undoubtedly the best option for swimming in the city, giving you unrestricted access to the waters whenever you feel like taking a dip. If you dislike crowds or are travelling with little ones and are worried about them getting splashed by bigger kids, then this is a great way to ensure a safe and supportive environment for your kids to learn to swim.

Option 2: A Public Swimming Pool in Barcelona

There are lots of outdoor public swimming pools in Barcelona that are a good option for those who have decided to rent a villa in Spain without a private swimming pool. For young families and swimmers who aren’t particularly confident, Ciutadella Municipal Sports Centre is good because the pool is quite shallow. Otherwise, head to the Montjuïc Municipal Swimming Pool for spectacular views of the area.

Option 3: One of Barcelona’s Best Beaches

Perhaps the most common option for swimming in Barcelona is to head to one of the local beaches. Barceloneta Beach is one of the most easily accessible from many Barcelona accommodations which makes it a good choice, but this beach can get very busy, especially in the summer and on sunny weekends. For calmer options, head north to Bogatell or Badalona.


Visiting the Pyrenees

Located on the border between France and Spain, the Pyrenees mountain range is one of the most stunning sights in all of Europe, and a must-see during any holiday in Spain or southern France. Towns in the Pyrenees offer a completely different experience than many other parts of Catalonia, which can typically be grouped into either coastal resorts filled with luxury Spain holiday rentals or small medieval towns. There’s more of an Alpine feel here, and it can get rather chilly during the winter months!

The Catalan Pyrenees

Also known as ‘Pirineus’ in Catalan, and Pirenèus in Occitan, the Catalan Pyrenees are a spectacular sight. The French side of the mountain range is arguably the more popular side with more towns, more activity, and more things to do, but that’s exactly what makes the Catalan Pyrenees such an attractive option for many people in the area: it’s more natural and more rugged, and you won’t have to deal with as many crowds!

Although the Catalan side is slightly more sparse, there’s still plenty to see and do in the area, enough that you could easily spend a few days of your Barcelona holiday exploring the sights. A few places that are definitely worth visiting are the Mont-Rebei Gorge, which offers an expanse of breathtaking landscape, the wonderful Sant Maurici National Park, and the small village of Llavorsí, where the brave can enjoy a day of wild river rafting through the canyons and along the fast and intense Noguera Pallaresa river.

Where to Stay

While you can rent a house in Girona and make a day trip to the Catalan Pyrenees, it’s much better to stay in the heart of all the action. A good choice is nearby Ripoll, which is considered to be the gateway to the Pyrenees and features plenty of Romanesque-style architecture. Another interesting choice is Vall de Boí, which has UNESCO World Heritage status, and is home to the highest ski resort in the Pyrenees.


Park Güell to Sagrada Família: The scenic route

Antoni Gaudí’s Park Güell and Sagrada Família are two of the top attractions that cannot be missed on a holiday in Barcelona. Separated by just 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometres), many visitors choose to walk between the two sights, and the fastest and most direct option is along Carrer de Sardenya, taking the curved Ctra. del Carmel at the Park Güell end, where you can exit the park near the Mirador Virolai observation deck.

However, while this may be the fastest route, it’s not the most scenic. For those who really want to make the most of their Barcelona vacation, take a slightly longer route that takes you past some of the city’s most fascinating sites and interesting spots. The scenic route takes you through the beautiful Gràcia neighbourhood for a glimpse into local life.

Here’s your guide to walking the scenic route between Park Güell to Sagrada Família:

Instead of leaving Park Güell via Ctra. del Carmel, take the other exit, which brings you out onto Carrer d’Olot, and then onto Carrer de Larrard. Heading south, your first stop should be the Gaudí interactive museum, where you can learn more about the architect’s life and works.

Keep walking until you hit Travessera de Dalt, and cross over almost directly to get onto Carrer del Torrent de les Flors. This will bring you into the heart of Vila de Gràcia, home to a large number of Barcelona villas.

If you’re feeling peckish, there are some tapas places in the area. If not, turn to stroll through the pretty Plaça de Rovira i Trias park and gardens. Turn south at the end of the park, and then head along Carrer de les Tres Senyores, past the Hideout Bar which is a good place to stop for a break and a cerveza.

By turning south at the dance school, you’ll find yourself staring at the stunning Parish Church of St. Joan and the grand Virreina Palace. This baroque-style building was built in the 18th century for Manuel d’Amat i de Junyent, a celebrated Spanish military officer.

Turn at Carrer de l’Or, and then onto Carrer del Torrent d’En Vidalet. Stop for a drink at the Elephanta bar — it may seem basic, but they have more than 40 gins on offer, and more than 40 teas, too! Turn onto Carrer del Terol for shopping and a peek at the old evangelical church.

Enjoy a stroll through Plaça de la Revolució square, and then join Plaça Vila de Gràcia park by walking along Carrer de Ramón y Cajal and Carrer de Mariana Pineda. By walking through the busy shopping district here, you’ll find peace and relaxation at the Salvador Espriu Gardens.

Once you’re at the end of the gardens, you’re on the home stretch! It’s a straight route along Avinguda Diagonal and Carrer de Provença to the Plaça de la Sagrada Família. The walk should take roughly an hour; you can put your feet up at your Barcelona villa at the end of the day! 

 


Costa Brava travel tips

Villas on the Costa Brava are great choices for families, couples, and for solo travellers, offering easy access to some of Catalonia’s best attractions and most beautiful sights. It’s easy to travel along the picturesque Costa Brava, and here are three great travel tips that can help make your holiday in Spain fantastic.

Book a Villa with Pool on the Costa Brava

The Costa Brava certainly doesn’t have a shortage of great places to swim. In fact, the horseshoe-shaped bays of Llafranc and Calella de Palafrugell are ideal swimming spots thanks to their gentle waters. If you visit during the popular summer months, you may find the beaches quite lively, as opposed to the quiet environment found during the off-season. If you book a villa with private pool on the Costa Brava you can have the waters all to yourself and enjoy a truly peaceful experience.

Hire a Car

When we think of the Costa Brava, we usually think of the seaside resorts of Blanes, Tossa de Mar, and Lloret de Mar. However, there is much more to this part of Catalonia than meets the eye, and there are some truly fantastic destinations located just a short distance inland like the city of Girona or Les Guilleries national park. You’ll find it easiest and most convenient to see these places by hiring a car. You could even add on a mini vacation in Barcelona; a long weekend in the city!

Pack Carefully

Packing for a holiday in Spain is usually very simple; you’ll want cool, loose clothing and plenty of suncream! However, there are a few extras that you may need on the Costa Brava. Remember that ‘Costa Brava’ can be translated as ‘Rough Coast’, highlighting the very craggy shorelines, so a strong pair of comfortable shoes is essential if you want to make the most of this part of Catalonia. Also be sure to pack a sun hat as some attractions, like Castell de Begur, typically have no shade during the day.


A day out at the Aquopolis Waterpark

Looking to enjoy some fun, family-friendly days out on your next Spain holiday? Consider spending some time at the Aquopolis Waterpark. Located close to PortAventura, this theme park is filled with slides, flumes, and lots of other water-based activities, as well as restaurants and shops for the whole family.

What to Do 

There is something for everyone at the Aquopolis Waterpark, so if you’re staying in a family villa in Spain with the kids and the grandparents, this is the perfect place to enjoy a day out. Adrenaline junkies will love the speed of Hurricane, the waves of Surf Waimea, and the mystery of the Black Hole, while those who want something a little more relaxing can enjoy the Magic Oval and the Blue Lagoon. For the very little ones, there are mini parks, adventure turtles, and all sorts of jungle fun in the Funny Jungle.

Eco-Tourism in Catalonia 

Catalonia is fast becoming one of the most well-known parts of Europe in terms of eco-tourism, and the Aquopolis Waterpark is a fine example. If you’re looking to learn more about responsibility and sustainability during your holiday in Spain, then Aquopolis’ on-site dolphinarium is the place to be. The dolphinarium exhibits explain the importance of taking care of the environment so that we can protect local sea life, and how we can all make small, everyday changes to do our part for our planet. 

Where to Stay 

The Aquopolis Waterpark is located in Vila-Seca, so any Costa Dorada holiday rental would be a great choice for a day trip to this water-based amusement park. However, to be really close to all the action, rent a house in Spain in Vila-Seca, Tarragona, Salou, or Cambrils, all of which are very close to the park.


Group holidays in Catalonia: Where to stay

With plenty of attractions for both young and old, beautiful places to relax, and a nightlife that really is second to none, it’s really no surprise that Barcelona is a top choice for group holidays in Spain. Whether you’re taking a vacation and bringing the whole family with you, or planning an energetic getaway with a group of friends, Catalonia is one of your best options.

For group travel, there are a few extra considerations to take into account when choosing your Barcelona accommodation. Here are some things to think about before booking.

Location

Ask yourself why your group is taking a Barcelona holiday: for the beaches? The bars? The city sights? To really make the most of your trip, it’s best to find a villa in Barcelona that is relatively close to what you want to enjoy. You should also consider whether you plan to rent a car or not, as this will help guide your villa selection.

Restrictions

Keep in mind that some Spain vacation rental owners may have restrictions surrounding group travel, especially for hen and stag parties. Always check that your accommodation welcomes large groups and whether there are extra conditions or security deposits for groups of younger people.

 Size

Although you may be excited about spending time with your close friends, remember that being too close can be a little claustrophobic! Make sure that your Barcelona villa has plenty of space for you to enjoy each other’s company but also to acquire some peace and quiet.

 On-Site Facilities

If you’re travelling in a large group, you may not wish to spend every night dining out. If this is the case, consider a Barcelona vacation rental with a full kitchen so that everyone can cook their own dinners and you can save money on your dining budget,

Design & Layout

If your group includes people of all ages, consider the layout of the property. Can you put the kids to bed and socialise in the evening without waking them up? Family villas in Barcelona may be a good choice.

 


Barcelona’s Festival Major de Gràcia

When is the best time to take a holiday in Spain? The country is beautiful all throughout the year, but if you’re planning to visit Barcelona’s city centre in particular, then August is a great time to see the city. Each August, Barcelona hosts the vibrant and colourful Festa Major de Gràcia, promising a lively and energetic atmosphere. It’s Barcelona’s best street festival, and it’s completely free to enjoy! 

What’s On? 

The first things you’ll notice when you head towards the festival are the many street decorations which dominate the skies. Whether it’s brightly-coloured umbrellas or bats made from recycled materials, these decorations, which are suspended in mid-air, help transform the neighbourhood into a completely different place and work to keep the festival magic alive underneath this bold and eye-catching makeshift canopy.

As well as the decorations, there are also floats, parades, live music performances, and more food than you can imagine! In fact, some of the best Barcelona street food comes in the form of mouthwatering flatbreads with all sorts of tasty toppings. Spend hours strolling the streets during the daytime or nighttime during this weeklong festival and take in the ornate designs and artwork around every corner.

Where to Stay

The best location in Barcelona to stay in during the festival is the Gràcia district, which is where all the magic happens. Incorporated into the city as recently as the 19th century, there’s still very much a strong community feel here, and the narrow, winding streets feel a world apart from the increasingly modern locations in Barcelona. Today, there is quite a ‘boho’ atmosphere here, and it’s a place that is particularly popular with young couples who are looking for great nightlife, food, bars, and a lively neighbourhood.


Barcelona’s best spots to see fireworks

Barcelona could be considered to be the ‘Fireworks Capital’ of Catalonia. In fact, it’s almost impossible to take a vacation in Barcelona without seeing the sky light up in a myriad of bright, bold colours. New Year’s Eve, La Merce festival, and the Sant Joan festival host three of the biggest fireworks displays on the Barcelona events calendar, but the big question is, where are the best places to view them from in the city?

Here are a few great options to consider:

Barceloneta Beach

There’s no location in Barcelona quite like Barceloneta Beach, which is why many parties and celebrations are held here throughout the year. The beach is one of the best places to watch the city’s fireworks displays, and there is usually a very lively, colourful atmosphere to enjoy, too.

Your Barcelona Villa

If you’re travelling with young children, or if you don’t really like big crowds, then consider watching the fireworks from your villa in Barcelona. During the bigger holidays, you should have great views from your windows or patio, and you can enjoy the show in a relaxed, quiet, and comfortable environment.

Bunkers de Carmel

If you rent a house in Barcelona near the El Carmel neighbourhood, then the most obvious choice for viewing the fireworks if from the famous Carmel bunkers. From the top of the hill you can enjoy an incredible 360-degree view of the city, putting you in a prime location regardless of where the fireworks take place.

Montjuïc

Like the Carmel bunkers, the beauty of Montjuïc is that the hill looms over the city, so you have a fantastic vantage point. An additional benefit of Montjuïc is that the hill tends to be a little less crowded than locations in the city centre, so you should be able to find plenty of space to set up a tripod.


Smart vacation rental property management with Dawn Buckler of Catalunya & Caribbean Casas

Recently, owner and managing director of Catalunya Casas, Dawn Buckler, was interviewed by Kigo, a vacation property management software company, regarding how vacation rental managers can deliver a great guest experience. Here’s what she shared:

Tell us about Catalunya Casas and Caribbean Casas. What is the mission behind the sites?

Catalunya Casas has been in operation for nine years. Caribbean Casas is two years old and was created out of a need for a winter sun market for our clients. Both offer full-service vacation rental property management. I truly believe that guests feel more confident knowing that there is an agency behind the product – ensuring that service standards will be guaranteed. Privately managed properties with great reviews and testimonials help a lot with guest trust, but this takes years to build up a healthy reputation. As a respected agency, when we contract a new and unproven villa, our clients trust our brand.

What makes Barcelona/Catalonia such a desirable vacation destination? What sets it apart?

Barcelona is now an internationally known vacation destination. It’s very metropolitan, but the surrounding areas still have the laid-back Spanish feel. It offers incredible history, architecture, art, sunshine, gastronomic delicacies and, of course, beaches.

 

What have you found visitors to this region are looking for when it comes to vacation rentals? What are their must-have amenities and features?

What sells in Spain: private pools, large gardens with grass, exterior dining areas, walking distance to amenities and beaches. Match these aspects with a nicely decorated/well-maintained property and competitive prices and you have a winning formula for excellent occupation.

What have you found travelers tend to steer clear of when it comes to vacation rentals? What causes them to pass over a particular property?

Shared pools. We will only contract a property with a shared pool if it is within 1 km of the beach. For Northern European tourists, private swimming pools are rare and a luxury.

How can property owners/managers make their vacation rentals more appealing to travelers? What should they be doing to not only attract new guests but also keep previous ones coming back?

Without a doubt, owners and managers should be looking for direct ways to market their vacation rental websites. With all major listing sites now adding a “booking fee,” guests are looking for the lowest price. If they can find you directly and avoid paying the booking fee, they will do so.

With all of the recent negative hoopla over listing sites adding guest booking fees, I find this a positive and direct advantage to any villa company. Conveniently, for this very reason, listing sites are trying to encourage advertisers to remove their property name from their listings. Do hotels do this? No. And vacation rentals shouldn’t either!

Also, as we are the ones who have the direct contracts with the property, we have an advantage over booking sites. If you look at it in terms of “direct from the manufacturer (villa owner),” we have the lowest prices.

How should property owners approach creating listings for their vacation rentals? What are best practices for making a listing that will increase bookings?

I think it’s a given that great professional photos and descriptions are the number one draw for vacation rentals, but in the end it all comes down to price. Many Spanish property owners overvalue their properties (it’s the same with the property sales market here in Spain). They demand a ridiculously expensive rental price and then complain that they don’t have any bookings.

Yes, the first two weeks of August will always sell regardless of the price but outside of these dates, it’s a competitive market and no matter how wonderful the property is, there are plenty of others just as wonderful with lower rates. A lot of owners do not understand that rates absolutely need to be on a sliding scale depending on the month of the year – and that includes lowering rates in June, July, and September. We are constantly educating our property owners on the concept of “supply and demand.”

 

What doesn’t seem to work as well in property listings? What are the “don’ts”?

Don’t take a “do it yourself” attitude just to avoid management commissions. It’s a lot of work and investment in managing and marketing a property and professional services exist for a reason. We are not here to “take your money.” As an agency, we have no problem sharing calendars and working together in unison to make your property the best it can be. The bottom line is to increase bookings and increase revenue for the owner’s “business.” We are not the competition, rather a collaborator. Doing it together is a win-win situation.

Can you talk about a property or properties that you think have done an exceptional job of attracting vacationers and delivering a “wow” experience? What can we learn from these property owners?

I think client attention is the number one formula for delivering a great experience. Spain has always been a bit behind in areas of customer service. Born and raised in Canada, a country very focused on excellent customer service, I find it difficult to educate many owners on maintenance and cleaning standards. We lose many a property because our requirements are too “demanding.” However, what owners fail to realize is that it’s not us that is demanding – it’s the guests, and rightly so! No, it’s not ok if the electricity trips when it rains, if there is a daily limit on WiFi use, if there is a window handle that does not shut properly, or if there is a “trick” to getting the coffee machine to work. We find that our owners from other countries are much more accepting and understanding of our requirements because they have a longer history of customer service standards.

What trends or innovations are you following in the world of vacation rentals today? Why do they interest you?

Programming rates are the bane of our existence so rate management systems continue to interest me. Unfortunately, I think that many of these programs need a lot more work. They are useful for capital city center apartments but for villas, they need to take into consideration a lot of other aspects including location, seasonal occupation, distances to amenities and transport, individual property features, etc.

Also customizable maintenance and cleaning technology for full-service management agencies. We have a large staff covering property care. It’s very labor intensive to provide an excellent service while maintaining client satisfaction from two sides (owners and guests). We have tried various programs, but keep returning to manual control due to each property having its own very specific set of requirements.


The best picnic spots in Barcelona

Despite the plethora of great restaurants in Barcelona, it can get a bit pricey to dip into your travel budget every time you want a good meal. Luckily, there is an alternative: a picnic! Here are some of the best picnic spots in Barcelona.

Parks

A nearby park is one of the best places to enjoy a picnic on a sunny day. Parc Cervantes is a great choice, with a large picnic area located near the entrance, set amongst the beautiful rose garden. Another good choice is the top of the Joan Brossa Gardens, where you can enjoy a great view of the cable car heading up to Montjuic. Piknic Electronik parties are held here on Sundays during the summer.

Your Barcelona Villa

There’s no need to venture too far from ‘home’ for your picnic; how about enjoying your picnic food at your villa in Barcelona where there are no crowds and no fuss. You’ll enjoy your picnic even more if you book a luxury villa with private pool in Spain!

Beaches

For a seaside picnic, there’s nowhere better than Barceloneta beach, which is one of the biggest beaches in the city, so you’ll always find somewhere comfortable to lay out your blanket. However, it’s also one of the most lively beaches, too, so you’ll have plenty to look at while you’re relaxing with your sandwich.

What to Eat

Local to Catalonia, the ‘Coca’ is a type of savoury pastry that’s enjoyed all across the Mediterranean. The Coca is quite similar to a pizza, topped with nuts, cheeses, and meats. If it’s fresh sandwiches that you’re after, Catalonia actually has a great local sandwich chain, Pans & Company, which has a number of locations in Barcelona. Alternatively, if you wanted to make up your own picnic using local ingredients, head to La Boqueria market in the morning for a range of fresh produce.


All about the Costa Dorada

Located in the Province of Tarragona and stretching all the way between the towns of Cunit and Alcanar, the Costa Dorada is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. The Costa Dorada includes notable destinations such as Salou, Cambrils, and L’Ampolla, making it a top holiday destination in Spain.

The Golden Coast

‘Costa Dorada’ translates as ‘Golden Coast’ because the area is well known for its expanse of golden sands. There are heaps of great beaches along the Costa Dorada, including Cunit Beach, Tarragona Beach, and La Pineda Beach, and many people book a Costa Dorada vacation rental overlooking the shores. The region of L’Ametlla de Mar is even commonly referred to by its nickname — ‘La Cala’, or ‘The Beach’.

Where to Rent a Villa on the Costa Dorada

Despite the region’s name, there’s actually more to the Costa Dorada than just the beaches; the area is much more diverse than it gets credit for! Here’s a glimpse into the very best destinations:

Calafell

This is the place to go for a stunning villa with private pool on the Costa Dorada. It’s very much your typical beachfront town, with great swimming, sunbathing, and relaxation opportunities nearby.

Ametlla

If you don’t fancy cooking anything up in your Costa Dorada holiday rental, then consider Ametlla. As a popular fishing town, Ametlla has some of the very best seafood restaurants in all of Catalonia!

Cunit / Vila-Seca

These two small towns located on the Costa Dorada are bursting with history and culture, and still maintain some old architecture and ruins that can be traced back to Catalonia’s first settlers.

Tarragona

If you’ve enjoyed a holiday in Barcelona in the past, then you’ll love Tarragona. Although a little quieter than Barcelona, there’s still a busy, bustling city atmosphere here with shops, bars, and activities.

Salou

Salou is home to one of Europe’s most famous theme parks: Port Aventura (and now Ferrari Land, too!). If you’re travelling to Spain with kids, then a Salou villa on the Costa Dorada is the perfect choice.

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A guide to Barcelona’s beaches

For such a compact city, Barcelona has a plethora of beaches — 10 in fact! The good news is that there’s really no need to pick just one. Barcelona is a very walkable city, so no matter where your Barcelona holiday rental is located, you should be able to make it to a few different beaches during your trip. See below for the best beaches in Barcelona that you can’t afford to miss out on!

 

Somorrostro. If you’re staying in a Barcelona villa near the city, this beach is one of the most convenient. This is a great ‘all round’ beach, and it’s especially good for kids thanks to the Beach Centre educational facility, which organises all sorts of activities during the summer.

Mar Bella. This beach is located a little out of the city centre towards Sant Marti, and it’s one of the only beaches with a designated nudist area. Although primarily suitable for adults, children are welcomed at the Bac de Roda end of the beach, where there’s a playground.

Sant Sebastià. At 660 metres in length, this is one of Barcelona’s longest beaches, ideal for those wanting to take a stroll along the golden sands. It’s a firm favourite of the locals, but visitors are welcome to enjoy the bathing areas and playgrounds, or simply chill out on a lounger.

 

 

Why Visit a Barcelona Beach?

From swimming to sunbathing, and everything in between, Barcelona’s sands offer visitors that classic beach experience. Many of Barcelona’s beaches also have chiringuitos (beach bars), which you may also hear referred to by the Catalan name; guingueta. The beaches are a place to relax, unwind, have fun, keep fit, socialise, and enjoy some traditional Spanish refreshments. What more could you ask for?

Considerations

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve booked a big family villa in Barcelona for the summer, or you’ve decided on a winter Spain holiday, Barcelona’s beaches are lovely all year round. However, just keep in mind that if you’re visiting outside of the main summer season, some beach facilities may be closed.

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What is the secret to a perfect Catalan paella?

When you’re on vacation in Barcelona, you can’t afford to miss out on one of the region’s most famous dishes: paella. Paella is widely considered to be a Spanish staple, but what exactly is it, and why does Catalan paella always seem to taste just a little bit better? Here’s everything you need to know about paella!

What is Paella?

When you’re on holiday in Spain, you’ll find many restaurants offering classic Spanish paella. A typical recipe includes white rice, beans, vegetables, meat or seafood, and a range of herbs and spices. There are different varieties, including the ‘original’ Valencian recipe with snails, and vegetarian recipes, but some say that the Catalan way is the best. So what do the Catalans do differently?

Catalan Paella

While on a Barcelona holiday, you may notice that your restaurant paella is a little different (and many would say better!) than paella you’ve tasted in other parts of Spain. Catalan paella is made with the same traditional ingredients, but the method is slightly different than that of other regions. In Catalonia, the trend is to avoid mixing the paella once the rice has been added to the pot, leaving everything to relax and soak up the rich, bold flavours.

Self Catering

If you’ve decided to stay in a self-catering Catalonia villa rental, then why not try whipping up a Catalan paella on your own? Give yourself plenty of time, as a good paella can’t be rushed, and remember to pair the dish with a local Catalan wine. Paella also tastes better when it’s eaten in a magnificent location, so bring your dishes out and enjoy them by the pool at your luxury Barcelona villa.

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Hiking along the Costa Brava

If you love nature, the great outdoors, and keeping active, then rent a villa on the Costa Brava, where you’ll have easy access to one of Spain’s most spectacular hiking trails: Camino de Ronda. Considered to be Costa Brava’s ‘hiking gem’, the path travels all 136 miles between Blanes in Catalonia to Collioure in France, and is a great alternative to the much longer 450-mile Camino de Santiago Frances Trail.

Camino de Ronda — Day Hike

For many visitors to Catalonia, hiking the entire 136-mile trail may be a bit too much. However, the good news is that it’s possible to just walk a small section of the path in one day, which can give you a great taste of the coastal path. Start in Calella de Palafrugell and walk up to the lighthouse in Llafranc before walking back again. In some places, the trail goes right along the beach for amazing views.

Camino de Ronda — Through Hike

Travelling all the way between Blanes and Collioure is a big journey, but it can be done! If you find it difficult to pack lightly, consider arranging for luggage transfer through a company in Spain. These companies drive your bags from one villa in Spain to another, so you can enjoy a lightweight walk in the day but still have all your little luxuries waiting for you at your destination.

Why Walk the Costa Brava Trail?

There are many wonderful things to see in Catalonia, but it’s impossible to see them all from your Spain holiday rental. By taking a walk away from the main tourist destinations, you’ll stumble across hidden beaches and secret coves, tiny fishing villages and inland beauty spots; all places that you wouldn’t have found if you’d stayed in the more well-known places.

Camino de Ronda Accommodations

The great news is that the Camino de Ronda trail runs right through a number of popular resort destinations, including Lloret de Mar, Tossa del Mar, and Cap de Creus, which means that there’s a wide range of Spain holiday rentals available along the track. This allows you to really take your time, walk at a pace that’s comfortable for you, and really make the most of the incredible sights along the way.

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Explore Catalonia’s ancient ruins

Spain’s Catalonia region is famous for its centuries of history and is home to some of the best-preserved Medieval towns and villages in the world. If you’re interested in delving back even further into the region’s history to learn more about the Greek and Roman eras during your holiday in Spain, check out some of Catalonia’s ancient ruins. From historic walled remains to first-century racecourses, the Catalonia region has plenty to uncover. Here are three of the region’s best-preserved ancient ruins that are open to the public.

Empúries

The old town of Empúries was founded in 575 BC by the Greeks, although the town was eventually taken over by the Romans. Excavations on the town began in the 1900s, and today it’s possible to see old homes, temples, walls, and mosaics, and there’s even the Museum of MAC-Empúries which provides stories behind the ruins. However, the highlights are the gardens, where you can learn more about traditional Roman medicine, and the underground crypt, which has only recently opened to the public. Book a Costa Brava vacation rental to stay near to Empúries. If you enjoy pleasant strolls, then stay in L’Escala and take the pedestrianized coastal path right along the water to the town.

Tarragona Amphitheatre

Built in the second century, the Tarragona Amphitheatre is one of the main attractions in this old town, which was once a thriving Roman colony known as Tarraco. Taking on a traditional Colosseum appearance, it is believed that the amphitheatre could once hold up to 15,000 spectators at a time, making it one of the largest in Europe. When Islam arrived and Catholicism dwindled as the primary religion in Spain, the amphitheatre was abandoned, and over the years it has housed a church and has been used as a prison. Luckily for those taking a vacation in Spain, the theatre was somewhat recovered in recent years, and today is a remarkably well-preserved site.

Circ Roma

Another great location in Tarragona is Circ Roma, or the Roman Circus. Built in the first century, this was the place to see and be seen, and played a major role in the world of leisure during Roman rule. Somewhat of an ancient alternative to the modern Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the Roman Circus was the best place in Catalonia to watch fast-action chariot races. Perhaps one of Catalonia’s best preserved ruins, remaining inscriptions have led experts to believe that the racetrack remained in use until the fifth century, when it was abandoned. A part of the track is still very much intact, making it an amazing place to explore. Tarragona is easy to reach from most villas on the Costa Dorada, but it’s also just a one-hour drive from Barcelona, too, making it a top choice for a day trip during your Barcelona holiday.

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Tips for renting a car in Spain

During a holiday in Spain, it is common to be curious about the best way of get around the region. The answer may vary depending on the specific area that travelers are visiting. Getting from a vacation villa in Barcelona to the city’s top sights and attractions is generally very easy using public transport as many parts of Catalonia benefit from excellent rail links and bus routes. However, for those planning to visit some of the more quiet and isolated parts of the country, a car may be the best choice.

 

 

If you’re looking for the fastest and most convenient way to get from your villa in Barcelona to a Costa Dorada holiday rental, then here’s everything you need to know about hiring a car in Spain.

Age: While the minimum driving age in Spain is 18, you’ll need to be a little older to rent a car. Most Spanish rental agencies set their minimum age limit at either 21 or 22, although others may restrict rentals to those who are 25 years old or older. In most cases, renters under age 25 will need to pay an additional ‘young driver fee’, which usually amounts to around 20 EUR per day.

License: Whether you rent from a location in Barcelona or somewhere else in Spain, you will need to present a valid driving license from your home country. Although an International Driving License is not a legal requirement if you have a license from an EU country, it is still recommended as it can make things easier if you require assistance during the rental period.

Locations: Although most rental cars can be driven across European borders without hassle, it’s worth double checking with your rental agency if you plan to cross over the French Pyrenees or visit Andorra. If you do decide to visit more places in Europe during your trip, beware that you may be charged extra if you return your car to a different country.

Driving in Spain

The good news is that driving in Spain is actually very simple. Although things can be a little hectic if you rent a car from a central location in Barcelona, driving Barcelona’s roads is not particularly stressful. In Spain, they drive on the right, which is simple for Americans but a little trickier for Brits! Remember that speed limits are posted in km/h, rather than m/h, and that standard speed limits are 50km/h for urban areas, 90km/h for rural areas, and 120km/h when driving on Spanish motorways.

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There’s more to Barcelona than Barcelona!

If you’re thinking about taking a vacation in Barcelona, will you visit the city itself, or will you see what else the province of Barcelona has to offer? Contrary to popular belief, Barcelona isn’t just a city; it’s also one of Catalonia’s four provinces, and there’s much more to the area than simply the city. In fact, the province is bursting with culture, history, and plenty of scenery.

Vilassar de Mar.

City Life

Along with Barcelona, there’s also a number of other busy, bustling cities within Barcelona province that demonstrate just how lively and active things can be in Catalonia. If you love the full, hectic atmosphere of major cities, then book a villa in Barcelona province in the city of Hospitalet de Llobregat, or “L’Hospitalet” for short, which is actually one of the most densely packed cities in all of Europe! While there’s not quite as much to do here as there is in the city of Barcelona, L’Hospitalet certainly has one mightily impressive skyline with some of the tallest skyscrapers in all of Catalonia.

For a completely different side to city life, try another city location in Barcelona province: Mataró. This is a quieter, compact city that’s very easy to navigate on foot, and is a little more laidback than L’Hospitalet or Barcelona. The main sights are the Roman ruins and the Puig i Cadafalch architecture. It’s located south of the Costa Brava, so you can easily visit Mataró from your Costa Brava vacation rental.

Sitges.

Mediterranean Beauty

Of course, many people who take a holiday in Spain want sun, sea, and sand, and Barcelona province has plenty! As well as the fascinating and historic cities, there’s also a number of smaller coastal resorts that scream “Mediterranean!”. Sitges is one of these areas, and it’s one of the most popular holiday destinations in Catalonia. It offers plenty for visitors, including sandy beaches, cultural museums, seafront restaurants, and luxury Costa Dorada holiday rentals overlooking the famous golden coast.

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When in Catalunya, catch the Castells

Want to see something completely unique and a little bit off-the-wall during your holiday in Spain? Make it a point to check out the famous Catalan Castells: the human towers that have become a true spectacle. Translating into ‘castle’ in English, which refers to the overall structure of the tower, the Castells are a common display at many festivals and at other major community events in Catalonia. Believed to have been a Catalan tradition since 1712, the Castells have become a big part of the local culture, and were even given UNESCO Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity status.

Castell History & Evolution

If you were staying in a villa in Barcelona back in the 1980s, the type of Castells you will have witnessed would be totally different from the Castells you would see in the city today. Understood to have a religious meaning, this has become somewhat lost over the years. Today the displays are mostly for show, with towers getting taller and taller every year and including more and more acrobatics. There is a bigger performance aspect to modern Castells, and some towers can even reach up to 10 levels!

Where to See Castells

It is pretty easy to plan your vacation in Spain to coincide with the Casteller season as the season runs from February to November. The Castells regularly appear at festivals in the area, but perhaps the very best place to see them is in Valls, which is where they originated. Be sure to stop by the museum, Món Casteller: The Human Towers Experience, to learn more about this unusual Catalan sport.

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All about the Costa Brava

The Costa Brava is located in the Province of Girona, and runs from the beautiful Catalan town of Blanes all the way up to the French border. The towns along the Costa Brava were once mostly sleepy fishing towns, but things are very different today. Starting in the 1950s, many luxury resorts and Costa Brava vacation rentals were built in the region, especially around the seaside towns of Tossa de Mar and Lloret de Mar, making the Costa Brava a top tourist destination for those looking for a trio of sun, sea, and sand.

The “Rough Coast”

‘Costa Brava’ translates as ‘Rough Coast’, and gets its name from Catalan journalist Ferran Agulló who remarked on the coast’s raw, rugged scenery and jagged shoreline. Unlike the Costa Dorada, which boasts a fairly neat, clean coast, the Costa Brava is made up of steep, rocky cliffs and natural features which result in its bays, inlets, coves, islands, and peninsulas. Photographers are often known to rent a villa on the Costa Brava to capture this stunning and unusual look.

Sights & Scenery

The scenery on the Costa Brava is quite the mix. From your villa on the Costa Brava you may see white sand beaches or wild marshland; lakes or tropical gardens; historic castles and fortresses or protected nature reserves with all sorts of flora and fauna. Blankets of beaches cover Platja d’Aro, fascinating rock formations rise at Palamós, and a beautiful harbour cuts into Llafranc. There are even three separate and distinct lush green natural parks; Cap de Creus Natural Park, Montseny Natural Park, and Aiguamolls de l’Empordà.

Choosing a villa with pool on the Costa Brava is an excellent choice for those who love nature and spending time in the great outdoors. The town of Blanes is also just an hour’s drive from Barcelona, so it’s ideal for a multi-centre holiday, blending city life with more rural, back-to-nature living.

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Calçotadas: Catalonia’s onion obsession

Vacation rentals in Barcelona can get booked up quickly during the summer as it is one of the most popular times to visit Catalonia. However, deciding to take a Barcelona holiday in the winter isn’t such a bad idea especially if you like onions! Why? Because it’s calçot season; a time for good food and good wine!

What is a Calçot?

A calçot is a type of onion that is similar to a scallion, spring onion, green onion, salad onion, or the like. They’re harvested during the winter months in rural Catalonia, and are served in a rather unique and interesting way that makes them truly delicious and hard to put down!

Catalonia Calçotades

If you’re staying in a villa in Barcelona during the winter, you may hear the locals discussing the calçotada…but what is IT? A calçotada is a festival celebrating the calçot, where the onions are barbecued, steamed, and then eaten as a snack, usually dipped in a traditional Romesco sauce from Tarragona. There are also grilled meats, crusty breads, and copious amounts of local red wine.

Finding Calçotadas

If you’re keen to visit a calçotada during your holiday in Spain, then consider visiting the town of Valls in January, which is when the region’s biggest annual calçotada takes place. However, you’re sure to find smaller calçotadas taking place in restaurants throughout calçot season, which runs from December to April.

Even if onions aren’t really your thing, Valls is still a great place to visit in the winter months. Spend time in Plaça del Blat in the historic centre of the town, home to the Castells Museum, where you can learn more about another of Valls’ famous attractions: the human towers, which have been a unique Catalan artistic style since the 1700s!

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Ecotourism in Catalonia

Many people dream about swimming with dolphins, but what about swimming with bluefin tuna? Ecotourism is becoming a huge attraction for people who take a holiday in Spain, and the region of Catalonia is ripe with such opportunities.

Ecotourism

The idea behind ecotourism is to encourage visitors to look after and care for the environment, teaching them more about the local area, its vulnerabilities, and demonstrating how we can all help to do our part for the environment. Tuna tours take place in the Terres de l’Ebre region of Catalonia, where it’s possible to not only swim with endangered bluefin tuna, but also to learn more about sustainable fishing methods.

The Tuna Tour

The Tuna Tour leaves from Ametlla de Mar for a 30-minute catamaran ride into the depths of the Mediterranean Sea. Sailing away, you’ll get a great view of the coastline, as well as the beautiful villas on the Costa Dorada. The swimming season lasts from June to October, so plan your trip accordingly.

Although this is open-sea swimming in the Mediterranean, the tuna pool is completely enclosed making it safe for both swimmers and the fish. You’ll be provided with a wetsuit so you can keep your swimsuit clean and dry, ready to throw on once you get back to your villa with private pool on the Costa Dorada!

Ametlla de Mar

If a Costa Dorada vacation rental sounds ideal, then consider staying in Ametlla de Mar, a southern town with gorgeous beaches, plenty of watersports, great museums, a few castles, and truly fantastic views. As one of Catalonia’s primary fishing ports, the local seafood is delicious (and much of it is sustainable, too!). Ametlla de Mar is big enough for couples and families to enjoy a range of activities, while also basking in the small fishing town feel.

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Underground Barcelona

Have you ever stopped to think what might be lurking underneath your Barcelona villa? Soil, dirt, or how about a bomb shelter? If you make your way to Barcelona’s El Poble-Sec district, then you could have the chance to visit Refugi 307, an air raid shelter dating from the Spanish Civil War.

Refugi 307

Refugi 307 is made up of more than 400 metres of underground tunnel, with winding passageways measuring just 1.5 metres wide (this certainly isn’t a place for the claustrophobic!). It provides a completely different experience to what you get at your luxury vacation villa in Spain, offering a glimpse into what life was really like for those who spent time here during the war. During a tour of the shelter, you can even view the original toilets, the old drinking fountains, and the makeshift infirmary.

Believe it or not, there are between 1,000 and 2,000 air raid shelters nestled beneath the city, so what’s hiding under your Barcelona accommodation? Whatever it is, chances are it’s nowhere near as elaborate or fancy as Refugi 307. For while these series of tunnels may appear disheveled and unkempt, Refugi 307 was, at the time, actually considered to be one of the more privileged air raid shelters. Digging into the mountainside produced a reliable water source, something most did not have.

El Poble-Sec

Although many travellers opt for a more ‘Old Town’ location in Barcelona, it is worth checking out what El Poble-Sec has to offer. As a more modern district, boasting a central location, bustling streets, great nightlife, and spectacular views across Montjuïc, this is a place that’s not to be missed. The mountainous area itself tends to be a little cooler, and is ideal for picnics, making it an excellent choice for families.

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Barcelona locations for families with children

Barcelona is a great family-friendly destination, and it’s the perfect place to enjoy a holiday with your children. Not only can you find a lot of family villas in Barcelona, but there are also 10 beautiful beaches and a number of kid-friendly museums, too! However, there are a few considerations to take into account to ensure your Spain holiday is simple and stress-free, the most important of which is deciding where to stay.

Barcelona’s Districts

Although many people who take a Barcelona holiday love the old city area, including the districts of Sant Pere and Barceloneta, these may not be the best areas for families with very young children. Historic and cobbled, with narrow, winding streets, it may be difficult to maneuver a pushchair in these areas, and the uneven surfaces could increase the risk of trips and falls. Instead,  look into villas in Barcelona outside the city center. These properties will have gardens where kids can play, and some even have private, secured pools.

 

Barcelona’s Beaches

Many kids love spending the day at the beach, but families often prefer quieter areas than some busy and bustling beaches. If the beaches close to the heart of the city sound a little hectic, why not rent a house in Barcelona that’s just a little further down the coast? From Sitges to El Vendrell to Tarragona, these Costa Dorada beaches tend to be less crowded and much more enjoyable for families.

Things to Do

Barcelona’s residents are renowned for their friendly nature, so if you’re not sure if a building is equipped with a lift that is suitable for pushchairs, or for young children, don’t hesitate to ask a member of the staff! Take the kids on a day trip to the Barcelona Zoo or Port Aventura for an afternoon of fun rides as you collect precious family memories.

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Don’t miss Tarragona’s best festivals

If you love taking part in local events, then where is the best place to take a holiday in Spain? Many people would book a villa in Barcelona for events such as the Barcelona Carnival and La Mercè, but there’s actually another popular destination that’s giving Barcelona a run for its money: Tarragona.

 

Tarragona holds a number of annual festivals that really are great fun! See below for just a few.

Dixieland

Like Breda, Dresden, and Miskolc, Tarragona also hosts its own Dixieland festival, dedicated to classic, New Orleans-style jazz. The city has been hosting the events since 1994, with festivities taking place annually during the weekend before Easter. Keep in mind that the music carries on well into the night, so if you book a Spain villa near to any of the venues, such as the Premium Music Club or the Bar del Teatre Metropol, you may want to pack some earplugs in your luggage if you’re an ‘early-to-bed’ kind of person!

Fireworks

The Tarragona International Fireworks competition is one not to be missed! Usually taking place at the end of June, the world’s most talented fireworks designers and routine coordinators gather in the city to show the world just how it’s done. The main festivities take place on Playa del Miracle Beach, but the real beauty of this festival is that the fireworks can be seen from anywhere; from a local restaurant, from your luxury vacation rental in Spain, or from practically anywhere else in the city and surrounding areas.

 

Santa Tecla

The Santa Tecla festival in Tarragona lasts for a whopping 10 days, and there’s always something new to see and enjoy. The festivals typically includes movies, sports events, parties, music, and dance, but it is most famous for its human towers which are truly a sight to behold. Santa Tecla is one of just two Catalonia festivals that have been given declarations by the Spanish Government. The festival is considered to be of national and tourism interest, and is one of the hottest events in the calendar.

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Walking the Roman walls of Girona

Although many travelers love to relax in their villa with private pool in Spain, others are looking for a vacation in Spain that’s a little more active. The good news is that Catalonia offers the best of both worlds, with great places to relax, and a number of lively activities to really get the heart pumping. One of the best things to do if you’re an activity lover is to walk the old Roman walls of Girona.

Passeig de la Muralla

The pathway created by the Roman walls is known as ‘Passeig de la Muralla’, and experts believe that some sections of the wall date as far back as the first century! However, many portions of the wall are actually much newer and were restored following intentional destruction, which enabled the city of Girona to expand. There are a number of entry and exit points along the path, but taking in the entire 3-kilometer wall is recommended. (You can rest your legs at your villa in Spain at the end of the day!)

One of the best advantages of walking the Roman walls of Girona is that you can see the entire town — and even further afield — from the spectacular vantage points. The iconic cathedral is one of the most prominent sights from the walls, and in the distance you can see the snow capped peaks of the Pyrenees.

Visiting Girona

Girona is located about a 1.5-hour drive from Barcelona, so while it’s a trip that can be done in a day from your Barcelona villa, you may want to allow for a little more time to explore, especially if you plan on walking the Roman walls. Fortunately, there are some great Spain vacation rentals in this part of Catalonia, so why not extend your stay and stop for a night in this beautiful and historic city?

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Where to golf in Catalonia

With heaps of world-class golf courses and stunning coastal views, Catalonia is the perfect place to take a golf vacation in Spain. Whether you are planning on a birdie or a hole in one, here are a few worthy suggestions for your next golf holiday in Spain.

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PGA Catalunya Resort

PGA Catalunya Resort

Located due south of the Catalonian city of Girona, the PGA Catalunya Golf Resort is one of the most well-known in the region; in fact the Stadium Course has been ranked the top golf course in Spain and has achieved top 10 status throughout Europe. The course opened in 1999 and has since become a venue for many of the European PGA  tournaments. The stunning landscape features tree-lined fairways, hidden bunkers, and tranquil lakes. If you find the Stadium Course too challenging, try the picturesque Tour Course, suitable for all levels and sprinkled with lakes and pine trees.

Club Golf D’Aro – Mas Nou

If you like your golf course with a side of sea views, Club Golf D’Aro could be just what you are looking for. With 18 holes, two golf courses, and nine pitch-and-putt holes, there is something for everyone. Located close to the popular Catalan beach resort of Platja D’Aro the course is more than 300 metres above sea level, surrounded by a natural park filled with cork, pine, and olive trees and two artificial lakes. Between holes, admire the spectacular sea views from the fairways before you navigate your buggy to the next tee.

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Lumine Mediterranea Beach Club & Golf Community

Lumine Mediterranea Beach Club & Golf Community

This golf course has not two, but three golf courses and 45 holes in total. Situated close to villas on the Costa Dorada, the courses encompass 170 hectares in total. Try to avoid becoming distracted by the sheer abundance of nature, wetlands, archaeological ruins, and the sea views – be aware your score card may suffer!

Club de Golf Peralada

With a backdrop of the Pyrenees, it’s easy to see why Club de Golf Peralada is so popular. This 18-hole, par 71 course is located in the northern Costa Brava in Emporda, a 10-minute drive from the French border. The golf course is competition level and also has a great pitch-and-putt academy that can be enjoyed year round.

If you are fortunate enough to be staying in a holiday rental on the Costa Brava, Maresme, or Costa Dorada, there are world-class golf courses right on your doorstep. On your next visit to Catalonia, don’t forget to pack your clubs!

 

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A bird’s eye view of Barcelona

A few of the best ways to see the city of Barcelona include walking the historic streets of the Barri Gotic and strolling around the more modern plazas of the neighbourhood of Eixample. But what if you want alternative views of the city? What if there was a way to view Barcelona villas, shops, statues, and structures from the sky? Well there is! In fact, there are actually a few ways to get a bird’s eye view of the city of Barcelona.

Port Vell Tramway

The Port Vell Aerial Tramway was opened in 1931, but the original cabins are still in use today, which makes this a very interesting and historic attraction in the city. The base station location in Barcelona is very convenient at La Barceloneta, and the 1,303-meter long line transports visitors from the coast to the top of Montjuïc for truly breathtaking views. The entire ride provides great views along the way, especially of the harbour, and if it’s clear you can even see as far as far as the Sagrada Familia and the Hospital de Sant Pau. If you’re not too fond of heights, don’t worry — a single ride only lasts five to 10 minutes in total.

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Montjuïc Cable Car

Many visitors on holiday in Barcelona think that the Port Vell Tramway and the Montjuïc Cable Car are the same thing, but actually they’re two very different and distinct attractions. Opened in 1970, the Montjuïc Cable Car travels between Montjuïc Park and Montjuïc Castle near the mountain’s summit. Not only is it an excellent way to reach the castle without tiring out your legs, it’s also an amazing opportunity to get a different view of the city below. The ride takes just five minutes, but thanks to the glass-encased cabins, this is all the time you need to enjoy the views and take some great pictures.

City Views

Don’t forget that there’s another great way to enjoy a unique view of Barcelona, too: from your airplane! Thanks to the airport’s convenient location just along the coast from Montjuïc, you’ll enjoy some spectacular views at the start and end of your holiday in Spain without having to leave your seat!

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A guide to Picasso’s Barcelona

There are many reasons why travellers choose to take a holiday in Spain; everything from the fine weather to the glorious coastal resorts of Catalonia. However, Spain, and Barcelona in particular, is also known as being a top vacation destination for art lovers, who flock here to get a feel for Picasso’s Barcelona.

Although Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga in the south of Spain and spent much of his life in France, it is widely reported that he considered Barcelona to be his true home. The Picasso family decided to buy a house in Barcelona at a time when the city was ready and willing to start embracing some of the more radical movements, and Cubist Picasso easily found his place here, essentially launching his career in the city.

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Picasso’s art

Picasso underwent his famous ‘blue period’ in Barcelona, and many of his blue-tinted artworks are inspired by his life in the city. One of his most well-known depictions of Barcelona is, of course, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (currently on display at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art), which shows the more sinful side of historic city life. The street depicted in the artwork, Carrer D’Avinyo, is still around, and you can easily visit it from your Barcelona villa in the beautiful, cobbled Barri Gotic neighbourhood.

Castle-like interior of one of our villas

Castle-like interior of one of our villas

Picasso Museum & other areas of interest

Opened in 1963, the Picasso Museum has a great, central location in Barcelona, and displays 4,251 pieces of Picasso artwork. However, there are many more Picasso-related sights and attractions in the city. The Barcelona Ceramics Museum houses a few pieces, while the National Museum of Catalan Art houses Woman in Hat and Fur Collar, which is one of many paintings Picasso did of his mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter. Finally, it’s well worth stopping for lunch at the 4 Cats Tavern, which is where Picasso held his very first exhibition. Today, it’s a popular gastrobar serving up mouthwatering Spanish cuisine.

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Walking Las Ramblas

Whatever sort of Barcelona accommodation you choose and wherever it is, chances are you’ll be a walk or train ride away from Las Ramblas, a large, central shopping street in the city that’s a big hit with visitors.

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Understanding Las Ramblas

Contrary to popular belief, Las Ramblas isn’t actually a single street. In fact, it’s made up of lots of smaller streets: Rambla de Canaletes, Rambla dels Estudis, Rambla de Sant Josep, Rambla dels Caputxins, and Rambla de Santa Mònica. There is plenty to see along these streets, and lots of shopping and dining, too.

What to see and do

Even if you’re only in Barcelona on holiday for a few days, you should try to find time to walk Las Ramblas as it’s arguably one of the biggest attractions in the city. If you love shopping, then La Boqueria market is definitely worth checking out. It sells all manner of goods, but the vibrant colours of the fresh fruits and vegetables are what really makes this place noteworthy. If you’re in a self-catering villa in Barcelona, you’ll certainly find some delicious foods to pick up for dinner while browsing in this open-air market.

 

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There are plenty of sights along Las Ramblas, too, including the beautiful and breathtaking architecture of the historic Liceu Theatre and Virreina Palace, and monuments such as the Columbus Monument at the end of the street, and the ornate Font de Canaletes fountain, both of which are excellent photo points.

An easy stroll

The entirety of Las Ramblas stretches for three quarters of a mile, from Plaça de Catalunya to Port Vell, so it’s a nice easy stroll and a return trip can easily be completed in a morning or afternoon (although with so much to see and do, it’s worth allocating a little longer for your walk). Lace up your walking shoes and enjoy a light stroll away from your vacation rental in Barcelona.

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The best hiking trails in Catalonia

Leaving your deluxe Catalonia villa rental might not be high on your list of things to do on holiday (especially if you’ve opted for a luxurious villa with private pool in Spain!), but it really is worth taking some time to get out and enjoy the country’s stunning natural beauty. While many people choose to rent a car, there are much better ways to enjoy the sights and sounds of the region; taking a bike ride in Catalonia, for example, or perhaps even donning the walking boots and heading off on the hiking trails.

Here are some of the best walking routes in Catalonia.

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  • Sant Jeroni Trail, Montserrat

Taking just over one hour in total, this is an excellent hiking route for people of all ability levels. There’s a sharp ascent up to the summit, but it’s worth the effort for the breathtaking views over the Llobregat valley. If you’re staying in a Barcelona accommodation, it’s easy to get to the start of the trail; take a train to Montserrat-Aeri, and then the St. Joan funicular.

  • GR92, Blanes – Lloret

The GR92 long-distance walking route covers a whopping 362 miles between Portbou and Vilanova, but there’s a very manageable and stunning coastal section for leisure hikers between Blanes and Lloret. At just over three miles one way, it’s even good for kids, and it’s a handy and convenient option for those with a holiday rental in Costa Brava. The beach at Lloret is stunning, so spend some time there if you can!

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  • Footpath 1, Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park

If you fancy heading a little bit inland, there’s nowhere better than the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park. There are more than 20 different trails in the park, but footpath 1 is arguably one of the best. A loop trail covering just over six miles, this path takes you to the Santa Margarida crater, which is much more lush and green than you may think. It’s a tiring walk, but it will be a highlight of your vacation in Spain.

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Catalonia: Land of Castles?

There’s a great deal of debate over exactly where the name ‘Catalonia’, or ‘Catalunya’, came from. There are some who say that the region is named after the Katelans, an Iberian tribe. Others say that the name has Celtic origins. Perhaps most interesting, however, is the belief that Catalonia means ‘Land of Castles’. While we don’t know for sure, what we do know is that the region has an abundance of fortresses and magnificent, castle-like mansions that make this a very historic and stunning place to visit.

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The beauty of the ‘Land of Castles’ is that there’s a lot of diversity in both the architectural styles and the current status of the buildings. Some luxurious manor-style constructions have now been converted into villas in Spain, for example, allowing visitors to enjoy a truly luxurious vacation experience. Others, such as Castell de Montsoriu in Girona, are open for tours by appointment only, while some, like Castell de Santa Florentina located in the Barcelona area, are known as popular Catalonia wedding venues.

When it comes to design, Catalonia has a lot of variation, which means that travellers can visit many different styles of castles from their Spain vacation rental. Santa Florentina Castle is probably what most people think of when they hear the word ‘castle’; it’s the classic fairy-tale fortress that makes us feel like children again. Castell de Montsoriu, on the other hand, has a bit more of a raw, rugged, almost Moorish feel to it, and while it now lies largely in ruins, many aspects of its former grandeur still shine through.

Castle-like interior of one of our villas

Castle-like interior of one of our villas

With so many castles, there are also heaps of myths and legends! From the Lady in Red to Guilleuma the witch, and from General Mauser to whispers of secret treasure, there is a lot of history to delve into in Catalonia. For a region that’s most famous for its breathtaking coastline, its shopping, and its golf in Barcelona, there’s much more to this part of Spain than meets the eye. Whether you love a bit of history, or simply want to visit some castles during your holiday, Catalonia is the place to go.

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Understanding the Catalan language

Travellers looking to rent a villa in Spain may be wondering how they’ll communicate with their hosts. The good news is that most locals who operate vacation rentals in Spain will have some command of the English language or will be happy to communicate in their native Spanish. However, if you’re considering a villa in Barcelona, a villa in Costa Dorada, or in any other destination in Catalonia, keep in mind that many people in this part of the country speak Catalan; a language similar to, but different from, Spanish.

Practice the language using items in the home

Practice the language using items in the home.

Catalan was the language of the Catalan rulers, and it went wherever they did. Saturation reached its peak between the 13th and 15th centuries, with a number of historically important works of literature being published in Catalan around this time, most notably the romance novel Tirant lo Blanch and the poetry of famed Valencian author Ausiàs March. However, the Spanish influences soon took over.

Despite Catalan falling out of favour, the language has done very well at retaining relevance. Today, it’s not only an official language of Catalonia and Andorra, but it’s also spoken in some areas of Southern France, Sardinia, and the Balearic Islands. Although there are six distinct Catalan dialects, a basic understanding of the language should be enough for you to chat with the host at your Barcelona villa.

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Paella means paella!

If you already have some knowledge of the romance languages, then you’ll find Catalan quite familiar. ‘Mat’i (morning), for example, is ‘matin’ in French and ‘mattina’ in Italian. In fact, even if you’re not confident in your language abilities outside of English, there are still a few similarities you may pick up on, such as ‘aubergine’ and ‘albergínia’, and ‘paella’ which is exactly the same in both languages!

When you’re relaxing at your villa in Spain, you’ll realise that the country is so laid back that it doesn’t matter if you speak the local language or not. However, it never hurts to brush up on your skills before a trip, and the residents are sure to appreciate your efforts to learn more about their language and culture.

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How to make a tasty Spanish gazpacho

If you have ever been on holiday in Spain you may have encountered gazpacho, the delicious chilled tomato-based soup comprise of a combination of rich, refreshing flavours. The perfect starter for a summer barbecue in your villa in Catalonia, it’s simple to prepare and quick to serve. Here is one of our favourite recipes that you can recreate at home or while staying in your vacation rental in Spain.

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To concoct a tasty gazpacho, you will need approximately 1 kilogram of vine tomatoes. Remove the vines and with a knife, carve across on the skin of each tomato at the base. Pop them into a pan of boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds. Remove and plunge them into a bowl of cold water, and the skins should come away effortlessly.

Try next to remove the seeds from the tomatoes, then chop the leftover pieces and put into a blender. If there is any juice remaining, chop two slices of white bread and soak in the tomato juice for 5 to 10 minutes.

Next, finely chop a green pepper and place it along with garlic into the blender with the tomato soaked bread, a couple of tablespoons of sherry vinegar and olive oil, 1 teaspoon of light brown sugar, and, if you prefer, add a dash of tabasco. Blend all ingredients until they are smooth and add a few teaspoons of cold water.

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By now your soup should look slightly thicker than usual soup but not too lumpy. Add salt and pepper to season then chill in the refrigerator for 2 to 2.5 hours.

To prepare the garnishes, first boil an egg, simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, then place in cold water. Chop a red and yellow pepper and some cucumber and place them in the fridge. Chop 3 to 4 slices of almost stale bread and blend with olive oil. Season lightly and then place it in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. Peel your now chilled egg and chop into pieces and pop them in the fridge.

Once your gazpacho is suitably chilled, place all garnishes into separate bowls so that your guests can help themselves. You can opt to serve the soup with a few ice cubes if the weather is really hot, although this will decrease the thickness. Now sit back and relax in your villa with private pool in Spain and enjoy your sumptuous creation!

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The best museums and galleries in Barcelona

Barcelona is packed with places to visit if you feel like accepting some culture into your life. The amount of world-class art galleries and museums the city has to offer is staggering. Capture your imagination in the National Museum of Modern Art of Catalunya or if you have a penchant for all things maritime with a dash of Gothic architecture, head to the Maritime Museum. Wherever you wish to visit during your stay, there is a place to suit your tastes close to your Barcelona accommodation.

MNAC – Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
This is one of the world’s grandest museums, showcasing a variety of Catalan artwork that ranges from the Romanesque period to Gothic art and Modernism.

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Museum of History of the City – Museu d’Historia de la Ciutat
This museum tells the tale of the ancient city of Barcelona and explores her drainage systems, public baths, and even wine storage areas. You can also revel in Palau Reial, a former Royal Palace where you can admire the 14th-century banquet hall.

Maritime Museum – Museu Maritim
In days of yore much of Barcelona’s prosperity was dependent on trade from the sea. These ancient Gothic shipyards give a sense of the adventure and history of the area from the age of rafts to steam. There is also a full-size replica of the flagship belonging Don Juan of Austria. The story brings to life the existence of volunteers, prisoners, and slaves who lived aboard the ship.

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Museum of Contemporary Art Barcelona – Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona
The expanding art collection at MACBA begins in a Gothic chapel and extends across the plaza into a glistening building of white. This museum showcases the best international, Catalan, and Spanish contemporary works of art. In addition to the temporary collections, there are also 1,600 pieces in the museums own collection, so they have to rotate the artwork.

Fundacio Antoni Tapies
If you have seen Gaudi and wish to delve deeper into the architecture and artwork of other famous Catalan visionaries, here is your chance. This foundation experiments with Catalonias Modernist art for which the city is renowned. The building itself is a delight to behold, with Tapies designing the structure to reflect his own mind at the time. Tapies political messages are hidden in his works; they are not easily decipherable but admirers can try to discover the meanings behind the collection.

Wherever you plan on visiting during your stay, there are museums and galleries on every street corner of the city. You are sure to find one close to your Barcelona holiday rental that fascinates and mesmerizes.

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The best brunch spots In Barcelona

When in Barcelona, do as the locals do and enjoy an extended meal experience! Catalans spend heaps of time at the meal table and are especially known for their hours-long lunches. As the popularity of the Sunday brunch tradition enters the region from other parts of the world, locals have started to embrace the laid-back breakfast/lunch meal, as well! Enjoy brunch at the following Barcelona hotspots.

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The fusion menu
There are a few hidden places that offer the best of local-meets-internation cuisine. One such spot is Caravelle on Carrer Pintor Fortuny where everything is homemade. The British-American owner couple has created the perfect fusion dishes like toasted muesli, fruits, and berries, or opt for the Moroccan-style baked eggs and avocado. There are also the goodies for those who have a sweet tooth with fresh strawberries and ice cream.

The international blend
Milk Bar & Bistro is the first brunch spot in Barcelona introduced by the Irish couple running it. The place offers the ¨Recovery Brunch¨ which comprises dishes like eggs, pancakes, and bananas, as well as a veggie tortilla with cheese. The sun-dried tomatoes with scallions and the arugula are also part of the veg brunch. Wash it all down with a vodka-laced Bloody Marys.

The healthy choice
Flax & Kale in El Raval is yet another brunch spot with urban chic décor. The freshly made juices are a prime attraction. There are bagels made of whole grains, flax, and chia as well as grilled tempeh with tomatoes that grace the healthy menu. Eggs Benedict is served on homemade bread, and marinated salmon with fresh poached eggs is served alongside roasted fennel.

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The sunny option
Brunch & Cake in the Eixample neighborhood overlooks the sunny terrace making it a perfect locale to brunch out a sunny morning. There are healthy options like the quinoa salad or the porridge with fruits and yogurt. Sample the bagels with scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, and bacon, and pour on the truffle syrup to top the lovely French toast.

The Italian flavor
Finally the Bicioci Bike Café on Carrer de Venus is an Italian-run place that serves toast and cream cheese, and smoked sardines with avocado. ¡Salut!

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How to spend the winter season In Barcelona

Barcelona is blessed with lovely beaches that thousands crowd during the summer months, but the temperate winters make the city even more beautiful. The clear blue skies combined with the soft sea breeze give the city a unique charm that is ideal for exploring the magnificent historical sites and the World Heritage Sites in peace. There are no crowds to jostle with, and you can truly enjoy the art and the architecture of the city streets. When visiting Barcelona in winter, journey outside of your vacation villa rental and take part in the following activities.

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Holiday markets

With the setting in of winter, Barcelona is getting ready for Christmas. The Fira de Santa Lucia is the most famous Christmas market in the city and is the ideal place to pick up gifts and the festive food. Other Christmas markets pop up around the city including near Sagrada Familia, Plaça Sant Jaume and in front of the Barcelona Cathedral.

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Festive events

One of the oldest sporting traditions in Barcelona takes place on the 25h of December when teams gather and swim 200 meters to reach the statue of Christopher Columbus at the port. The New Year celebration occurs with a gathering in Plaça Catalunya at midnight, and with every chime of the clock at midnight, locals eat one grape for good luck. January 6th is the Day of the Three Kings when parades and fireworks take place across the city.

Benefits to visiting during winter

Flights to Barcelona are much cheaper during the winter months, and with the temperature not being too harsh, you can enjoy the traditional tapas and the other cuisine on heated outdoor patios. Keep warm with a plate of churros and a cup of hot chocolate for dipping or sipping.

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Best shopping streets in Catalonia

Spain has established itself as a powerhouse in the world of fashion and fashion designers, from Manolo Blahnik to Paco Rabanne, and from Cristobal Balenciaga to Adolfo Dominguez. The popular high-end clothing brands of Zara and Mango are also both of Spanish origin. With this in mind, Spain becomes a great shopping haven for style hunters. The clothes have little or no import duty so they tend to be a little cheaper in Spain, which is great news for fans of these brands and designers. The key question is: Where are the best shopping streets in Catalonia and where you can find these stores? Step outside your Barcelona accommodation and we will take you on a magical tour of the best shopping areas in three Catalan cities.

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Barcelona

Central Barcelona is abundant with shops and designers, the best known of which is Passeig de Gracia. Avinguda Diagonal and Portal de l’Angel are two places for International fashion and designer boutiques including the aforementioned Spanish designers plus the likes of Armani, Gucci, and Calvin Klein.

Tarragona

A walk down the Rambla Nova will bring you to a few designer stores, and the Parc Central Shopping Mall has outlets such as H&M, Zara, Mango, Massimo Dutti, and Body Shop. This complex is close to the main bus station so if you are visiting from your villa in the Costa Dorada it is a quick day trip.

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Girona

There are many independent shops and boutiques in Girona, including Massimo Dutti and Mango plus a myriad of shoe shops and accessory stores. You will find these in Carrer Nou and Carrer de Santa Clara, or delve into the old city and discover your bargains on the Rambla de la Libertat.

Whatever shopping experience you desire during your visit to Catalonia, one of these three cities will be able to fulfill your needs. Most towns are also home to Spain’s largest department store El Corte Ingles. Here you will find many of the Spanish designers, a wonderful shoe department, perfumeries, and much more. One thing is for sure, with completely different cities within reach of your vacation rental in Spain you will be spoiled for choice.

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Catalonia’s top World Heritage Sites

Catalonia´s list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites has been growing tremendously as of late. The sites are protected as areas and events of cultural interest. From concert halls to sculptures to festivals and monasteries, here are a few of the most popular sites to visit as day trips from your Barcelona holiday rental.

Casa Batlló, Barcelona

This Gaudí masterpiece on Passeig de Gracia in the centre of Barcelona speaks for itself. The event space, museum, and architecture make this one very special World Heritage Site to visit in the city.

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Amfiteatre Roma de Tarragona

Close to your Costa Dorada holiday rental lies the glorious and well preserved Roman Amphitheatre in Tarragona, showcasing outdoor events and with stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea.

Aqueducte de les Ferreres – Pont del Diable

Devils Bridge and Aqueduct is an unspoiled structure close to Tarragona on the Costa Dorada. Walk across and glance into the valley below and imagine what it was like to live in the time when this aqueduct and bridge was fully functional.

Casa Milà – La Pedrera, Barcelona

Just up the street from Casa Batllo lies another well-known Catalan modernisme piece designed by Antoni Gaudí between 1905 and 1911. The undulating curves, use of experimental materials, and unique design make this one of Barcelona’s most popular and most photographed World Heritage Sites.

Parc Natural del Montseny

Montseny Natural Park has one of the most beautiful landscapes in Catalonia that has inspired poets, writers, and artists for centuries. The park attracts in access of 2 million visitors every year.

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Park Güell, Barcelona

This beautiful park is filled with curved structures, colourful glazed ceramic tiles, and monuments and offers incredible views of the park and the city.

Castells

The 10-level human towers are a big part of Catalan culture; the festival is held each year in town squares throughout the region where groups of men and women stand on each others´ shoulders creating a human tower as high as 10 people.

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Whether you wish to see festivals, Roman settlements, architecture, or natural parks there is always something incredible to see close to your Barcelona apartment or your family villa on the Costa Dorada.

 

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Advice for traveling to Barcelona for the disabled

It’s important to know the where and how to visit if you are traveling with a person with disability. Some cities are notorious for being ill-equipped to cope with wheelchairs, blindness and the elderly. Fortunately, Barcelona is not one of those cities and during recent years the local councils have made huge improvements to ensure that every visitor feels safe and secure in the city. Not only is the city equipped to welcome such passengers, the city is also extremely well connected by public transportation. Here are a few tips to help you along.

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There are wheelchair-accessible facilities in the airports, museums and metro stations in Barcelona. In the older buildings, ramps and elevators are available to use and disabled parking spaces are available.

The following metro stations in Barcelona have access for wheelchairs, plus they have a metro guide in Braille at the customer service stations. Out of 156 metro stations in Barcelona, there are only 15 that don’t have wheelchair access.

There is an interactive map available where you can check if the metro station you wish to use is wheelchair accessible: http://www.tmb.cat/en/transport-accessible

The entire bus fleet has been adapted, as well, and there are designated areas and visual warnings and listening devices that tell you when the stop is approaching. The buses also have devices for the blind and visually impaired.

The tourist buses that take you around to view the sights of the city are all equipped on the lower deck and they also have devices for people who rely on hearing aids. The Montjuïc cable car facility wis also fully adapted and accessible for all users.

It’s great to know that you can travel throughout one of the most fascinating cities in the world without restrictions; you no longer have to feel stuck in your Barcelona villa if you have a disability. In addition to the outfit of the city, Catalunya Casas also has a handful of vacation villas that are equipped for guests with disabilities. Contact us today for more information!

 

 

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Visiting Zaragoza by train from Barcelona

Upon arriving at your vacation villa in Spain, you may be curious to travel a little further outside Barcelona as the surrounding towns and cities are just as picturesque and eventful. Consider taking a journey by train to the fascinating city of Zaragoza. The AVE high speed train operates out of Barcelona Sants Station each hour and can have you sipping a café con leche in Zaragoza in just over 2 hours and 15 minutes. If you do fancy making the journey, here are a few of the wonderful sights you can expect to see in this historic and charming city.

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Zaragoza has more 2,000 years of history and is one of Spain’s most loved cities. Located on the banks of the Ebro River, it is also the capital of the Aragon region of Spain and has one of the greatest artistic and historical legacies in the country. However, due to its geographical location it is often overlooked.

Here you will find Baroque gems such as the Goya designed Pilar Basilica, which sits on the banks of the Ebro river, the Circus Roman ruins, Mudejar style churches, and the Aljaferia Palace, to name but a few. There are remnants of the Roman era, and many buildings of significance that reference the ancient Moors, Jewish, and Christian communities. If art, architecture, and history are high up on your holiday itinerary, this is the city for you.

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In addition to the city’s superb historical references, it also has a modern feel to it. Zaragoza has fabulous shopping with many bustling street markets and contemporary shopping malls. The regional dishes of the Aragonese can be found in the form of tapas and should be sampled in one of the many bars throughout the city. The local specialty is called longaniza, an herb-infused pork sausage that is traditional to the region. Alternatively try the locally caught trout stuffed with bacon and peppers or pan fried with lemon juice.

Zaragoza is a warm, inspiring, and inviting city that can be easily reached by train from Barcelona. Explore the ancient city walls, the museums, the cathedral, and the many tapas bars and terrace restaurants.

If you are thinking of booking your vacation rental in Spain, make sure a day trip to Zaragoza is on your itinerary.

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Weird and wacky hidden attractions of Barcelona

Most people who visit Barcelona tend to stick to the “beaten path” by visiting the Sagrada Familia Cathedral, the Gothic Quarter, and other Gaudi attractions. But if you have a thirst for the weird, wacky, and unusual, consider exploring some of the hidden attractions of Barcelona. Step out of your Barcelona holiday rental and get ready to discover the sides of the city that many miss.

The Calder Mercury Fountain

Almaden in Spain used to be home to the world’s largest mercury mine. It produced over 250,000 metric tons of quicksilver during its two millennia of operations. American sculptor Alexander Calder was commissioned to build a beautiful fountain dedicated to the mine, but instead of using flowing water it would pump out pure mercury. You can see the fountain he designed in the Fundacio Joan Miro in Barcelona. However, it sits behind glass as mercury is incredibly toxic and you have to be protected from breathing in the fumes or touching it!

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The Chocolate Museum

On a much more delicious note, the Chocolate Museum in Barcelona was set up to tell the story of how chocolate first arrived in Spain in the form of cocoa beans from Central America. Guests to the museum receive a chocolate bar upon entry which you can munch on while you admire the chocolate sculptures of Minnie Mouse, the Sagrada Familia Cathedral, and Snowy, the white chocolate gorilla. Chocoholics – this museum is for you!

Labyrinth Park of Horta

This storybook hedge lies on the edge of the city in an ancient garden. There are 2,000 feet of hedges laid out with various twists and turns in which visitors can lose themselves. If you make it to the centre, there is a special sculpture waiting.

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Museum of Hash, Marijuana and Hemp

Located in the Gothic Quarter is an unusual museum telling the story of the history of marijuana! The museum’s permanent collection contains around 8,000 objects from apothecary kits to the story of cannabis cultivation and legislative history.

If you fancy seeing a different wacky and wonderful side to Barcelona, these are a few of the best to get you started!

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Adventure sports in the Catalan Pyrenees

In the mountains of the Pyrenees in the northern Spanish region of Catalonia, there are a multitude of adventure sports to enjoy. If you plan on staying in a villa in Catalonia close to this area then you can look forward to partaking in some exhilarating water sports! There are many places in the Catalonian Pyrenees to indulge in these dynamic sporting activities. Here are the best places to find them.

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Private pool at a mountain villa

Noguera Pallaresa

This area is the best place for rafting and kayaking in the Pyrenees and possibly Europe. This river has over 40km to enjoy, plus there are different stretches of the river, each adding a challenging dimension to the experience. A good place to start your river rafting expedition is in the town of Sort, where you will find all of the information you need before you set off on your adventure.

The Garonne

Linking together the villages of Val d’Aran in the western Pyrenees, this river is a wonderful spot for whitewater rafting and for lovers of canyoning.

The Noguera Ribagorçana

This area is popular for quality of its waters. Dams and canyons flow into the river which makes it an ideal place to indulge in a variety of water sports.

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Llavorsi

The Catalonian Pyrenees area of Lleida is a go-to location that specialises in all adventure sports including canoeing, kayaking, white water rafting, canyoning and if you feel super daring, a little bit of bungee jumping!

If you have partaken in water sports activities on the coast close to your family villa on the Costa Brava and feel like it’s time for a change, take a drive to the Catalonian Pyrenees. In addition to all of the water sports on offer, there are also excellent places for hill walking, hiking and mountain biking.

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Exploring the Sarrià neighbourhood of Barcelona

Barcelona is one of those cities that is relatively easy to navigate on foot. It’s a sprawling yet compact metropolis with many diverse and interesting neighbourhoods to explore, each with their own individual charm. If you are staying in a Barcelona accommodation, one of the areas you should check out is Sarrià.

Until 1921 Sarrià was an independent town in the suburbs of Barcelona until extensive urban development brought it into the city fold. The area is famed for upmarket homes, luxury shops, and fabulous restaurants. In fact, some of the most popular bars and restaurants in Barcelona are located in this neighbourhood of the city. In addition to its trendy vibe, Sarrià retains an original flavour and unique personality of its own.

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There are numerous green areas, and its proximity to the Collserola natural park means the area is a huge draw for city dwellers who wish to find the balance between city life and nature. There are Catalan food markets, typical century-old shops, and many nods to the Catalan Modernisme period.

One area to explore is Casa Bellesguard. Photographers will adore this location as it boasts some of the best vistas of Barcelona. Casa Bellesguard was designed and constructed by Gaudí and it is said that the original medieval structures were an inspiration for his new tower.

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No trip to Sarrià would be complete without a visit to the local market. It was founded more than one century ago and originally served to provide the local community with food. This is the heart of Sarrià: colourful stalls and produce tasting makes this a fun way to spend any morning.

Take a walk to Carrer Major, a street that embodies the spirit of the original town where you will discover many of the oldest houses in the city. The Catalan elite and many artists, writers, and poets would come here to build their homes, some of which can still be seen in the passageways close to Plaça de Sant Vicenç and Passatge de Mallofré.

It is worth straying off the beaten track and away from the main tourist attractions to get a true taste of the city and its inhabitants. If you decide to venture here from your holiday rental in Barcelona, you are in for a real treat.


Why property buyers are looking at the Costa Brava

In recent years the property market in the northeast corner of Spain has experienced a resurgence, with investors and property seekers exploring the property offerings in the Costa Brava’s picturesque coastal enclaves and inland medieval towns and villages. So what can you expect to get for your money if you are looking to buy a house in Spain, especially in this region of Catalonia?

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The first thing a property buyer will look for is appreciation, distance from airports ,and rentability. It’s not all about coastal properties either, as some of the quaint interior villages rent for a premium in the summer months which also makes them a good buy for the investor or expatriate.

This area of Catalonia is not cheap; it attracts the more discerning clientele. However, if you look hard enough, you can pick up a wonderful 2- or 3-bedroom villa tucked away among pine trees with a backdrop of mountains just a few moments from the coast for a reasonable price.

One of the most popular areas for foreign purchases on the Costa Brava is the charming old town of Begur. It’s walking distance to stunning beaches, has a character and warmth that visitors love, and its pièce de résistance is an ancient castle ripe for exploration. Plus, properties close to here offer really good rental potential. The town is a regular on the festival circuit which ensures that rentability is high for many weeks of the year.

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Another very popular resort for foreign purchasers on the Costa Brava is Llafranc. This pretty coastal town with old world charm has a beautiful beach, exquisite restaurants and coastal walks, and is family friendly – and more importantly, it’s less than an hour’s drive from Girona Airport. You can invest in a 3-bedroom semi-detached house with sea views or a luxury apartment just 500 metres from the beach.

If you are seeking a buy-to-let property in Spain or simply looking to purchase a property for holiday rental on the Costa Brava, these are a few areas that should be considered.

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Is Girona becoming the new foodie paradise?

The charming city of Girona with beautiful architecture has put the Catalonia town on the map as a destination to visit. As of late, Girona is beginning to rival cities like Barcelona, Tarragona, Valencia, and Madrid when it comes to putting their stamp on the culinary map. From simple haute cuisine to rustic Catalan cooking, Girona has it all. If you are thinking of booking your vacation rental in Spain close to this inland city, then here are some of the best restaurants you will find in the area.

 

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Les Magnolies

The cuisine comprises a seasonal market menu, created with cutting edge techniques and attention to detail like never before. The presentation is exquisite art on a plate – and the tasting menu is well worth booking up in advance for. Prices are on the mid to high side, however as the restaurant achieved its first Michelin star in 2012 you can expect nothing more. With a new top chef on board this year, this fabulous eatery continues to go from strength to strength.

El Celler de Can Roca

This exceptional restaurant is the brainchild of the three Roca brothers. Their passion began when they were young as their parents owned and ran a restaurant in one of the Girona neighbourhoods. Their gastronomic ethos is deeply rooted in their ancestry using traditional methods and recipes coupled with avant-garde cuisine.

Occi Restaurant

A traditional Catalan restaurant with a contemporary décor and a penchant for fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Expect plates of Iberian ham, cod fish, prawn carpaccio and many more innovative dishes.

 

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Nu Restaurant

An elegant and stylish restaurant which is aesthetically pleasing with clean lines and neutral décor. The food lover is fully catered for as they serve a fusion of Mediterranean and International cuisine which delights and inspires.

Divinum vins i formatges

Divinum vins i formatges is a beautiful restaurant located in the heart of Girona. Decorated with exposed brickwork arches, classic white linen table cloths and black and white photographs throughout, the ambiance is both charming and relaxed. The menu specialises in Catalan locally sourced food, fused with a variety of intriguing herbs and spices from all around the world.

If you fancy a night off cooking and your Catalonia villa rental is close to Girona then make it your mission to sample one of these amazing restaurants.

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Best family days out in Barcelona

The key to a great holiday is keeping everyone happy. You work hard all year to make this happen so it’s important that everyone is catered for, and that includes the kids. If you fancy a fun day out in the city from your Barcelona accommodation which includes all the family, take a look at these options.

Aquarium – Port Vell Barcelona

This fabulous aquarium is the largest in Europe. As you walk through the transparent tunnel you will be in awe of the sharks, stingrays, and hordes of colourful tropical fish that swim above your head and all around you. There is plenty to educate and entertain both adults and children alike.

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Barceloneta Beach

With water sports, games, free Wi-Fi, access plus a plethora of restaurants, cafes, and ice cream kiosks, there is something here to entertain everyone in the family all day long.

Cosmo Caixa Science Museum

If you have stepped outside your family villa in Barcelona and the weather is a little cloudy or overcast, or you simply want an escape from the sun for a day, visit the CosmoCaixa Science Museum. The building houses a multitude of exhibitions and interactive displays which tell the fascinating stories of science, space, and nature.

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Port Aventura

This amusement park is slightly outside of Barcelona, but it’s a theme park of Disney proportions in Spain. A train from Barcelona takes you close to the theme park, or it takes around an hour and 20 minutes to drive there. Port Aventura is for thrill seekers, young and old, and is home to the tallest and fastest white knuckle roller coaster in Europe!

Whether your family days out include education or fun fairground rides or even a bit of both in some cases, this is one area of Spain where you will always find lots of family activities to participate in from the moment you step out of your villa in Spain.

 

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Getting around in Spanish

Although the city of Barcelona is easier to navigate than many other European cities, it is still easy to get lost among the labyrinth of pretty streets and the Modernist architecture. Your eyes can easily be averted from your route due to the many picturesque and ornate buildings, bustling bodegas, and luxury boutiques. However, before you run back to your Barcelona accommodation wondering where it all went wrong, try using these handy Spanish phrases which will help you get from A to B in no time at all.

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If you do feel a little lost and have been wandering around for hours, there are easy phrases to help you get back on track. The simple “Where is” phrase is easy to remember and will ensure you reach your desired destination.

¿Dónde está?” – Where is…?

For example, you may be looking for the bus station to take a day trip out of the city or just to get from one neighbourhood to another. This is how you would ask for directions to the bus station.

¿Dónde está la estación de ferrocarril?

You can also substitute the word “ferrocarril” for “autobuses” if you prefer, as it may be easier to remember!

If you wish to catch a train, the easiest phrase to use in Barcelona is the name of the main train station itself, Barcelona Sants. The word for “train” is also super easy to remember: el tren.

What if you are seeking a specific landmark or street? Say you were looking for the Sagrada Familia Cathedral or Las Ramblas: You simply say ¿Dónde está La Sagrada Familia de Gaudi? or ¿Dónde está Las Ramblas?

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Now the only problem you may encounter is when the Catalan person you asked for direction responds in Catalan. Once they realize you are a tourist, they usually will respond in Spanish rather than Catalan.

In response to your question “Where is Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia?” they may reply:

A la izquierda – to the left
A la derecha – to the right
Or la primera izquierda/derecha – the first left/right
Derecho – straight ahead
A la esquina – on the corner

They may even tell you how many blocks away it is: “una/dos/tres cuadras”, which means one, two or three blocks.

if you get really stuck, bring out a notepad and ask them to write numbers of buses/metro trams or even draw you a map. You could also take the easy way out and use a translation app on your mobile phone.

Other places you may be looking for during your city travels, especially if you don’t wish to cook in your Barcelona holiday rental. Use the same phrase again:

¿Dónde está un restaurante? … then add the name at the end.
It’s the same if you are looking for a specific street name “Donde esta la calle”? Or el Barrio Gótico if you are looking for the Gothic quarter.

Perhaps you need to withdraw some funds from the ATM: bank is easy to remember – the Spanish word is “el banco”.

If a local has been kind enough to take the time to stop and assist you on your holiday in Spain, don’t forget to say thanks: ¡Muchas Gracias!

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The most popular myths about villa rentals

Many people who have previously checking into 5-star hotel accommodations in Barcelona don’t even consider staying in a villa for their vacation. There are many myths about vacation rentals that holidaymakers consider including the quality, service, and cost of renting a luxury villa in Catalonia. Here are a few of the myths we will attempt to debunk regarding renting a villa in Spain.

 

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Myth No. 1

Renting a villa is too expensive

This really depends on which company you employ to book your villa and how many people are in your traveling party. Think about the total cost of luxury hotel rooms for a family of 8 or 10: You will need at least four to five rooms, or more, and this can add up to a very expensive holiday. When you reserve a villa in Catalonia you pay a fixed price, per week, per fortnight or longer – not a per-person charge or a per-room, per-night charge. Do the math and look at how many people your chosen villa can accommodate. You won’t only have the bedroom space you need, you will also have an outdoor pool, barbecue, patios, and lounge areas which only have to be shared with your traveling party and nobody else.

Myth No. 2

You can’t beat 5-star hotel service

While it is true that 5-star hotels do provide an excellent service, it is also worth remembering that service has to be provided to every other customer staying in the resort at the same time as your party. Therefore, even with the best will in the world, things sometimes don’t get done when required.

With a dedicated villa company, you will have a representative assigned to your property for the duration of your stay. It is likely that your property manager will be based in the local area and know it like the back of their hand. They can provide private personal chefs, arrange cars rentals, book tickets for events, and organize activities for your traveling party. Also if you wish to host a special occasion during your stay they can put in the extra touches in place to make it unique. If you have guests who have specific dietary requirements it is easier to arrange a personal chef for your villa stay or cook the food yourselves than go through a complicated process of explaining this to a hotel and often with no guarantee that your dietary requirements have been adhered to.

 

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Myth No. 3
I know what I am getting with a hotel

If you book into a brand name hotel chain, it is highly likely you will know what you are getting. Villas, however, are unique you can choose one to suit your traveling party and your personalities. Villa companies only take on the best accommodations in prime locations so that each holidaymaker has a trip to remember.

Myth No. 4

What happens if something breaks in my villa during my stay?

Villa rental agents have property managers on call 24/7. If something does go wrong, you don’t have to suffer because it will be fixed as soon as possible. Think of the times you have stayed in a hotel and the room heating has been faulty or the shower hasn’t worked correctly: There isn´t always another room to transfer to because the hotel is full. With a villa rental in Spain you don’t have that problem as issues are addressed and fixed as soon as they are brought to the property manager´s attention.

If you do decide to rent a villa with private pool in Barcelona there are more positive aspects than you originally thought. The cost can be more competitive, special requests can be adhered to, you have full flexibility for dining and dietary requirements, and there is someone on call 24/7 just for you. You can’t ask for more than that.

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Catalonia and its many regions

When people think of the region of Catalonia in northeast Spain, it is portrayed as one region, one principality; however there is much more to Catalonia than meets the eye.

Firstly, it’s made up of several separate regions that incorporate Girona, Catalunya Central, Barcelona, Lleida, Alt Pirineu i Aran, Camp de Tarragona and Terres de L’Ebre, many of which have their own dialects. When booking your Catalonia holiday rental, see below to learn more about the lesser known regions of Catalonia, and then you can choose where to visit during your stay!

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Alt Pirineu i Aran

This is one of the territories defined by the Catalonia Regional Plan and by the Pyrenees, hence the name. Step outside the front door of your Spain vacation rental in this area and you will find snow-capped mountains, charming villages, and flora and fauna in abundance. There are natural parks all around, with wonderful hiking, trekking, and cycling trails. The area isn’t heavily populated but this just adds to the appeal. If you seek peace, solitude, and to be at one with nature, then this corner of Catalonia could be perfect for you.

Lleida

Lleida is approximately 100 km inland from Tarragona and 152 km east of Zaragoza. The region’s main city of the same name has a rich history. La Seu Vella Cathedral towers over the banks of the River Segre which has wonderful walking and cycle paths, while the waterfront is sprinkled with relaxing parks and peaceful havens. Lleida is one of Catalonia’s oldest towns and has settlements which date as far back as the Bronze Age.

Girona

Girona is known for many things: the vibrant terracotta and rich ochre riverside buildings, its ancient Cathedral, St Pere de Galligants, plus lively markets and museums. It’s a city and region that many visitors tend to pass through when arriving or departing from the airport, yet it has rich treasures waiting to be explored. Outside the city lies the beautiful Lake of Banyoles. The surrounding verdant fields and turquoise blue lake are a major summer attraction for water sports and fishing enthusiasts and families just seeking a peaceful retreat away from the crowds.

 

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Tarragona

With its medieval streets, fine shopping, superb restaurants and even a Roman amphitheatre you would be forgiven for spending your entire time in Tarragona. However, a little further afield there is plenty more to see. The tourist resorts of Salou and Cambrils are on every family´s to-do list, however the little known city of Tortosa usually isn’t. Tortosa is a medieval masterpiece with Cathedrals, cloisters, tapas bars, and a charming old-world atmosphere.

Terres de L’Ebre

At the southern tip of Catalonia before you reach Castellon, you find Terres de L’Ebre – a little known region which has incredible natural beauty both inland and on the coast.

The seaside town of L’Ampolla is a fishing port with a backdrop of mountains, striking secluded coves for sunbathing, and plenty of outdoor pursuits from horse riding and golf to fishing and cycling. Ebro Delta National Park is the largest wetland in the entire region of Catalonia. With flora and fauna and diverse wildlife, it is the ideal place to visit to get back to nature, plus El Ports Natural Park is dominated by rugged cliffs and mountains and offers an insight into the endangered species in the area. If you seek natural beauty in a quiet and tranquil, non-touristy environment, drive here from your family villa in Spain and discover a different side to Catalonia.

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See Barcelona for free

Taking the entire family on holiday is an expensive endeavor; with accommodation, car hire, shopping trips and entertainment you often miss out on some of the finer things in life, which are in fact free! If you are staying in Barcelona and don’t want to completely break the budget, try these fun free activities and attraction close to your villa in Spain.

Stroll the Passeig Maritime

This is a local Catalan pastime, especially during the weekends. It’s a popular place for cycling, roller-blading and walking. You can sit and watch the street musicians or browse the myriad souvenir stalls while admiring the glinting blue Mediterranean.

 

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Take in the sights of the Passeig de Gracia

This is one of the most popular streets in Barcelona and photographers love it, mainly because it is home to some of Gaudi’s best work – Casa Batlló and Casa Milà. It’s also a fabulous place to window shop at some of the high end luxury designer boutiques.

Check out the local flea markets

Mercat del Encants is a popular place in Barcelona where the locals will come to find the best deals on handmade arts and crafts and antique furnishings. There are over 500 retailers who sell everything you can imagine – spend a morning browsing and get some inspiration for yourself.

 

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Explore the Gothic Cathedral

We don’t mean the Sagrada Familia which is undoubtedly the best-known in the city. This time we suggest exploring the Catedral de la Santa Cruz y Santa Eulalia. This striking cathedral was constructed in the 13th century in a traditional Gothic architectural style, plus it is free to enter!

Discover the multicultural neighbourhoods

Barcelona is home to a melting pot of cultures from the upmarket neighbourhood of Eixample to the wonderfully ethnic shops of El Raval. Discover the Nepalese and North African restaurants and the Chinese shops of El Raval before wandering into El Born district to visit the old Roman city ruins.

There is a variety of free attractions in Barcelona so long as you just know where to look. From free walking tours to museums and galleries, there is something for you to enjoy close to your own Barcelona accommodation.

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Guide: What you need to know before you visit Barcelona

Barcelona is a fascinating city with quirky modernist architecture, excellent shopping and restaurants, and miles of golden sandy beaches. When exploring a new city, it’s important to glean as much information as you can prior to your arrival in your Barcelona accommodation – it is only then that you can get the most from your visit.

 

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Don’t call the city Barça

Unless you are referring to the football team of course. Barça is another name used to refer to FC Barcelona. If you wish to shorten the word Barcelona, then use the same name as the Catalans do and call it Barna.

A strategic visit

An exciting time to visit the city is around Semana Santa, otherwise known as Holy Week or Easter. This also heralds the beginning of the tourist season in Spain. Alternatively visit in September or October when the main crowds of visitors have dispersed and you can have more of the city to yourself!

Learn a little Catalan

A great way to get on the good side of the locals is to learn a few words of Catalan. It shows you appreciate their desire for independence from the rest of Spain. When you are out and about from your villa in Barcelona try using such phrases as bon dia (good morning), or vagi be (be well).

Be prepared to eat late

Ever wondered why the restaurants on the city streets of Barcelona are empty at 7 or 8 in the evening? It’s because Catalan people eat incredibly late. Dinner is usually consumed between 9 and 11.30 so if you can’t wait, try a late afternoon snack!

 

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Barcelona picnics are a regional institution

There are myriad picturesque places in which to drop a blanket for a picnic in Barcelona. The best places (and those that are most popular with tourists) are next to the castle at Montjuic or in the Parc de la Cuitadella.

Barcelona is not like the rest of Spain

If you seek cavern-type bars with flamenco, raucous bull fights, or local women in polka dot flouncy traditional dress, you are in the wrong place. Barcelona has a unique culture all of its own to explore with charming streets, lively cava bars, interesting museums, and the more sedate Sardana dancing.

Leave your pre-conceived ideas of Spain behind before you book your Catalonia villa rental. However, if you do wish to discover a completely different side to Spain, you have definitely come to the right place.

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Calafell: A family holiday destination in Catalonia

Calafell on the Costa Dorada has been designated by the Catalonia tourist board as one of the best resorts in the region for families. Located on the coast approximately 35 kilometres north of Tarragona and 28 km south of Sitges, it is a perfect placed as a holiday resort. If you are considering booking a family villa with a pool on the Costa Dorada, take a closer look at Calafell as a family destination and see why it has categorised itself as such a resort.

 

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Five Miles of Golden Sand

Calafell is known as the gateway to the Costa Dorada: The sea is calm, the beaches are soft and sandy, and there are plenty of children’s play areas along the beachfront as well as a myriad of water sports and activities.

Eating Out

Restaurants in Calafell cater to families, as certified local restaurants have high chairs, bibs, dedicated children’s menus, and nappy changing areas.

Children’s Entertainment

During the summer months the town puts on special children’s shows which include puppet theatres, clowns, and dance classes for all the family which include pase doble and salsa!

 

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Culture

In addition to the family friendly options dotted around the resort, the town still has its fair share of interesting culture and heritage. The old quarter is delightful for an early evening stroll toexplore the Iberian Citadell, the Romanesque church, and the town’s medieval castle. Close to the marina is the old fishing district which highlights Calafell’s rich maritime heritage.

Festivals

There are festivals held in Calafell throughout the year. Whether it’s the gastronomy festival in late November, the Halloween festival, or Saint Peter’s Festival on the beach during the summer months, there is something for all members of the family to get involved in. If you are planning a winter break in your Catalonia villa rental, the February festival in the resort lasts for four days. There are parades, parties, processions, and children’s shows for everyone can enjoy.

Check out one of the other Catalan resorts which are also designated as family friendly destinations, including: Cambrils and Salou, Calella, Blanes, Santa Susanna and Malgrat de Mar, Lloret de Mar, Pineda, Roses, L’Estartit, Les Valls d’Aneu, Calonge and Castell Platja d’Aro.

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Don’t miss these Catalan festivals in August

For most Catalans, summer festivals are important annual traditions that bring communities together for fun, frolics and light-hearted entertainment. Whether you are staying in your villa on the Costa Brava, have rented a Barcelona accommodation or have a vacation rental on the Costa Dorada, there is an August festival near you!

 

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Besalu Medieval Festival

During the last weekend of August, see this fabulous ancient town in all its Medieval glory as you step back in time. The history and fantasy of this Catalonian jewel come to life as you join in with the most important Medieval festival in the region.

Cadaques International Music Festival

Not only is this incredible music festival set in one of the most beautiful coastal resorts Catalonia has to offer, it also showcases a wide range of musical genres for everyone to enjoy. Any music lover should make sure they are in Cadaques during the first two weeks in August for the 45th annual festival.

 

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Les Cases d’Alcanar

This pretty fishing village opens up its doors to everyone to enjoy outdoor dancing, bulls in the port area, food sampling, yacht racing, and local exhibitions.

Music in the Parks Barcelona

During the months of June, July and August many of the parks in Barcelona host free concerts. Head to the local market, grab some picnic items and lounge about in the glorious sunshine listening to some of the best up-and-coming Catalan artists.

Circuit Festival in Barcelona, Sitges and Vilassar de Mar

One of the largest gay festivals in Europe takes place from early to mid-August across the region. People arrive from all over the world to enjoy the celebratory fiestas and party atmosphere.

Whichever festival you choose there is bound to be one close to your vacation rental in Spain. Lather yourself in sunscreen, soak up the sun and party like the locals do.

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Sampling the wines of Catalonia

Catalonian wines are usually quite high in alcohol content and are full bodied, which is due to the warm weather conditions in the region and the varieties of grape that can be grown. If you are looking for an amazing Catalonian wine to sip by the pool in your villa in Spain or would like to be more knowledgeable when ordering wine while dining at a restaurant, here are a few tips to help you out.

 

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Catalonian wines focus predominantly on grapes of the Mediterranean variety, including the red grapes Carignan and Garnacha, and the white grapes of Garnacha Blanca and Xarel-lo.

Garnacha grapes produce low acidity wines with a fragrant wild strawberry or raspberry flavour. They are quite powerful and can also be used in fortified wines.

The Carignan is also a grape that is used to produce red wines but can be blended with other varieties. It’s quite high in tannins and acidity but makes it a great partner with fruitier and fuller bodied wines such as Syrah.

Throughout Catalonia you will find the grapes of the Cabernet Sauvignon variety, which are the base flavour for many California reds or Bordeaux wines. These grapes produce a deep coloured red wine with an oaky aroma and taste. Merlot can also be found in the region, which offers a supple texture and blend and can be drunk earlier than many other wines as it doesn’t need to be left to age as long. However, if you prefer a spicy full-bodied wine that has been aged, then hold out for a Syrah.

 

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The most common grape in this region of Spain has to be the Tempranillo, the grapes of which make a very popular wine filled with berry and plum flavours, with spiced tobacco notes. The depth of flavours relates to the time it has been left to age.

All of these flavoursome wines can be purchased from local supermarkets close to your Catalonia villa rental or even local vineyards. Take a look at where your nearest vineyard is in relation to your villa in Spain and buy direct from the source. Gain a tour of the vineyard and understand the winemaking process by speaking with the local vintners. Salut!

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Best secluded beaches in Catalonia

One of the main reasons why holiday makers rent a villa in Spain is to enjoy the golden sands next to the azure Mediterranean Sea. Throughout Catalonia there are hundreds of beautiful beaches that are lesser known but just as perfect. Here are a few you may wish to explore from your vacation villa in Spain.

 

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Cala de l’Home Mort

On this secluded cove at the southern end of Sitges, clothing is optional. There are two beaches that are separated by the rocky cliffs and a bay. Beaches are small at about 10 metres wide so arrive early if you want to lay down your towel and reserve a spot! The water is shallow here and there’s a small chiringuito where you can order drinks and light snacks and also rent loungers and parasols.

Les Casetes de Garraf

Located in the town of Garraf, this beach is easily accessible from your Barcelona accommodation or your villa on the Costa Dorada. There are old fishing shacks on the beach that are used by the local fisherman to store their equipment. The beach is made up of golden sands and paddle boats, and parasols and sun loungers are available to rent. The small town of Garraf with its tapas bars and restaurants is a short walk away.

Platja del Portitxol

Perhaps one of the prettiest secluded beaches, this one is located between Sant Marti d’Empuries and L’Escala. Waters are calm and shallow in the rocky inlets, and behind the beach a backdrop of pine trees and plunging rock formations add to the serenity and beauty of this area.

 

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Cala Fonda

Located on the Tarragona coastline, Cala Fonda is a completely unspoiled beach with woodland and vegetation surrounding it. To reach the beach you have to walk from Platja Llarga in Tarragona along a signposted pathway heading east. It’s a wonderful walk surrounded by forests of pine trees, plunging cliffs, and flora and fauna. It’s a perfect day out from your villa on the Costa Dorada.

Illa Roja Beach

Known for its crystal clear waters and red rock island, this is a quiet and secluded beach which is unknown to many foreign tourists. It can be reached via a coastal path which offers picturesque views of the Costa Brava coastline. The beach lies underneath a cliff and when the tide is out you can walk to Red Rock Island. It’s best to arrive early in the morning as mid-afternoon this beach tends to catch more shade than others due to the surrounding rock formations. The beach is easy to reach from the towns of Aiguafreda and Sa Tuna.

Wherever you decide to rent a villa in Spain there are beautiful, secluded beaches nearby to tempt you into the turquoise waters.

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Alternative ways to see Barcelona

It’s easy to get on a bus, tram or metro train to witness all there is to see of a city from the glistening window, but did you know there are many other ways to see the city? If you wish to spend a day away from your Spain holiday rental and explore the city by land, air or sea then read on!

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Go Cars are a fun alternative way to see the city. They are small, yellow two-seater cars with an talking computer that assists drivers with navigation. They mainly follow two routes: either the upper districts of Barcelona or the Gothic Quarter and Raval neighbourhoods, then onto the mountain of Montjuic. You can, however, customize your own route should you wish to. The speed limit on the Go Car is just 72 kilometers per hour (45 mph).

If you wish to be driven instead, then flag down a Trixi. A Trixi is basically a tricycle with its own driver. They offer short distance trips and can be hailed on the street just like a taxi.

If you prefer an aerial view of the city, then there are many helicopter trips available for a view from above. Ideal for a special occasion, take to the skies and discover this fascinating city from the air. It’s a wonderful way to capture some memories with your camera and experience a thrilling helicopter ride!

 

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If viewing the city from the sea is more your thing then try Europe’s biggest eco-catamaran, the Eco Slim. It sails year-round allowing you to discover the magnificent Barcelona waterfront and the coastline of Catalonia. Each trip lasts around 45 minutes with a commentary in English, Spanish and Catalan. The perfect time to head out is at sunset or during a festival where you can watch the fireworks illuminate the city.

However you wish to explore Barcelona, whether by Segway, bicycle or even by jet ski, there is always something to suit everyone in your traveling party.

 

 

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Barcelona’s best markets

When visiting Catalonia, do as the Catalans do and forget shopping at big supermarkets. Instead, go shopping at your local market. The sights and the sounds are far more appealing than the regimented aisles of a supermarket, and you can pick individual produce yourself, and in some cases even try before you buy! Whether it’s a new handbag, pair of sunglasses or some fresh juicy tomatoes for your evening salad in your Barcelona holiday rental, here are a few tips about the best markets in the city.

 

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La Boqueria

La Boqueria is perhaps the most famous covered market in Barcelona. Located just off La Rambla, it is the easiest to reach for tourists, as well. This is the place where Michelin-star chefs come for their produce and where the fresh fruit, squeezed juices and colourful vegetables are always popular with visitors to the city. Stock up for an evening in or a beach or park picnic.

Sant Antoni Market

Sant Antoni market is a food market slightly outside of the centre and open from Monday to Saturday. The variety of fruit, vegetables, fish and cheese is exquisite, and you can stop for tapas at the central bar if you need a break!

Mercadillo de Placa de Sant Josep

This is a wonderful place to visit if you are looking for artwork for your villa in Barcelona. Artists line the streets with their easels, painting in water colours and oils while taking in the local landscape. If you fancy having a special caricature drawn in the evening, you will find the artists on La Rambla.

 

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Mercat del Encants

At the largest flea market in the city, you can pretty much buy anything from power tools to vases and antiques. Don’t expect it to be well laid out as it has more of a car boot style feel to it. There are bargains to be had if you arrive early, but whatever time of day, don’t forget to bargain with the vendor!

Mercat de la Concepcio

If you would just love a bunch of fragrant flowers to brighten up your Catalonia villa rental, head for this flower market. You may discover beautiful flowers you haven’t seen before that are grown in this region of Spain.

Visiting local markets is always a fun morning out. Regardless of whether you buy anything it is worth going just to envelop yourself in the kaleidoscope of sights and sounds, and pick up a souvenir or tasty treat while you are there!

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Catalonia is a cheese lover’s paradise

Whether purchasing cheese from a local market to eat in your Catalonia villa rental or if you are offered cheese at the end of a meal or as a tapa, there are many in the region to choose from. Sheep, cows and goats are raised in this mountainous area to produce some of the best cheeses in Spain, and as word spreads these cheeses are becoming more popular worldwide. Here are a few you should definitely try during your holiday in Spain. Many local chefs use new blends of Catalan cheese in their cuisine, and many are preserved in olive oil and infused with herbs offering a unique taste sensation.

 

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Costa Negra Catalan Cheese

Within the backdrop of the Pyrenees mountain range, Costa Negra cheese is made. It offers a complex blend of tart and sweet, and the name negra comes from the black rind on the outside. The taste and texture is sweet and sour and has an elasticity that could be compared to edam or gouda.

 

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This is one Catalan cheese that has reached its own must status, which means it is the first cheese in the region to have its own denomination or origin. It is made from cow’s milk and has with a soft and creamy texture with an elegant, smooth flavour. Look out for it at artisan markets and pair it with your favourite wine as you relax by the pool in your Spain holiday rental.

Mato de Montserrat

This is a young cheese, fresh and only days old. Made from either cow or goat milk (on occasion a blend of both) it is unsalted and perfect to complement walnuts and honey for a tapa or dessert.

 

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Tupi

Tupi is actually a clay jar where the cheese ferments with an aniseed liquor. Made from sheep, goat or cow milk, it is added to the aniseed and comes out with a very bold and punchy flavour. If you are looking for a different taste of Catalan cheese try this one.

If you are a lover of cheese and enjoy nothing more than a baguette with cheese or a variety with crackers for an after dinner treat, then these wonderful Catalan cheeses can be found sold in local country houses, artisan markets and supermarkets. Take them back to your villa with a private pool in Spain and indulge in all of the gastronomic delights this region has to offer.

 

 

 

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Exploring Sant Feliu de Guíxols

Sant Feliu de Guíxols is known for its festivals and vibrant party atmosphere, especially during carnival season. Visitors come from all over Catalonia and Europe to join the festivities which take place during the summer months. If your Costa Brava vacation rental is nearby, a trip to this picturesque coastal town should be on your itinerary.

 

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The town can be reached via a dramatic clifftop drive from Tossa de Mar. The deep blue of the Mediterranean stretches out in front of you as you weave your way into Sant Feliu de Guixols. There is plenty to see and do in the town: It’s a thriving port area, and essentially it’s economy derives from here and its solid cork industry.

The centrally located monastery is home to the town’s museum and allows visitors a unique look into the maritime history of Sant Feliu. The interior of the monastery is striking with an arched nave and stained glass windows.

The heart of the town is the Plaça del Mercat, the hub of San Feliu with fruit and vegetable markets taking place each morning. The main town market showcases its wares on Sunday mornings along the passeig, during which the locals come out in force to enjoy coffee and churros while catching up on the gossip of the week on the promenade.

 

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With a coastline spanning more than six miles it’s unsurprising that this area has many delightful, secluded coves which are surrounded by pine, cork, and oak forests. It’s a wonderful place in which to walk, sunbathe ,and swim and suited for everyone in the family. If you fancy a light lunch or a beverage, try the local bar built in a cave which serves snacks, tapas, and drinks.

In addition to the markets, monasteries, beaches, and cave bars, Sant Feliu de Guixols has an old railway station to explore, many historical residences, and a take a look at Casino la Constancia: The architecture and colour scheme alone will make you want to grab your camera!

Sant Feliu is a wonderful day trip to take from your Costa Brava vacation rental: It is alive with colour, vibrant stalls, and beaches with stunning backdrops – what more could you possibly ask for?

 

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Where to find the best views of Barcelona

Everyone who visits or rents a villa in Barcelona wants to know the best place to capture the photographs and memories of a lifetime. There are many well-known tourist areas like Montjuïc Mountain and Mount Tibidabo from which to gain the perfect city-scape photograph, but what about the lesser known areas? Here are a few ideas that detail a few secret spots where you can capture the most fabulous views of the city.

 

The Roof Terrace of the Palau Nacional

MNAC, otherwise known as the National Museum of Art Catalunya, is a spectacular structure on its own, but if you venture onto its rooftop terrace you will gain some of the best views of Barcelona. It costs a couple of euros to reach the high terrace but once there you can see everything from Plaça d’Espanya to the Sagrada Familia and the Magic Fountains of Montjuïc mountain.

 

Las Arenas

Close to MNAC is the old bullring of Las Arenas located at the opposite side of Plaça d’Espanya. It’s now a shopping centre but the rooftop terrace has great views of the Palau Nacional and the city. The bonus to this terrace is that it is home to an abundance of trendy bars and restaurants so you can happily sip a glass of wine while enjoying the views.

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Park Güell

One of the most iconic photographs of Barcelona features the vibrantly coloured mosaics and undulating curves of Gaudi’s Park Güell in the foreground and the city roof tops and the Mediterranean Sea in the distance. Although you have to pay to get into the Monumental Zone of the park, some other views from the park won’t cost you a euro.

 

Teleferic del Port

If you are a keen photographer and wish to capture an aerial view of the city, then you need to ride  the cable car! It travels over 100 metres above sea level from the beach of Barceloneta to the summit of Montjuïc, and you will see everything from the bustling port to Las Ramblas and all of the streets in between.

 

Turo de la Rovira

This place is a heritage site sitting behind the city on the mountainside and hosts the most incredible panoramas of this vibrant metropolis. The area is also a great place for lovers of military history as it was home to an anti-aircraft battery during the civil war in Spain.

 

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Sagrada Familia Towers

From in between Gaudi’s famous towers you can see the tree lined streets of the Eixample district with its rich red and terracotta rooftops and many of the city’s wonderful attractions.

 

Torre de Collserola

This spot offers a full 360-degree panoramic view and is situated in the Serra de Collserola Natural Park, close to the telecommunications tower. You can climb up the tower platforms or admire the vistas from the park. It offers similar views to the ones you will gain from Mount Tibidabo but is more open and you avoid the tourist crowds.

 

There are also many rooftop bars that offer fabulous views of the city, but the spots above are some of the most unusual places that are close and easy to access from your Barcelona accommodation.

 

 

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Discovering the Old Town of Reus

Reus is often overlooked by travelers to the region of Catalonia. Located on the Costa Dorada, it is known for being the town with the local airport which serves tourist resorts such as Salou and Cambrils. The bustling, picturesque town is filled with outdoor cafes and a relaxed atmosphere. When you book your villa with a private pool in Costa Dorada, keep Reus in mind for a potential day trip.

 

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Reus is close to the coast, just 10 km inland and closest to the popular resort of Salou. Reus is the home town of Antoni Gaudi, the famous modernist architect from Catalonia who created some of Barcelona’s best known masterpieces. Most examples of his work are found in Barcelona; however many other architects from this area have followed suit, creating modernist works in Reus. There is a route that passes through the town that showcases the best in modernist architecture.

If you are fortunate enough to visit in June, this is when the huge town fiesta takes place. Live music and parades are around every corner, and entertainers line the streets. Try to catch the Catalonian tradition of castells: human towers!

 

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The bars and restaurants in the town specialize in tapas, and if you are traveling on a budget the menu of the day (menu del dia) is a very reasonable solution which includes a starter, main dish and sometimes dessert and/or coffee. Pretty parasols line the cobbled archways and streets inviting you to stay a while and soak up the town. Sit, enjoy and indulge in a tinto de verano (summer wine) which is made from red wine, lime juice and casera. It’s a refreshing drink and perfect for a summer afternoon.

 

Fortunately, it is really easy to visit Reus even if you don’t have a car. Public transport takes approximately 30 minutes and runs from Salou, La Pineda and Cambrils. If you are holidaying in a Catalonia villa rental close by, make some time to discover Reus.

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Are private vacation rentals causing hotel bookings to plummet?

There is nothing to stop the savvy entrepreneur from turning their Spain vacation rental into a unique boutique hotel. With short-term rental websites assisting in this process it has never been easier for vacant properties to make a substantial rental income. Many tourists are turning to independent holiday rental accommodations rather than hotels for sheer flexibility, plus if a large party is traveling together, it makes financial sense to book a six-bedroom villa rather than six costly hotel rooms.

 

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Holiday rental accommodations from websites such as Airbnb are doubling in rentals each year as hotel bookings remain stagnant, increasing by just a fraction. It is clear to see from the rapid success of such holiday rental websites that the cost and flexibility of renting an independent property is becoming increasingly popular.

Not only do visitors gain the opportunity to immerse themselves in local cultures in ways that hotels don’t allow, but they also are not constricted to mealtimes, price supplements for single or multiple travelers, and have the flexibility to live as they choose.

If you decide that you would like to make an income from renting out your vacation villa in Barcelona but don’t know how to begin, it’s always good to do a little preliminary research. With bookings of hotels subsiding and more people looking at renting a vacation villa, there has never been a better time to make the transition.

 

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If you only travel to your Catalonia villa twice a year, consider letting it out especially during peak season. Much of your annual mortgage could potentially be covered by your rental property. Obviously there are things to consider such as cleaning, property management, and insurance, but a friendly rental agent will be able to keep you on the right track with off-season necessities.

By the year 2020 there will be a tipping point where independent holiday lettings will overshadow hotel bookings. Don’t miss out on the rental boom if you think you may like to buy a house in Spain as it’s as good a time as any to buy to let!


Blanes: The gateway to the Costa Brava

Blanes was originally an old fishing town located approximately one hour north of Barcelona. The modern-day beach town is also just 50 minutes from Girona making it easily accessible from both of the region’s major airports. If you rent a villa on the Costa Brava it’s the ideal place to explore with all of the family. With over 4 kilometres of sandy beaches, characterful coves, and a town centre steeped in history, it is worth adding a day here to your travel itinerary.

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The Beach

The main attraction in Blanes for families is the beach. A pretty promenade flanks the entire coastline which is dotted with shops, bars, and restaurants. On Cala de San Francesc and Playa de Sabanell you can sign up for boats trips, hire sun loungers, and indulge in a multitude of water sports such as windsurfing, paragliding, sailing, and jet-skiing. Playa de Capellans is perfect for diving as the area of Santa Ana Point is particularly abundant with marine life.

 

The Gardens

Blanes is blessed with two wonderful botanical gardens with more than 11,000 species of plants such as aloes, cacti, and yucca palm plants. These gardens, popular with visitors to the town, exide natural beauty, shade, and seclusion which contrasts with the hustle and bustle of Blanes.

 

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The Culture

In addition to the archaeological ruins in the town centre and the myriad of shops, restaurants, and local bars, Blanes also hosts many markets and festivals throughout the year. Climb the hillside to the Castle of San Juan to visit the chapel and fortress, and enjoy views over the town, golden beaches, and azure Mediterranean Sea. If you do climb the steep walk to the top, remember to bring plenty of sunscreen as there aren’t many shaded areas – and don’t forget your camera!

If you are staying close to Blanes or a short drive or train ride away, take a day trip from your Costa Brava vacation rental to the charming coastal city of Blanes.


Summer festivals in Catalonia

The Catalans love their festivals! They fully immerse themselves in the wonderful spectacles, firework displays, street parades and party atmosphere. Many famous festivals such as Easter parades, town fiestas, Saints´ days, and flower displays can be enjoyed all over Spain. Specifically, the region of Catalonia has its own incredible festivals held throughout the year. Here are a few dates to put on your calendar to ensure you reserve your vacation rental in Spain and don’t miss any of the fun!

 

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JUNE

In the coastal resort town of L’Estartit you can enjoy a wonderful Catalan folk music and Sardana dancing festival held between the 15th and 17th of June. It’s a wonderful way to experience the local music and dancing as all the residents take to the streets to enjoy the party atmosphere.

Also held around the 23rd June in all major towns and villages on the coast is the festival of Sant Joan, a summer solstice celebration where bonfires are lit on the beaches and in town squares, firework displays go off over the sea, and music echoes through ancient streets all through the night.

JULY

One of the most popular festivals you shouldn’t omit when visiting Catalonia is the Habanera. Named after a genre of music brought back from the Caribbean by sailors from the region, these are traditional fisherman songs which are sung in the Costa Brava villages. Every first weekend in July ,the Habanera comes to life in the pretty village of Calella de Palafrugell. Fisherman sail into the picturesque bay on their boats singing sea shanties – a warming drink of cremat (rum set alight) is offered on their arrival to the shore.

The evenings are spent on the sandy beaches and in local bodegas, dim lights illuminating the boats as they continue to sail into the cove. Songs are sung and visitors are more than welcome.

 

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AUGUST

If you are staying in the region during the month of August, head to see the Habaneras at Portbou, Sa Riera and other areas along the Costa Brava. In L’Escala during the last weekend of August you can enjoy the Festival of Giants – men and women dressed as giants parade the streets in a weekend full of fun and laughter.

SEPTEMBER

The myriad of festivals continue into September. Take a trip to Begur where the Indianos Colonial Fair occurs. During the 1800s many people of Begur began a pilgrimage to the new world to seek their fortune. Many townsfolk remained there building business and colonial mansions where they settled with their families. This festival celebrates the town’s ancestry connection with the Caribbean island of Cuba and the people who left from Begur to experience a different slice of life.

In the beautiful coastal town of Cadaques you can enjoy the summer festival, Catalan folk dancing, music, activities and games for children and plenty of firework displays.
The Catalan National Holiday is held on the 11th of the month in most towns and villages across all of Catalonia. The date commemorates the end of the siege of Barcelona by the Spanish.

If you are planning on reserving a Costa Brava vacation rental, this summer these are just a few of the local events you won’t want to miss.


Exploring Platja d’Aro

Platja d’Aro (or Playa d’Aro) is approximately 40 kilometers from Girona in Catalonia, Spain, and 110 kilometers north of Barcelona on the coast of the Costa Brava. It’s a well-known resort of the Catalan people, cosmopolitan with a historical town centre, great beaches and lots of entertainment all year round. If your vacation rental in Spain is close by, a visit to Platja d’Aro is a must. The resort is comprised of two areas: Castell d’Aro is the historic area, located 3 kilometers inland and constructed around the medieval castle and church; and then you have the modern, vibrant resort town next to the beach of Platja d’Aro.

 

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This resort is easy to reach by bus or car from other resorts and inland towns on the Costa Brava. It has excellent shopping that incorporates a mix of markets, high-end chains like Mango and Bershka, and local artisan shops. The beachfront is sprinkled with cafes and restaurants overlooking the deep blue Mediterranean Sea. On the beach a variety of water sports can be enjoyed, and if you are looking to achieve your PADI certification there are many dive schools in which you can enroll.

Although there is much to do on a daily basis in Platja d’Aro, it is also worth mentioning the annual festivals and events including the Beer Festival – a smaller Catalan version of Oktoberfest – the carnival, and the medieval market which tours each Spanish town, and is held in Castell d’Aro.

When you rent a villa in the Costa Brava it’s easy to get comfortable by the pool and not explore your surroundings; however, there is so much to see in this area, and you would be missing out. The cities of Girona and Barcelona are a short drive away as are the Pyrenees if you feel like hiking in the great outdoors. There are also many interesting and picturesque coastal resorts on the Costa Brava which are truly captivating.

 

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In the town centre and beachfront restaurants, you will find typical dishes of the Catalan region including the favourite breakfast dish of Pa Amb Tomàquet – toasted rustic bread, rubbed with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, and tomato passata. This can also be served with sausage, Spanish potato omelette, or ham. This dish is easy to make and can easily be recreated on the terrace of your Costa Brava vacation rental. Sardines are very popular and freshly caught here, are are ideal for tossing into your next stew.

If relaxation is in order and Platja d’Aro is a little too lively for you, head to the upmarket resort of S’Agaro just a few miles away and enjoy the tranquil splendor of this attractive seaside town.

 

 


Cool off in Catalonia´s best water parks

Catalonia, Spain is famous for being family friendly, and their many water parks are no exception. A plethora of attractions await from dolphinariums (dolphin aquariums) to swimming pools and kamikaze water slides.  If you are renting a villa with private pool on the Costa Brava or you are staying in a Costa Dorada vacation rental you have many options when it comes to finding a water park to visit in your area. Here is a short guide to the water parks within traveling distance from your villa in Spain.

 

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Costa Brava
Marineland Catalunya
Marineland Catalunya is one of the most popular water parks on the Costa Brava. Located in Palafolls near the seaside resort of Malgrat de Mar, Marineland will keep all of the children (and adults) entertained throughout the day. There is a free shuttle bus which runs from the popular towns of Lloret de Mar, Blanes, Malgrat de Mar, Santa Susana, Pineda and Calella. Expect to see exciting dolphin shows, a myriad of exotic birds, sea lions and a wide selection of water slides and wave pools. If you have a child celebrating a birthday during your trip, let the park know in advance and the park entertainers will organise something special for the birthday boy or girl!

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The AquaBrava waterpark is located in Roses in the northern Costa Brava, while Marineland caters for the south of the area, Aquabrava is perfectly located to visit if you are staying near L’Estartit, Llafranc and Calella de Palafrugell. The park hosts 19 amazing rides with wild rivers, relaxation pools and twisting, undulating water slides. Their newest attraction is the Cobra water ride, which will take your breath away! For younger children there is also Tropic Island and Kids Lagoon, perfect for the toddlers in your family.

Costa Maresme
Illa Fantasia
Illa Fantasia is a vibrant water park set on the Costa Maresme, approximately one hour north of Barcelona by train. With more than 20 water slides and three huge swimming pools, you will find many places to chill out and cool down during the hot summer days. Adults can lounge in the sun or under a shady canopy as the kids hit the water slides. The park´s picnic areas make it easy to bring your own food prepared in your Barcelona holiday rental, so there is no need for any additional expense. There is also a supermarket right next to the park if you wanted to shop for some essentials just before you enter the park.

Costa Dorada
Aquopolis
Aquopolis is located in La Pineda near Tarragona, and you can travel here from Cambrils, Salou and Sitges via bus. If you seek high excitement check out the Hurricane, Boomerang and the Black Hole which is a wild water slide in the dark! If you have a competitive streak, challenge the family to a speed race where you can all compete against each other on the water slides. There are also many relaxing wave pools and river rapids to enjoy together. The children’s mini park caters for the tiny tots, too.

With the plethora of water parks located up and down the coastline in Spain, you will definitely find one close to your Spain vacation rental!


Visiting Malgrat de Mar on the Costa Maresme

Families visiting Catalonia have a multitude of things to see and do close to their Costa Maresme holiday rental. Many of the Catalan resorts are perfect sites for children, with blue flag beaches and a multitude of play areas. Malgrat de Mar is one resort that offers plenty to see and do for the entire family.

 

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Malgrat is on the cusp of the Costa Maresme and the Costa Brava, and has the combination of “old Malgrat” which houses narrow streets, bars, restaurants, bakeries and grocery shops, and the new part of the town, which is abundant with bars, restaurants, mini golf and wonderful stretches of golden sandy beaches.

 

The train station located in the old town offers visitors the opportunity to travel up and down the coast to Barcelona and many other resort towns for the cost of a few euros. Opposite the train station you will often find elderly men involved in a competitive game of the Catalan version of Pétanque. The neighborhood is a wonderful place to uncover the real town of Malgrat.

 

The long stretch of beach in the more modern area of the town is divided into three zones: Malgrat beach which has been awarded blue flag status, Pomerada Beach with its protected dune area, and Astillero beach which hosts a lively children’s club. There are plenty of beach bars, crèches and monitored play areas on each, making this a great resort for families to visit.

 

Just outside Malgrat in Palafolls is Marineland where both adults and children can be entertained all day long with a variety of water slides, dolphin shows, swimming areas and exotic birds. Children under the age of 3 enter for free and the park is open from mid-May each year until the season ends around the end of October. There are a wide range of self-service restaurants or you can bring a picnic that you prepared earlier in your villa on the Costa Maresme.

 

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While in Marineland, children and adults can enjoy the hammock rental service, a fast pass so you don’t have to queue to enjoy the water slides, and souvenir photos which you can take with the dolphins or sea lions.

 

For those who are visiting the area but haven’t hired a car, there is a free bus to Marineland, with bus stops situated near your Costa Maresme vacation rental or villa in the Costa Brava. Bus schedules run from Tossa de Mar, Lloret de Mar, Blanes, Malgrat de Mar, Santa Susanna, Pineda de Mar and Calella.

 

If you are traveling to Catalonia with children and seek a resort with plenty for the little ones to do, book your Costa Maresme holiday rental close to Malgrat, and you will have access to trains, beautiful beaches, great restaurants, bicycles and water parks – everything you need to make your family holiday special.

 


What can vegetarians eat in Catalonia?

It can a little bit soul-destroying when you are enjoying your holiday in Spain with a loved one, family or friends and they suggest a meal at the local restaurant, knowing as a vegetarian you will probably find one item on the menu that you can eat every night of your holiday. So how do you ensure you are not chained to cooking the vegetables from the local market in your family villa in Barcelona for the duration of your stay? What on Earth can you eat as a veggie lover in the land of chorizo and jamon? Don’t panic: Here are a few tips to ensure you can eat out with the rest of the family without compromising your ethics.

 

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What can I eat from a traditional Spanish menu?

There is a lot that you can feast on as a veggie traveling in Spain! The Spanish omelette or tortilla de patata is found in pretty much every tapas bar and restaurant in the country. Enjoy a slice with some patatas bravas on the side (cooked potatoes with a spicy sauce) and a few slices of homemade crusty bread.

Country Calamari

Some restaurants serve tempura-style vegetables which are lightly fried in batter. Onions, peppers and courgettes often get the calamari-style treatment without the seafood.

Asparagus Revueltos

Asparagus is also a favourite Spanish dish and can be served “revueltos” with scrambled eggs, or with a poached egg or Parmesan cheese.

Gazpacho

Who would have thought Spain’s most famous soup would be vegetarian-friendly? Gazpacho may be cold to the taste but it’s super tasty and packed with antioxidants!

 

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Spinach and Chickpeas

Chickpeas! Whether its hummus or falafel, chickpeas are usually a staple in the vegetarian diet, fortunately the Spanish love them too. The Spanish version of espinacas con garbanzos (spinach and chickpeas) is really tasty and widely available.

Croquettes

Croquetas contain bechamel sauce and a variety of fillings from mushrooms to Roquefort and walnut to spinach and pine nuts which can be found on most tapas menus. Be careful to check the filling though as most come with ham or chicken. If you are unsure, ask or check your translation app or guidebook.

Fried Aubergine

Another wonderful veggie dish is berenjenas fritas (fried eggplant or aubergine). Usually served fried in thin slices with a drizzle of honey over the top it’s truly delicious.

Ratatouille or Pisto

Roasted vegetables in olive oil, with onion, pepper, eggplant and tomato in a chunky and tasty sauce. Very tasty indeed.

Manchego and Walnuts

Manchego is a hard Spanish cheese, served with walnuts, breadsticks and a drizzle of honey. it’s a dish you will want to try again and again.

If you are still struggling then remember the larger cities also have Italian, Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants where an abundance of alternative vegetarian dishes are served. You don’t have to feel that you will be eating in your vacation villa in Barcelona each evening alone. There are plenty of wonderful choices for any vegetarian traveling in Spain, and if all else fails you always have the desserts!

 

 


Don’t miss the best of Girona, Spain

A number of fascinating events took place in Spain in the year 1492: Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain to discover the Americas, the Moors were overthrown in their ruling of Granada and many forced to convert to Christianity, and until 1492 Girona was home to Catalonia’s second most important Jewish community, which encompassed one of the most vibrant Jewish quarters in Spain. Take a trip from your Catalonia villa rental and explore one of the most overlooked cities in Spain and discover its treasures for yourself.

 

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Historic Museum of the Jews

There are many remnants of the Jewish heritage today which can be found in the Historical Museum of the Jews in Girona, this shows the persecution of a race as they were almost forced out of Spain, it also documents the life and rituals of the ancient community in addition to Girona’s contribution to medieval medicine and astronomy.

Girona Cathedral

The splendid architecture of Girona Cathedral alone is worth taking time away from your Spain holiday rental to visit. It is flanked by an intricately designed Baroque façade, however, the Cathedral is in fact more ancient. It was built over parts of the old Roman Forum and parts of the structure date as far back as the 5th century. There is a wonderful Romanesque cloister which transports the visitor back to the 12th century, the entire Cathedral is a masterpiece and very interesting to explore. Don’t miss out on viewing the silver altarpiece covered with vibrant gemstones portraying the life of Christ, and the Tapestry of the Creation.

 

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Museum of Art

Close to the Cathedral and the Jewish Heritage museum is the Museum of Art. Here, day trippers or visitors will find over 8500 works of art, mainly deriving from this area of Catalonia. They range from spectacular stained glass tables to the sculptures of Rafael Masó i Valentí.

Museum of Cinema

For lovers of the silver screen, visitors to Girona must take a trip to the Museum of Cinema. It tells the story of why humans wish to indulge their imagination, as well as a tour of how the Camera Obscura was invented, you can view a myriad of optical illusions using masterful trickery and light.

In addition to the above attractions, Arabic Baths, contemporary pintxo bars and restaurants and the beautiful 11th century Romanesque Benedictine Monastery are well worth taking time out of your Costa Brava vacation rental to see while visiting the city of Girona.


Top 5 tapas restaurants in Barcelona

The good way to discover 5 of the best tapas restaurants in Barcelona is by word of mouth. It’s all too easy when taking time out from your family villa in Barcelona to just go with the crowds in the main tourist areas, here are a few alternatives, so that you can experience truly authentic Catalan tapas dishes.

 

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La Cova Fumada

It may be off the tourist beaten path but don’t overlook La Cova Fumada. It’s a family run tapas bar which is incredibly popular with city residents. Serving some of the best varieties of seafood tapas there is plenty to whet your appetite. The bar doesn’t have any signs outside, just a large set of wooden doors, but don’t be put off, it’s buzzing with locals inside. The large chalk board menu details the specials and tapas dishes, football posters adorn the walls, it’s laid back and relaxed. If you want to take a break from cooking in your Catalonia villa rental and wish to indulge in some authentic tapas this is the place to visit.

Quimet i Quimet

It’s a small bar but the tapas are worth squeezing in for. House specialities include the montaditos (small sculpted tapas served on bread) or you can try a fusion of Asian/Mediterranean tapas with toppings such as salmon sashimi with honey, soy and cream cheese. Alternatively, if you enjoy fish dishes, the cod, black olive pate and passata will go down a treat. Arrive early if you want to find somewhere to sit or stand inside.

Gata Mala

Gata Mala offers you a dish of tapas for free when you order a drink, it’s a great way to sample the delicacies and decide if you wish to indulge in a larger ración. Portions are generous, they are reasonably priced, friends can share ibérico ham and manchego cheese and a bottle of wine which keeps the costs to a minimum.

 

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La Esquinica

You may have to queue for a while to get into La Esquinica especially on the weekends when it’s busy with locals. Tapas are generous in size, try the ensalada rusa, or the patatas bravas, and the anchovies – the menu is extensive with pinchos kebabs and a variety of meat and fish dishes.

Las Delicias del Carmelo

Located close to Park Güell, Las Delicias serves incredible plates of tapas and would be a perfect stop off point if you have been visiting the famous Gaudí park. The calamares (deep fried squid) and croquettas de pollo (chicken croquettes) are firm favourites here, if you feel more adventurous try something you wouldn’t make yourself in your vacation villa in Barcelona such as baby octopus served with salsa verde or snails cooked in tomato sauce.

If you are renting a villa in Barcelona you don’t have to stay in and cook every night, there are many reasonably priced tapas bars and restaurants across the city just waiting for you to discover them.

 


Visit the Benedictine abbey deep in the Catalonia mountains

The spectacular Santa Maria de Montserrat or Montserrat Monastery as it is otherwise known, was founded back in 1025, it is a Benedictine Abbey perched majestically on the mountainside of Montserrat in Catalonia. Set deep in the heart of Catalan terrain it’s hard to believe it’s a mere 30 miles drive to the west of Barcelona. The monastery can be reached easily from your Costa Brava vacation rental or Costa Maresme holiday rental by train, road or cable car.

 

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The monastery itself is 1,236 metres above the ground level of the valley making it the highest point of all of the Catalonia lowlands. The summit of Sant Jeromi can be walked to from the funicular station. Make sure you travel to the monastery on a clear day for panoramic views of the entire region, if you are really fortunate occasionally you can even see right across the azure waters of the Mediterranean to the island of Mallorca.

 

The Basilica of Montserrat houses a museum which contains rare artworks and sculptures by El Greco, Picasso and Dali. It is also home to one of the earliest publishing houses where the first book was published in the year 1499, the world’s oldest printing press still runs to this day.

 

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The monastery itself has an intriguing history which is ready to be uncovered. It is home to the Virgin of Montserrat also known as the black virgin – Catalonia’s favourite saint. The Escolania Montserrat Boys’ choir sings here; they are one of the oldest in Europe performing during religious ceremonies in the basilica. The school choir sings daily in the basilica around midday in front of visitors and pilgrims from around the world, try to make it there if you can it is an experience which will remain with you forever.

 

The historical references from the monastery range from the Spanish Civil War to the era of Franco and today Montserrat Monastery is seen as a symbol of Catalan Nationalism. It is definitely worth a day trip outside of your vacation rental in Spain to visit the magnificent interior and exterior architecture and take in the most spectacular views of Catalonia that you will ever see.