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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.

Passeig de Gracia

Passeig de Gracia

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.

Passeig de Gracia

Passeig de Gracia

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.

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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.

 

Alt Urgell- Cerdanya

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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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!

AquaBrava
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!

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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.

 

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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!

 

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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Inside a master’s mind: A peek into the world of Gaudi

Antoni Gaudí’s architectural masterpiece is the one of the main attractions for visitors to see on their Barcelona holiday. Known the world over, the Sagrada Familia Cathedral has inspired designers, engineers and architects from around the globe.

 

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Gaudí was born in Reus to the south of the city. When he was the son of a coppersmith he began to learn about arts and crafts in his father’s workshop. He left Reus for Barcelona and entered the School of Architecture in Barcelona at a young age, it is here his dream developed into becoming one of the finest architects Catalonia has ever known. His unique modernist art inspired new generations and created a movement the city and its residents had never seen before.

As his reputation grew he was commissioned to design some of Barcelona’s best known projects which he designed and honed into his own interminable style. The famous structures of Casa Milà or La Pedrera as it is also known, and Casa Batlló are two of his well-known buildings in the centre of the city.

 

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He took over the design of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in 1883, once he realised what a great undertaking it was, he left his other work to concentrate solely on this structural masterpiece. He never did see the end result, but even today the blend of Gaudi’s architectural genius and the more contemporary features which were completed after his death mesh together past and present flawlessly.

Everyone who visits the city is drawn to this Cathedral, it dominates the skyline and offers a real awe-inspiring look into the genius and creativity of one man. It is possible to book tickets to visit the beautiful interior of the cathedral, you can also walk the towers for the most phenomenal panoramic views of the city below. However, the building is just as impressive from the exterior. Whatever you do, don’t leave your vacation rental in Barcelona without seeing it just the once – you won’t regret it.

 

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The beaches of Barcelona

Barcelona has over 4 km of sandy, golden beaches many of which are only a fifteen-minute walk from the city centre and close to your Barcelona holiday rental. Here is a guide to a few of the best beaches you can visit in the city of Barcelona.

 

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Barceloneta Beach

The beach of Barceloneta is the nearest to the centre of the city. It can be easily reached by walking down Las Ramblas from the Plaça de Catalunya (one of the main transport links in the city). When you reach the monument of Christopher Columbus you will be able to see Port Vell, a contemporary marine area with a variety or shops, bars, restaurants and also the aquarium of Barcelona.

 

This beach is jam packed with fun things to do for adults and children alike, from windsurfing and kitesurfing to swimming. There are also many beach cabanas and bars in which to enjoy a refreshing beverage or light snack under the warm Mediterranean sun. It is the ideal place to bring a picnic and explore more of the Port Vell area after a busy morning shopping and sightseeing on Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter.

 

Mar Bella Beach

Mar Bella is a nudist beach located slightly on the fringe of the city. There are many people who don’t achieve naked status, who just enjoy it the same as any other beach. It’s a lovely area and worth a visit.

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Icària Beach

Where the Barceloneta beach ends the Icària Beach begins at the Frank Gehry metal fish sculpture also known as Peix. Again, it is a pretty stretch of beach, easily accessible walking from the Gothic Quarter or by tram or bus from the Plaça de Catalunya. Many exclusive hotels such as the famous luxury Hotel Arts line the Icària Beach front.

 

If you would like to venture further afield Sitges is a little further down the coast – a wonderful, fashionable tourist resort, 30 minutes by train from Barcelona Sants Station or alternatively, head north to the pretty areas of Malgrat del Mar or Calella de la Costa by train for a more laid back beach experience close to your Costa Maresme vacation rental.

 

 

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Top free activities in Barcelona

You have found your Catalonia villa rental close to the city, and now it’s time to explore. Cities can be expensive, and it’s easy to go over budget if you are not careful. We thought about this and have compiled a list of things to do for free in Barcelona so that you can see the best of the city without compromising your budget.

 

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Las Ramblas & La Boqueria

Considered one of the most famous thoroughfares in the world, Las Ramblas awaits with its outdoor stalls, flower buckets, caricature and mime artists – it is one of the most tourist-driven avenues in the world and one of the liveliest. Starting from Plaça de Catalunya, easily accessible from your Barcelona holiday rental (it is one of the main bus and metro stops in the city), Las Ramblas walks you through a myriad of entertainment, souvenir stalls and music, ending at Port Vell by the sea.

 

On one side of the avenue you have many shops, tapas bars and restaurants, as well as access to the famous Gothic Quarter, and on the other side pretty boutique hotels and La Boqueria St. Josep indoor market. The indoor market is a must see, with rainbow colours of citrus fruits, juices, artisan breads, cured meats and cheeses you can pick up a feast for your Barcelona holiday villa for very reasonable prices. The market is open until around 20.30, so make it your last stop before you depart the city with all your gastronomic goodies, it will keep them fresh and you won’t need to carry them around all day.

 

Gothic Quarter

Explore the Barri Gòtico which is the old medieval city centre, it is also known as the Gothic Quarter. The area is nestled between trendy El Born district with its many bars, restaurants and nightclubs, and Las Ramblas. The medieval streets date back to the Roman settlement of the city, and parts of the old city wall still remain around the areas of Sots Tinent and Tapinera. It is a fascinating labyrinth of streets with some of the best tapas bars, shops and medieval squares in the city. Immerse yourself in the Barri Gòtico and imagine the Barcelona of old. Places of interest include Plaça Sant Jaume, the Church of Santa Maria del Pi and the Presidential Palace.

 

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The Architecture of Antoni Gaudí

No visit to Barcelona would be complete without a visit to see the many architectural masterpieces for which the city is famous. It can become expensive if you wish to view the Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Casa Batlló, and Casa Milà (also known as La Pedrera) but what if you could see them all for free? There are free walking tours throughout Barcelona, one of which is a Gaudí tour. The tour takes 2 – 2.5 hours leaving from Plaça de Catalunya at 11.00 daily. The tour offers inside information into the great architect’s life and the incredible structures he built which make Barcelona the city it is today.

 

Whatever you decide to do when you holiday in Spain, Barcelona is one of the most fascinating cities on Earth. Whether it is a day trip from your Catalonia villa rental or you are planning to stay for a little longer, there are many things to see and do in the city that won’t cost you a euro. It’s just about knowing where to find them! Use these tips to help you start on the right track.

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The best Barcelona spots to visit with children

Cities are often overlooked when planning a vacation with children; however, there are many areas to explore in Barcelona even when holidaying with younger children. Here are a few ideas to tempt you out of your Spain holiday rental and into the big metropolis.

 

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Parc de La Ciutadella and Barcelona Zoo
A family favourite for Catalans, this central park in Barcelona offers a multitude of activities which will suit adults and children alike. With a lake in the centre, you can hire a small rowing boat and paddle around with the children or relax and sunbathe on the calm, still waters of the lake. If you start the day early and take a trip to the market of La Boqueria St. Josep, you can stock up on snacks for a picnic. Sit on the grass overlooking the water with a wonderful array of fresh fruit, cured meats, artisan breads, oils and cheeses. The Barcelona Zoo is ready to explore next, situated in the same park, and houses a variety of animals and educational areas in which to keep the children happy for the rest of the day.

Tibidabo Amusement Park
Situated high above the cityscape is Mount Tibidabo. With arguably the best views of Barcelona, it can be reached by funicular tram or by car. The viewing platforms on the ascent are the perfect place to capture picture perfect memories of your vacation in Barcelona. Don’t worry though, the children are well-catered for, too! The fairground at the top of the mountain has colourful rides and stalls to keep everyone entertained. There are also viewing areas with seats which are perfect to look over the city skyline and enjoy a well-prepared picnic lunch.

 

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The Dancing Fountains of Montjuïc
The area of Montjuïc has so much going for it. From the Poble Espanyol Spanish village to the Olympic stadium which hosted the games back in 1992, there is lots to do for everyone in the family. However, if you just want to please the children, you must take them to see the Dancing Fountains of Montjuïc. The fountains come alive in the evening, illuminated by a kaleidoscope of water jets shooting up into the air as they dance to the music. It is the perfect end to a day’s adventure in the city and shouldn’t be missed before you return to your Barcelona holiday rental.

Don’t discount a holiday in Barcelona if you are traveling with young children. There is so much of interest in the city for all ages that you will be spoiled for choice!

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Catalan cuisine: Top 5 dishes to try

As with the rest of Spain, Catalonian people adore good quality food and wine. From fresh seafood recipes to delicious meat stews, there are specific dishes you will only find in this beautiful, picturesque northeastern region of Spain. Luckily, we have compiled some of the best examples of Catalonian cuisine to tempt your taste buds.

 

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Catalan Tortilla

We have all heard of the Spanish omelette and many of us may have sampled it; however in Catalonia, they have their own unique version and it contains chickpeas and spicy diced chorizo sausage. It’s easy to make, filling, and a firm Catalan family favourite especially for sharing.

 

Cadaqués Sea Bass in Salsa Verde

This delectable fish dish hails from the dreamy coastal town of Cadaqués. The town is usually more famous for being the home of Salvador Dali, the world famous surrealist artist, than Catalan cuisine. Many regions in Spain can be accused of offering food that is somewhat bland – not so with this dish. The salsa verde addition to the sea bass is a mouth-watering delight, featuring chopped onion, mandatory garlic cloves, olive oil, fresh parsley, salt, and lemon, the sauce combined with the delicate fish brings your taste buds back to life from the very first bite.

 

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Venison Romesco

Venison may not be to everyone’s taste but it is a popular addition to menus featuring Catalan cuisine. Venison is all too often used in burgers or in stews which tends to mask the flavour, this dish showcases venison chops with a rich Romesco sauce which hails from Tarragona. In addition to the venison, garlic, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, olive oil, and butter are added. The rich spicy Romesco sauce is a combination of chilies, almonds, olive oil, and stale non-crusted bread. It is simply spicy and delicious.

 

Suquet de Peix or Hake with Garlic

This hake with garlic is a perfect meal for a light lunch by the water’s edge, Suquet de Peix could almost be described as a refined fish stew. Generous chunks of hake with ripe beef tomatoes, cloves, and pimentón are combined with a liberal dose of olive oil, parsley, and lemon to create a tasty and light summer, easy-to-prepare dish which your palate will adore.

 

Crema Catalana

We couldn’t end our top 5 Catalan cuisine dishes without a nod to probably the best known of them all. Located so close to the border with France there are many gastronomic influences that reach this region of Spain. The Crema Catalana – a unique version of the famous crème brûlée, a rich, creamy desert with burnished bronze caramelised topping – sums up Catalonia in one simple spoonful. Crema Catalana, or Catalan Cream as it is otherwise known, is not an easy dessert to make. It takes skill, and a tool called La Quemadora which is used to caramelize the sugar – no blowtorches allowed!

On Mother’s Day each year, grandmothers across Spain get to work creating the best Crema Catalana they can for their families. The traditional recipe contains egg yolks, cinnamon, lemon, milk and corn-starch, it’s served in small round terracotta or earthenware dishes and is one taste of Catalonia which everyone should try.

Whether you are a meat or fish lover, vegetarian, or have a wonderfully sweet tooth, you will always find a dish in the pretty and diverse region of Catalonia that will leave you wanting more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The best-kept secrets of Barcelona’s beaches

A holiday in Barcelona is a dream for many, with some of the highest-ranked beaches in Europe and countless historical and heritage spots to visit. The beach, of course, is a great attraction for anyone who is visiting the region. However, during the summer months the central Barcelona beach is likely to be overcrowded with people, leaving very little free space. Thankfully, there are some secret beach spots just south of Barcelona that are perfect for the leisurely beach holiday that you wish to enjoy in the Catalonia style.

 

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A lesser known spot
Instead of heading south to the popular beach of Sitges where there is more of a commercial approach with trendy restaurants and bars, head to the calm Cubelles Beach. Not only is the area less crowded but it also is the perfect place to enjoy a seaside holiday experience. The undulating golden sands of the beach extend for more than 500 meters giving you ample space to enjoy the cool breeze while basking in the sun. The beach is also clean and well-kept with litter bins and toilets located strategically. There is also complete security to ensure the safety of the few tourists who travel and lodge there.

Sea and Spanish gourmet
Cap off your visit to a Catalonia beach with an invigorating meal of the classic paella. Local chefs at scarce family-run restaurants prepare paella and tapas, sometimes even over an open fire on the beach. Start your day with a refreshing dip in the water followed by a visit to the bar to enjoy the beer and some tapas to whet your appetite. When heavy hunger approaches, fill up on platters of paella, mixed with seafood, vegetables, and other meat.

 

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A quiet holiday experience
Reserving a holiday villa is another way to get away from the crowded beach towns where hordes of visitors flock to the sands on a daily basis. A villa gives you an element of privacy that is unmatched if booking a hotel or holiday condo. With your own private pool, private kitchen, and unshared walls, you can make yourself at home in your vacation villa.

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A guide to renting a Barcelona vacation villa

Not many tourists consider renting a vacation villa in or on the outskirts of the city of Barcelona. Many travelers also are not aware of the benefits of renting a family vacation villa including self-catering facilities, more privacy, and even lower rental fees compared with other types of accommodation in the city. A holiday villa offers modern conveniences with a cozy, quiet home feel, as though you are vacationing in your home yet transported to the exciting region of Catalonia! And because so many travelers don’t know the value of a Barcelona holiday rental, it is easier than ever to find deals!

There is high demand for hotel rooms in Barcelona, and the hotel industry in the city enjoys an average room occupancy between 80 percent and 85 percent throughout the year. Because of the high demand for hotel rooms, the rates have increased in recent years. There is little land left for development in the city, which is why hotels are able to increase their room rates.

Why rent a house in Barcelona?

When you opt to stay at a holiday villa with a private pool in our just outside Barcelona, you will not only save money but you also will have an easier time finding accommodation during the peak season when most hotels rooms have already been booked for months.

 

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A Barcelona family villa becomes more affordable if there are more people in the group. Instead of paying for several hotel rooms to accommodate your entire group, you can rent an entire villa and cut the costs tremendously. The price of the villa depends on various factors including location, amenities, and size of the pool and garden.

In your vacation villa, enjoy more privacy and more quality bonding time with your loved ones. Also take advantage of extra space, the ability to cook your own food, swim in your private pool, and relax in other recreational areas. Doing your own grocery shopping and preparing own meals will help you save money and ensure that you are consuming ingredients of the highest quality.

 

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While a Barcelona villa may not offer the same direct services that a hotel can offer, specific services can be arranged with Catalunya Casas, including private catering, extra cleaning, and even flamenco and cooking classes. And instead of joining large groups of people, you will enjoy personalized services that cater to your specific needs.

The best thing about renting a Barcelona holiday villa is that it is easy to find one! Visit Catalunya Casas to start your search for your perfect holiday home.

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Soak up Spain´s superb climate

Basking in the the sunny weather of Spain is what many tourists dream about when conjuring up images of their next holiday. The climate in Catalonia is highly favorable regardless of the time of year. The predictable and dependable forecasts change very minimally from day to day, making packing and planning as easy as deciding to visit!

 

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Why Barcelona?

The capital of Catalonia it is located at sea level with stretches of beaches along the Mediterranean Sea. The effect of the cool and warm breezes coming from the sea balances the extreme summer heat as well as the cooler winter air in the city. Therefore, both seasons are void of the unbearably hot or uncomfortably cold temperatures found in other locales.

Although the summer may increase the levels of humidity in the region, rising to nearly 70%, the cool sea breeze can assuage that moisture in the air, allowing you to enjoy the outdoors without the thick layer of humidity.

 

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The best time to visit Barcelona is during the fall season as there is a pleasant combination of both warm and cool temperatures, and the tourists have all retreated to their home countries. Catalonia´s climate also varies from the sea to the mountains. If the city is getting to hot and stuffy for your liking, hop in a train or car and make your way a few hundred or thousand meters up to the cooler mountain air.

Whether you´re a ski bunny who loves the slopes or a beach bum who can´t get enough of the sunshine and hot sand, the region of Catalonia has a climate for everyone.

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Hike Catalonia: Explore Barcelona on foot

Barcelona is a graceful city filled with wonderful sights for all your senses. From the friendly faces to the enchanting architecture, exploring the city and the surrounding regions amounts to an enjoyable tourist experience.

To properly experience what the region of Catalonia is all about, explore the area on foot along popular Barcelona hiking trails. Getting out of your vacation villa and taking one of the numerous walking or hiking trails around the region will not only help you burn some calories while on holiday, but also contributes to your understanding of the natural and cultural aspects of Catalonia.

 

Alternative Transport

 

Barcelona is a big and expansive city, but it is still possible for tourists to reach most attractions on foot. Exploring the city on foot via popular Barcelona hiking trails allows tourists to stop and admire the rich architecture and views from outside the city looking in. For those with limited availability, there are alternative transportation options including the metro, taxis, trams and buses. Take a funicular to the top of Montserrat for spectacular views as well as hiking trails for a variety of athletic abilities.

 

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Hire a Tour Guide

 

To ensure that you do not miss out on any of Catalonia´s famous tourist attractions, consider reserving a place in a walking tour or hire your own guide. With the help of a guide, especially a local guide, you can be sure that you will not miss any attractions along the Barcelona hiking trails. Some tour operators even offer themed walking tours that focus on specific attractions that surround the city. Sample tours include horseback tours, winery tours, cava tours, and nature-specific tours.

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Venture Further Inland

 

Some of the best Barcelona hiking trails are found further inland just outside the city. Catalonia is famous for its varied landscape that provides seasoned hikers with formidable challenges. Visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the city from high elevation areas just outside the city. From atop these summits, hikers will find hidden religious monuments as well as the best views of the Catalan region.

 

 

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Popular Barcelona bike routes

Barcelona is a city filled with sights and scenes in which to marvel. Tourists who visit this incredible city have the opportunity to view various attractions from the seat of a bicycle, combining some cardio while enjoying the refreshing outdoor air.

 

The city center of Barcelona is a busy environment but the outskirts are much quieter and more peaceful. The fact that the city lies close to the beach makes its quite flat and, therefore, easy for bicyclists. For cyclists looking for a challenge, Barcelona bike tours that are organized further inland are ideal getaways from the city bustle. Below are some of the main Barcelona cycling routes tourists can take while on holiday in the city.

 

Penedes Wine Region

 

When choosing a cycling route, it is important for cyclists to consider the difficulty involved. One of the most popular routes for Barcelona bike tours takes cyclists through the infamous Penedes wine region, where the refreshing air and impressive landscapes are worth the energy. The route is challenging, especially the stretch to Sitges and uphill to Las Colinas. However, the journey back to Barcelona is a fast and technical descent. This route tends to be highly popular especially on the weekends. For avid cyclists, this is definitely one of the must-try cycle routes.

 

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Collserola

 

For cyclists looking to get closer to nature and experience a side of Barcelona that is rarely featured in popular guidebooks, Collserola Park offers some amazing cycling trails. As one of the popular routes for Barcelona bike tours, cyclists can expect to ride along trails surrounded by enchanting plant life. The trail also offers cyclists the opportunity to get different views of the city while cycling. This route is a road surface that runs 12.7 miles long and is definitely one of the best routes given the exposure to nature and amazing sights.

 

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La Conreria-Sant Mateu-Cellecs

 

Other popular Barcelona bike routes take cyclists north of the city where they can experience varying terrain and face a tougher challenge. This route takes cyclists north of the city and then back again. The first stretch of the route is quite challenging but it eases up after taking cyclists to Villa Olimpica. Be on the lookout for some Tour de France athletes training around this area.

 

Total Barcelona

 

Tourists can also get a comprehensive view of the city by taking part in the Total Barcelona bike tours. This is definitely one of the most challenging but popular routes in the city. It takes cyclists through a variety of locations and is definitely not for the faint of heart. The route is 66 miles long and is mainly composed of a road surface.

 

 

 

 

 

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Spanish wines and the lure of Mediterranean orchards

Having an inimitable character in a story line can be a challenge, but once you have a grip on the right slant, you can go on and on. After succeeding in a plot around Spanish wines, I was awed by the huge reputation it enjoys and the nonquantifiable gift that nature has bestowed with the favorable Mediterranean weather.

 

I could not but gush and feel cheated that some people live all their lives in such an environment that promises a 24/7 holiday scenery while the rest of us are harassed by a mix of extreme winters and haunted by the fading autumn.

 

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It is a rare delight to see the process that goes into the production of Spanish wines: from the orchards where the wine trees are grown to the winery that presses out the vintage taste. Here, you come face to face with the enterprise that has such legendary reputation. Planning a month-long vacation around the orchards of Catalonia gave me a unique opportunity to observe how the orchards are kept and maintained.

 

I could see the farms through the eyes of my slowly but firmly developing lead character that I have pictured as San Pedro and his wife, Serita. I could see tourists who have on their schedule, wine tasting routines that showed their love for Spanish wines, and the lure of the countryside with its romantic slant. I could imagine San Pedro and his wife enjoying their honeymoon on the fringe of the orchards, where a castle stood in regal fashion.

 

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The flowing streams found at the mountain range around the Catalan region formed a building block of the early life of San Pedro‘s family. Escaping to the streams was a sort of ritual that they could not do without every day as the evening sets in. You can appreciate the mix of Spanish wines, flowing streams and an orchard in one package. This should not sound like a fairy tale, as many tourists who troop to this lovely terrain, have more than an experience that they can relive.

 

Making an escape to Catalan orchards part of your yearly vacation, will not be just a refreshing routine but a rejuvenating experience that gives you the closest short to experience nature. All of this in an untainted ecosystem that offers everyone, some reprieve from the stress of daily life. At eventide, Spanish wines are there to enjoy, from vintage secrets to fresh brews, the range of options is more than salivating to tourists that find a second home around here.

 

People can always have what they desire if they take time to plan and prepare for it. Your Catalan escape will be no different from this if you make your bookings and get your budget ready for that experience of a lifetime.

 

 

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Plan an escape to the Barcelona countryside

The Barcelona countryside across Girona and Costa Brava is idea terrain for people looking  to enjoy a peaceful vacation to unwind, rejuvenate, and return from their holidays full of life.

You can draw up your itinerary on your own or decide to engage a tour operator for your journey. Be rest assured that no what option you decide on, the idyllic setting of Spanish landscape will ensure that you are feted and pampered during your stay.

 

 

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Hiking Routes

If you lodge at any of the magnificent countryside castles of villas available from Catalunya Casas, you are sure to enjoy the best of Catalan hospitality and scenery. Hiking routes are great in both the spring and fall season. The entire countryside sits across a sprawling landscape that is a wonder to behold. The peace and tranquility you experience here will take your mind away from the pressures of daily life and office routines.

A city hike is also possible: Take a stress-free walk through the historic neighborhoods with hundreds of years of history still present. Other hiking routes include treks through vineyards, farms of olive trees, poppy fields, and a host of others that surround the quaint villages.

 

Girona and Costa Brava

 

Girona and Costa Brava offer an escape from the maddening activities of the Barcelona city center. Gorgeous coastal lines, orchards, olive groves, fishing villages, farms, and vineyards hold the key to the legendary culinary delights that emanate from the Catalan and Barcelona countryside.

 

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Whether you decide to hire a car around Girona or rent a bicycle to tackle the hills, the landscape is one to be treasured.

A Guided Tour of the Barcelona Countryside

If you opt for a guided tour during your vacation, you can relax knowing that someone else will be leading you through the unknown territory. If you are traveling alone or coming with family, enjoy the company that comes with a guided tour and share stories of the picturesque sights that you see.

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What NOT to do while on vacation in Barcelona

Barcelona is an enjoyable and popular holiday destination, but that does not mean it does not have a few flaws, one of which is the Catalonian´s capacity to become extremely crowded. Therefore, when you arrive in Barcelona, it is important to keep the following travel advice in mind.

 

DON´T confuse Barcelona-El Prat with Barcelona Girona and Barcelona Reus

 

You will start your holiday on a bad foot is you confuse Girona and Reus Airports with Barcelona-El Prat. The aforementioned hubs are miles away from Barcelona, so if you book a flight and end up in either of these cities, you will have to endure a lengthy bus ride to Barcelona. When booking your Barcelona vacation rental, make sure you are reserving your accommodation in the region you desire. Catalunya Casas offers properties in Girona, Costa Brava, Barcelona, and Costa Dorada.

 

 

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DON´T go to the nearest beach

Barceloneta is the nearest beach in Barcelona. If you can, take a train ride and visit other beaches far from the city. Some of the immediate beaches in Barcelona proper can be exceedingly crowded, especially during the summer months. The further you move from the city, the better the coastal experience. If you want to lay on sandy beaches or take a stroll on the soft sand, try Ocata or St Pol de Mar.

 

 

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DO be aware of pickpockets

The city has a fair share of pickpockets, who might invent creative ways of grabbing your attention. When you stroll the busy streets, especially La Rambla, stay alert of your surroundings and your belongings. Some thieves will approach you in pretense of showing you around or purporting to show you football moves. When a stranger approaches you to show you something, decline politely and keep an eye on their movements.

 

DO avoid dressing like a tourist

 

Dressing like a tourist will make you stand out like a sore thumb. For instance, walking around in a sombrero that attracts unnecessary attention will only make you susceptible to petty thieves and rip-off deals. Dress sensibly, as you would at home, and try to blend in with the locals.

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Your Barcelona wedding guide

If you have recently spent some time on holiday in Spain, you may have decided that it is the place where you want to get married. The charming streets of Barcelona, the breathtaking views across the mountains, and the unforgettable food and drinks are only some of the reasons why a wedding in Barcelona is a great idea. If you decide to hold your nuptials in Catalonia, you can plan in advance by reserving a villa to serve as your accommodation, reception venue, and even your honeymoon destination. The experts from Catalunya Casas are available to help you plan everything from villa choice to a personal deejay.

 

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Old churches and stunning views that surround the city make for a picturesque setting for your fairy tale wedding. More and more couples are beginning to look for Catalonia villa rentals in which to celebrate their wedding with their family and friends. If you are looking for a villa with a garden or private pool in Catalonia, Catalunya Casas will be able to help find the best one for you. Not only will your wedding reception venue be reserved, but the space can also serve as the accommodation for a few family members and friends.

If you want to get married legally in Spain and you are not a Spanish national, your only option is to wed in a Catholic church. There are English-speaking priests available upon request. If you decide to get married in a Catholic church, some of your top choices would be the 14th-century Gothic church of Santa Maria del Mar, the Barcelona Cathedral, and the cathedral of Sant Pau del Camp.  Protestant weddings can be done too; however, you will only receive a blessing instead of a full service and ceremony. Legalities must be settled in your home country before you relocate to Spain for your wedding. A civil wedding in Barcelona requires a residency in Spain of at least 2 years.

 

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Alternatively, villas in or around Barcelona serve as ideal settings for your reception after the ceremony, or for the rehearsal dinner the day before the wedding. Catalunya Casas can recommend large Catalonian villa rentals with enough rooms to accommodate you and your loved ones. If you have numerous guests coming to Spain for your wedding, multiple Catalonian villa rentals may be arranged as well.

A simple search online will lead you to various local suppliers that provide services for your wedding in Barcelona. You can book photographers, videographers, caterers, bakers, and florists for your special day. A wedding in Barcelona would be a memorable choice and provide a lifetime full of loving memories.

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As the exchange rate rises, rent a Catalonia villa at a reduced price

By Peter Lavelle, Pure FX

Would you like to have more spending money when you rent a private family villa in Catalonia? If so, great news! The pound-to-euro exchange rate has strengthened +15 cents in the last 21 months, to 1.35. What this means is that, when you exchange currencies to stay in a Catalonia villa, you’ll receive far more euros to enjoy your holiday. Hence, you’ll be able to make the most of renting in Catalonia!

 

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So to put this into context. were to exchange £2,500 to rent a Catalonia villa and spend a week in north-eastern Spain with your family, you’d now receive £3,375, a full +£375 more than in January 2014, when the pound was far weaker. With +€375 extra, you could rent a more luxurious Catalonia villa, take a day trip to one of Catalonia’s many beautiful villages, in short live the good life!

 

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Why has the pound to euro exchange rate strengthened in the last 21 months? Well, it’s because the UK economy firmly has the upper hand versus the Eurozone’s. For instance, the UK is forecast to expand +2.5% this year, the Eurozone just +1.0%. UK unemployment just fell to +5.4%, while the Eurozone’s remains at +11.0%. Hence, there are lots of reasons why the pound is stronger today!

 

Given all this, make the most of this favourable exchange rate while it lasts, and rent a Catalonia villa!

 

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Travel to Spain: Barcelona’s top spots

The Catalan capital of Barcelona, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Europe. The city is filled with amazing attractions that demonstrate its rich history, culture, and art and for that it should be in the new 7 wonders of the world list. If you are planning a visit to Barcelona, it is important that you arm yourself with a list of popular places to visit to ensure that you do not miss anything. See below for some of the most intriguing must-visit Barcelona top spots to help you create a comprehensive tour schedule.

 

The Picasso Museum

 

Barcelona is widely known for its artsy influences. This popular tourist destination has been home to some of the world’s most popular artists including Picasso at one point in time in his life. The Picasso Museum is undoubtedly one of the most popular places in Barcelona. The museum is home to some of the artist´s earlier works, created when he resided in the city. Tourists trying to piece together Picasso’s development as an artist can do so by visiting this museum. Here, tourists will find a variety of early paintings and sketches from a period when he struggled to establish his career.

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La Sagrada Familia Church

 

How about visiting a building that has taken more than 100 years to partially complete, with ongoing construction? The La Sagrada Familia is definitely one of Barcelona´s top spots to visit during your stay in the city. The church was designed by Antoni Gaudi more than 100 years ago while its foundation was laid back in 1882. Visitors looking to spend some time exploring this architectural and historic monument can do so from outside or take a more detailed tour inside. It is important to note that an entrance fee is charged for those taking a tour within the unfinished church.

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Las Ramblas

 

Tourists looking to get a closer feel of the Barcelona culture and its people can take a walk along Las Ramblas. The long street extending from the port on the sea to Plaça Catalunya is filled with local shopping stalls and eateries. Visitors are warned to keep their bags close and secure as this spot is also notorious for pickpockets, especially in the wee hours of the morning. No other place in the city gives visitors a better opportunity to mingle with locals and experience the true spirit of Barcelona.

 

The Magic Fountain Show

 

Built back in 1929, the Font Magica Fountain is definitely one of Barcelona´s top spots to include in your travel itinerary while in the city. This extraordinary display brings together an impressive show of water, music, and light resulting into one harmonious and magical experience. Note that sometimes the fountain is closed off to visitors, especially during events.

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What to do in Barcelona at night

When people who live in Barcelona decide to enjoy the night out, they usually head to bars and restaurants. If you decide to visit Barcelona for your next holiday adventure, be sure to join locals at can´t-miss nightlife spots.

Barcelona is a city that is friendly to both is residents and its visitors, and accommodation is never an issue. You can opt for Barcelona private apartment rentals rather than standard hotels. These options are better if privacy and comfort are a main focus of your holiday. Barcelona private villa rentals are accessible to the best nightlife spots, which are usually open even in the wee hours of the morning,

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Aside from satisfying your palate, there are plenty of other late-night activities available in Barcelona. For instance, you can visit the Palau de la Musica Catalana, considered one of the best concert halls in the world and serving as one of the cultural highlights of Spain. This place is certainly worth a visit for a musical concert or just to enjoy the illuminated palace at night.

After your musical indulgence, head over to Boadas Cocktail Bar, which is a great spot for cocktail lovers. Perfectly situated off La Rambla, this Cuban-inspired bar is the oldest cocktail bar in the city. The bartenders here are professionals and they put on a show as they whip up your cocktail of choice. Another cocktail bar worth visiting is the Mirablau. This provides a great view all over Barcelona.

wine excursionIf you consider yourself a wine connoisseur, the Monvinic is your perfect destination. A comfortable and chic modern décor and ambiance, the bar is great for relaxing with your friends before heading home.

After spending the entire night out and about, it is nice to know that you have availed of Spain private apartment rentals as your place to stay. You can continue your Barcelona adventure the next day after a good night’s rest. Or, you may also opt for a Spain private villa rental with a private pool, prime for taking a dip before heading to bed after an exhausting day and night!

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Things to consider before booking a villa in Spain

Before hopping on a plane to Spain, it is important to make early arrangements for your accommodation. Currently, many holidaymakers are embracing the idea of renting a private family villa instead of booking a hotel room. Spain is a famous holiday destination, and accommodation does not come cheap. Therefore, getting a villa will save you a considerable amount of money. However, before you make a booking, you should keep a few things in mind.

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Make a Budget

 

It is important to note that Barcelona holiday rental companies rent out the entire property and not per person. Therefore, when you are planning your vacation, consider the amount of money you want to spend on lodging. Villas have different prices depending on the facilities available, location, size, and other factors. If you are taking a family vacation or going with friends, find out the number of bedrooms you require and book accordingly. In addition, consider the transport cost from the villa to the nearest city that you would like to visit.

 

Location

 

It is important to consider the location of the villa before booking. If you want to explore the sandy beaches in Barcelona, then look for an apartment located near the beach. Having a strategically located villa will ease your movement. Spain is a famous holiday destination so acquiring a villa in Spain, irrespective of the location, is easy. If possible, you can get a villa that is within walking distance of local attractions in order to eliminate the transport costs.

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Choose the Right Villa

 

If you are planning to go on vacation with your friends, check out the size of the villa first before booking. Villas are available in different sizes, and even if they are more spacious than hotel rooms, you should consider the number of occupants. If you are four occupants, then you may want a four-bedroom villa to avoid congestion. In addition, if you want the luxury that comes with a villa, you can look for a villa with a private pool in Spain. Also remember to consider the number of bathrooms per occupant.

 

Read the Reviews

 

The best way to know the efficiency of Barcelona holiday rental companies is to read the guest reviews. It is important to remember that some rental companies might not offer what they promise on their website. The best way to ascertain if the company is reliable is to check out the customer reviews. You will get a clue if their services are efficient or not. In addition, the guests will give you realistic evaluation of the property, without company involvement of opinion.

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A guide to renting a Barcelona vacation villa

Not a lot of tourists consider renting a vacation villa in Barcelona. They don’t realize all the benefits that include self-catering facilities, more privacy, and even lower rental fees compared with other forms of accommodation in the city. There are also some areas in Barcelona where hotels are too expensive. A holiday villa offers modern conveniences and makes you feel at home while in a foreign place. It is also quieter than any hotel in the city. And because a lot of tourists don’t know about the value of Barcelona holiday rental, it is easy to find deals.

 

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There is high demand for hotel rooms in Barcelona. The hotel industry in the city enjoys average room occupancy between 80 and 85 percent throughout the year. Because of the high demand for hotel rooms, the rates have increased in the last couple of years. There is little land left for development in the city, which is why hotels are able to increase their room rates.

Why rent a house in Barcelona?

When you opt to stay at a holiday villa with a pool in Barcelona, you will not only save money but you also will have an easier time finding accommodation during the peak seasons when most of the hotel rooms are unavailable.

A Barcelona family villa becomes more affordable if there are three or more people in the group. The closer your group to the maximum capacity of the villa, the lower the costs will be. Instead of paying for several hotel rooms during peak season, your group will be able to rent the entire villa and share all the costs. The price of the villa depends on various factors that include location, desirability, and the quality of the villa.

 

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You and your family or friends will have better privacy and can enjoy more quality bonding during the trip. Plus, you will get extra space, the ability to cook your own food, have a private pool, and access to other recreational areas. Making trips to the grocery store and preparing own meals will help you save money during your trip.

While a Barcelona villa doesn’t offer the same services as a hotel, home services can be arranged with the owner. And instead of joining large groups of people, you will enjoy personalized services that cater to your specific needs. Villas often have a wide range of services and amenities that that will surely meet your expectations.

The best part about renting a Barcelona holiday villa is that it is easy to find one! Visit Catalunya Casas and search for the region’s best family villas.

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Barcelona’s beaches: Costa Brava vs. Costa Dorada

Most people who are visiting Barcelona for a family holiday often want to venture outside of the city but are left baffled about where to go. Two popular choices that they face include Costa Brava and Costa Dorada. For an average traveller who has not yet been to any of the two Costas, it is hard to make a decision. Below, learn more about their differences and similarities which should help you reach a well-informed decision.

 

Comparing the Two

 

Location is one of the most important factors that can differentiate the two. Costa Dorada is only 15 minutes from the Reus airport, which makes it excellent in terms of accessibility. Costa Brava, on the other hand, is not as easy to reach. If you need to take travel time into consideration, you can weight these two factors.

 

Each of the beaches at both destinations on the coast of Spain each has a different attitude, depending on the area where you are headed on your family holiday. The beaches of Costa Dorada, however, are more often preferred by tourists as they are more spacious, and they have finer sands and clearer water. In Costa Brava, on the other hand, most of the beaches are rocky and surrounded by stone cliffs.

 

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When it comes to coastal activities, Costa Dorada is believed by many to be the better choice. It offers more attractions, including theme parks such as Universal Studios, Aqua Leon, and Aquopolis. Other interesting places to check out in Costa Dorada include Tarragona, Sitges, and Delta del Obro. In Costa Brava, on the other hand, tourists flock to Mareseme, Girona, and La Selva during a Spain holiday.

 

In Costa Dorada, there are more new property developments than what can be seen in Costa Brava. This means that you can expect having a more diverse selection of accommodations in Costa Dorada. When selecting your holiday villa for your family, you may want to discuss your vacation preferences with your family.

 

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If you love wine, Costa Dorada is a destination that is highly recommended. Here, there are five regions that are certified for wine making. Every year there are different festivals that are held to showcase local wines. In Costa Brava, on the other hand, there are regular festivals that showcase their local cuisine.

 

At the end of the day, choosing which one is better between Costa Brava and Costa Dorada will be a decision that is subjective. It all depends on your personal preferences, including how much time you have during your travel. The more important thing is to have an open mind and remember that you are on your vacation. Regardless of where you go, you can craft memories that will last forever.

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Barcelona’s top 9 attractions for children

A family vacation is different from an individual or couple’s vacation because you have to consider the children. When you are planning a Spain family vacation with children tagging along, you should consider their safety and preferences, as well as a favorable climate for them to enjoy. Barcelona meets the criteria for an ideal family holiday destination.

 

The Barcelona Zoo

 

Visiting the zoo during your family holiday in Barcelona will ignite excitement in the younger children and amusement in older children. You can visit the zoo inside the Parc de la Ciutadella. The most exciting thing about the zoo is the occasional dolphin shows. It is like the 7th wonder of the world. Adjacent to the zoo is a lake where you can rent paddle boats and enjoy the surrounding nature.

 

CosmoCaixa Science Museum

 

CosmoCaixa Science Museum is one of the best science museums in Europe where children can enjoy the Amazonian rainforest with different bird species, crocodiles, and piranhas. They can also learn about rocks and other exciting science experiments.

 

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The Beach

 

A Barcelona holiday is not complete without a trip to one of the region’s stunning beaches.  Rent a few chairs and parasols and bask under the sun while building sand castles and swimming in the refreshing Mediterranean Sea.

 

Parc Güell

 

Parc Güell is home to some of Barcelona’s best views of the city and water amidst unique architecture of the park. Children can learn more about the park from history lessons and play among the architectural fixtures.

 

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The Chocolate Museum (Museu de la Xocolata)

 

Located in a historic monastery in the Born neighborhood, the Chocolate Museum explains the history of the decadent dessert and offers the chance to purchase some treats to take home with you to your vacation villa.

 

Mercat de la Boqueria

 

At this famous market near La Rambla, you can buy fresh fruit, Spanish tapas, and ham with the chance to sample food before you buy it. After hours of sightseeing, this is the right place to refresh and fill your hungry bellies.

 

La Rambla

 

This is a magnificent walkway, and it is one of the most famous walkways in the world. You can start at the beach and walk up to Plaça Catalunya.

 

Montserrat

 

Approximately 1 hour outside of Barcelona, take the train to these fascinating mountains and enjoy caves, hiking trails, and views all the way to the Mediterranean and Girona!

 

Museum of Ideas and Inventions

 

Allow your children’s creativity to be stimulated on your Barcelona holiday by visiting this museum full of inspirational designs and inventions.

 

 

 

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Top 9 reasons to rent a villa in Spain

Spain is an incredible destination to visit for a family holiday and is also an excellent place to live. The Mediterranean climate makes Spain one of the most temperate and comfortable places in the world, making it the perfect locale to rent a family vacation villa.

 

Perfect Weather

 

Spain is one of the world’s best holiday destinations thanks to its moderate year-round climate. Some places, for instance, southern Blanca, experience warm temperatures and up to 320 days of sunshine.

 

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Standard of Living

 

The cost of living in Spain is relatively low, as compared to other countries like the United Kingdom. You can rent a holiday family villa at a reasonable price while also enjoying an active social life.

 

Cost of Living

 

It is possible to live and own a property in Spain. When you rent a villa, you can use the chance to explore the real estate market. Further, you will enjoy cheaper electricity and food, making a vacation villa an option if you’re looking to save money on your next holiday.

 

Warm Hosts

 

When on holiday in Spain, you will enjoy the warmth and hospitality of the Spaniards. Renting a vacation villa in Spain will allow you to blend into the relaxed lifestyle of the Spanish people and enjoy their accommodative and welcoming nature.

 

 

Investment

 

Spain is one of countries in Europe that has a growing property value. The country has a strong economy, and you can save on cost by renting a villa when you are here on business or on vacation.

 

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Health Advantages

 

Spain is arguably the best place to be because the environment agrees with people who suffer from asthma, arthritis and other ailments. In addition, Spain has a fast and easily accessible medical care.

 

Value for Your Money

 

When you rent a villa in Spain, you definitely get good value for your money. You will find exceptional furnished family villas at reasonable prices. The Spain villas are readily available, and they are a perfect alternative to the hotels.

 

Easily Reachable

 

You can reach Spain effortlessly because there are international airports that offer low-cost flights to various parts of Europe and United States. Once you have settled in your rental villa, you can travel through the region with ease.

 

Easy Purchase

 

If you rent a villa in Spain, you will experience the rich nature and the value of property in the country. You will learn that owning property in Spain is not very involved and that you can invest in the growing industry while capturing a piece of the Spanish spirit.

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Earn passive income by investing in a property in Spain

Spain’s beauty and variety have many travelers adding at least a few Spanish towns to their bucket list of places to visit. Those who have already experienced a holiday in a glamorous vacation rental in Spain may have also realized the high possibility of residual income from Catalonia properties for investment. Not only will you have your very own Spanish getaway, you can also earn from it when you’re back in your hometown.

 

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Whether you are a new investor or you have a collection of property investments all over the world, you will most definitely see the potential of investing in a property in Spain. With endless lists of things to do and places to visit during a Spanish getaway, travelers and tourists coming to Spain will most likely increase even more in the future. If you need more knowledge about Catalonia properties for investment and assistance through the process, Catalunya Casas will be able to provide you with expert help.

 

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Experienced and highly skilled property consultants and professionals of Catalunya Casas understand your needs. When looking for a property investment in Spain, you will most likely desire homes that are located in areas where tourists would usually go to or a place where you can have a peaceful and relaxing Spanish getaway. There are also options to invest in a modern city apartment or a family villa with a sprawling swimming pool and lush green gardens. Soon enough, your property can be one of the most sought-after vacation rentals in Spain.

 

Catalonia has a rich history and culture, beautiful beaches, breathtaking views, mild and lovely weather, and friendly people, which is why travelers continuously return to the region. It is one of the seven wonders of the world.You need to know actually what are the 7 wonders of the worldIf you are planning on investing a property in Spain, Catalonia properties for investment would be a worthy choice. Catalunya Casas’ team of property investment experts can recommend charming villas at Girona, Lleida, Tarragona, or Barcelona that both you and potential future guests will enjoy visiting during a Spanish getaway. 

 

While you can always easily check into hotels or vacation rentals in Spain, there is no better feeling than coming home to your own property. You can relax and unwind for days, weeks, or even months in your own property investment in Spain, and once you decide to leave, you begin earning income from tourists who have chosen your property for their own Spanish getaway. Start your search for your dream property today with the professional and friendly team of Catalunya Casas to guide you along the way.

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Pack your swimsuit: Costa Brava’s can’t-miss beaches

One of the biggest perks unique to the Barcelona region is the fact that there are dozens of beaches available either within walking distance or just a short train ride away in the Costa Brava region, the area north of Barcelona. Each beach offers a different experience, and summer is the perfect opportunity to discover what experiences the gorgeous Mediterranean shoreline can provide for you. 

 

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Cabrera de Mar is a lovely town with some of the prettiest beaches you can imagine. While you’re there, you can even visit the Castell de Burriac or try your hand at surf lessons! 

 

Canyelles offers a quiet beach surrounded by cliffs that are covered in Spanish pine trees. This beach typically remains less crowded than other beaches in Catalonia if you’re looking for your own semi-private getaway.

 

Platja d’Aro is perfect if you’re looking for a more lively vacation. Come check out the surrounding shopping opportunities, food experiences, and festivals. It is a perfect beach if you’re looking for different activities, from relaxing on the beach to dancing at a local festival.

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Sant Pol de Mar is another beach with waters so clear that you can see your feet beneath the tide. One of the most secret beaches in Costa Brava, a trip to these crystal waters are guaranteed to provide a truly regenerating experience.

 

This is just a taste of all the beach experiences Costa Brava has to offer. Make plans to come and check out your favorite one during your holiday. After all, life’s a beach! If one of these beaches sparks your interest, you’ll be happy to know that we at Catalunya Casas have properties in all of these beaches! Feel free to send us a message via our website.

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Make August memories with some of Barcelona’s best festivals!

Regardless of when your Barcelona holiday is planned, it’s important to remember to wrap up the last month of vacations in a memorable way. Throughout the month of August, Barcelona offers a number of festivals and events that are sure to appeal to everyone.

Mas i Mas is a music festival from 28 July until 1 September with a variety of performances from local and national artists. Venues across the city of Barcelona will open their doors to the sounds of jazz, techno, flamenco, and more!

The Circuit Festival is touted as the international LGBT event, attracting more than 70,000 people each year! The festival lands in Barcelona from 5-16 August, and then travels to Ibiza from 19-23 August.

One of the most interesting and decorative festivals is in the Gracia district of Barcelona. The Festa Major de Gracia is an bright, colorful, and loud festival where the local businesses use their collective imaginations to decorate their neighborhoods using only recyclable materials. The results are awe-inspiring! The fun happens during the week of 15 August, but if you can’t make that, there is another similar festival in the Sants neighborhood during the week of 22 August. Also plan to see statue of Zeus at Oympia once in a life time.

Festa Major Gracia

Festa Major de Gracia

Nits Gaudi, running from 25 June until 15 September, is a  low-key way to admire Gaudi’s work in a calm environment. Located near the summit of Tibidabo, the site is easily accessible by bus or train.

On Sundays from 28 June until 20 September, Piknic Electronik is a great way to enjoy electronic music while the sun is still out.

If you’re looking for an evening activity, the Castle of Monjuïc opens its gardens to host outdoor movie nights every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evening from 3 July unitl 7 August.

Castell Peralada

Castell de Peralada

Even just outside of Barcelona, you can find three massive music festivals, each with their own unique flavor. Be sure to check out the BioRitmo Festival, Cap Roig Festival, and Castell de Peralada Festival, each featuring different styles of music and stunning backdrops.

As you can see, August is the perfect opportunity to end your Barcelona summer vacations with some amazing memories! For more information about these festivals, feel free to contact Catalunya Casas.

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Attention shop-a-holics: Barcelona’s best shopping!

One of the must-do´s when you travel, especially on a Barcelona holiday, is to check out the local shopping scene. That being said, there are many tourist-oriented shops that tend to be rather overpriced, gaudy, and incredibly generic. We know that on your Barcelona vacation, you want to have the most authentic shopping experience possible, so we´ve put together a great list of some of the best shops in Barcelona, organized by neighborhood. Be sure to check them out soon though, because due to the rising cost of rent, 2015 may be the last year that these gems stay open for business!

There are plenty of neighborhoods in the city of Barcelona that are worth exploring. In the old city (Ciutat Vella), La Boqueria–one of the most amazing food markets in the world–is located just off the busy thoroughfare of La Rambla. At the open-air market, food lovers can unite and enjoy some of the freshest Spanish foods available. Just across La Rambla is the old and beautiful neighborhood of Barri Gótic where there are plenty of interesting and one-of-a-kind boutiques in Barri Gótic. Cereria Subirá is a 250-year-old candle shop that has truly stood the test of time.

La Boqueria

La Boqueria

If you´re a music lover, El Raval is your dream neighborhood come true. The area on the south side of La Rambla is full of local music shops, but the biggest one is Discos Castelló, which is filled to the brim with some of the world´s best vinyl. If you feel like pampering yourself, Les Topettes has the finest bath and body products.

La Ribera used to be a textile district, but now it is home to artisan boutiques that make their products on an upstairs mezzanine, ensuring the utmost authenticity.

If you happen to be near the beach, you´ll be sure to find some treasures in the crafts market in Port Vell in Barceloneta!

Passeig de Gracia

Passeig de Gracia

If you want the ultimate luxury experience, L´Eixample has the higher-end retail, such as Armani, Chanel, and Gucci. Even futher into the neighborhood of Grácia, you can find incredibly unique clothing stores such as Érase Una Vez, and Mushi Mushi among many other local boutiques.

There are countless stores that are worth visiting during your Barcelona holiday, but unfortunately, they won´t be around forever. Take this chance and check them out while you still can!

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Sant Joan: The most meaningful beach party of the year!

If you´re lucky enough to be taking a Spain holiday in one of our Barcelona holiday rentals on 23 June, then get ready to experience one of the most unforgettable festivals in the world!

The feast of Sant Joan is a truly unique Catalonian holiday that welcomes summer by celebrating the summer solstice. In Catalonia, the sun represents fertility and wealth, thus bonfires and fireworks are on display as symbols of strength and energy for the coming season. The original flame is ignited in the town of Cangió in northern Catalonia, and it is welcomed with different ceremonies as it travels through the districts of Catalonia. Once it arrives in the city of Barcelona, the president of national parliament and other personalities welcome the flame to the city in a formal ceremony.

There are three symbols of Sant Joan: water, herbs, and, of course, fire. Water represents healing, and for that reason it is a great opportunity to bathe yourself in the therapeutic salt waters of the sea. Herbs represent remedy, and it is very common for people to pick herbs during this time of the year. Fire symbolizes purity, which is why fires line the beach during the festival.

Beach festivities of Sant Joan

Beach festivities of Sant Joan

The official food of Sant Joan is the Coca, similar to a special kind of flatbread, and it comes in many flavors, both sweet and savory. The common ingredient in both varieties is anise, which gives the coca a distinct, somewhat spicy flavor. On the day and night of the festival, macaroons and herbs with ice will be handed out for free along the beaches to help celebrate the feast!

Coca de Sant Joan

Coca de Sant Joan

The most famous feature of the Sant Joan festival is the beach party that lasts through the entire night. If you want to admire the festivities in a quieter setting, head up to the top of Montjuïc and admire the amazing celebration from above! The day after the festival, everyone rests and shops will be closed on the regional holiday.

The beaches of Barceloneta will begin filling up on the evening of 23 June, so grab some friends and family, perhaps a few bottles of cava and a blanket, and head to the beach to experience one of the most incredible festivals of the year! If you’ve booked one of our Barcelona holiday rentals, we hope that you enjoy taking part in this amazing feast!

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More than just a beach: Barcelona’s best July festivals!

Think summer in Barcelona means only sun and beaches? Think again! Barcelona has much more to offer in than just sand and salty turquoise water. A plethora of unmatched music festivals, an open-air cinema, a start-up fair, a motorcycle festival, and even a tap-dancing festival take place in the Mediterranean city come July.

The vast selection of music festivals held in Barcelona is sure to strike a chord with almost anyone. The shows range from rock and reggae to hip hop and electronic, drawing crowds from all over Europe, and even the world! From mid-July to mid-August, the Cap Roig Festival in the province of Girona features more than 20 national and international musical artists including Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett, and Sting.

Festa Major Gracia

Street festival in Barcelona

Festival Cruïlla is another massive music festival from July 10 to July 12 that caters to all musical tastes: reggae, hip hop, punk rock, electronic, you name it! It certainly takes the gold medal for the most well-rounded music festival in Barcelona.

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Hard Rock Rising Barcelona will take over the city on July 24 and 25, and will feature more mainstream acts including Kings of Leon, Robbie Williams, and Lenny Kravitz.

If you’re searching for more than just music, there are plenty of cultural festivals including Festival Grec (throughout the month of July) and Festival Castell de Peralada (July 10–August 6). There are even some themed festivals that cater to a passionate niche crowd: Harley Davidson hosts The Harley Days the first weekend of July that occupies Plaça d´Espaya, and it´s open to the public for free!

If you’re searching for a more relaxing way to unwind in this exciting city, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evening from July 3–August 7, the castle atop Montjuïc opens its gardens and hosts a cinema night, setting the perfect scene for a peaceful family outing.

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This brief list is just a taste of what Barcelona has to offer during the summer month of July. If you’re heading to Catalonia this summer, the opportunities for outdoor enjoyment will not disappoint.

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Barcelona: An exhilarating place, both inside and out(doors)

Finding excitement in Barcelona is not just for those who love a big city; there are a multitude of different outdoor activities that this amazing area has to offer during your holiday.

 

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Of course, Barcelona´s beaches need no explanation: With more than 6 kilometers of bright blue Mediterranean shoreline, the Barcelona beach is a classic outdoor option. It seems like seven wonders of the world. What makes this beach truly special is the array of art and activities that are available such as the Biblioplatja (beach library) where you can borrow reading books to help you pass the time as you soak up the sun.

 

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If you want a more active beach experience, you can exercise on the outdoor gyms and admire the famous art and architecture that line the coast. While you´re at it, you can even take a windsurfing course on the Mediterranean Sea at Base Naútica! When it comes to surfing and skating, Barcelona is legendary. The large MACBA skate park in Raval district will provide an unforgettable skating experience.

 

If you´re into rock climbing or hiking, Barcelona´s very own Montjuïc serves as one of the best opportunities in the city to experience stunning Spanish scenery. At the top of the mountain, there is a beautiful castle that turns into a unique outdoor cinema in July.

 

You can also escape the buzz of the city street to relax in a row boat in Parc de la Ciutadella, surrounded by ornamental gardens and Gaudi´s grandiose waterfall. There are also urban safaris offered by the Jane Goodall Institute that are fun for all ages, and show off the incredible flora and fauna that bless the region.

 

If you prefer more relaxing activities, you can observe Sardanes, Catalonia´s national dance, in Plaça de Catedral. It involves gently bobbing in a linked circle of people, and it can seem hypnotizing when it is performed with large group. As well as dancing, Barcelona has enjoyable music concerts in Parc Central de Poblenou and El Turó Park.

 

Clearly, Barcelona has a wide array of activities to please all tastes. For this reason, Barcelona remains unmatched as the most well-rounded vacation destination!

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Check out of hotels, check into holiday homes

Vacations of the past elicit memories of reserving dingy hotels, roadside motels, and uncomfortable campgrounds. Nowadays, homeowners are opening their doors to traveling guests who are searching for all the comforts of home as they travel down unfamiliar roads. Holiday homes have turned the corner and are on the rise as the ideal vacation experience.

In recent years, the popularity of private home rentals and holiday homes has skyrocketed as social media and automatic online reservations have become commonplace. Private home rental websites offer lodging in virtually any type of home, from luxury tents to treehouses, from beachside villas to private ranches.

Spanish Home

So why should you forgo the standard hotel room and opt for your own holiday home?

First (and probably most importantly) of all, price and space are the main draws: Holiday homes can be found for 50 to 80 percent less per square meter than a hotel room, Having your own kitchen and being able to prepare your own meals will help you save money as you´ll be spending less money on expensive restaurant meals and tipping services.

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Separate bedrooms and bathrooms add an element of privacy, which is often desperately needed when traveling with groups, especially with family. If you´re on an extended vacation, access to a washing machine and possibly a dryer is invaluable as you will be able to clean dirty clothes.

You can even bring an element of home with you on your holiday! Some private homeowners allow guests to bring their pets for a small additional fee.

With more than 100 villas, condos, and beach cottages to peruse, we at Catalunya Casas welcome this holiday trend with open arms.

Catalunya Casas takes out the legwork for you by specializing in hand-picked, exclusively managed family villa rentals to provide an unforgettable holiday experience in the Barcelona region.

 

 

 

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Cava: Meet Catalonia’s sparkling star beverage

Italy has prosecco, France has champagne, and the United States has sparkling wine. Spain’s own version of this bubbly beverage — known as cava — rounds out the list as a sparkling treat to be treasured during your next visit to Catalonia.

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The alcoholic drink grown from grapes can (technically) only be called ‘champagne’ if it is produced in the region of France with the same name. Thus, various countries in the world that bottle their own versions have also adopted their own nomenclature.

Catalonia’s signature beverage was first produced as a sparkling wine in 1872. It is grown and nurtured in eight different growing regions in northeastern Spain, including Catalonia in which there are 11 districts of origin. One of these districts, Penedès, is responsible for producing 95% of the nation’s cava.

Spain makes every attempt to produce its cava using only Spanish grapes, but French varieties make appeareances every now and then. The three grapes that are used in cava production are macabeu, parellada, and xarello, all of which are white grapes.

Cava is grown from grapes, just like wine.

Cava is grown from grapes, just like wine.

In order to be considered cava, the wine must be produced using the traditional méthode champenoise, (or in Spanish, the método tradicional) which involves a second fermentation period that takes place in the bottle.

The sparkling beverage — available in both white and rosé varieties, the latter of which is mixed with a darker Spanish grape called Garnacha — is often served at special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, and baptisms. Spain’s most famous cava producers are Freixenet and Codorníu, both of which offer tours and tastings at their facilities in Catalonia.

To learn more about these excursions and how to reserve your place on a cava tour, visit the Attractions page on our website.

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Helpful tips for holiday travel with a group

Holidays can be hectic: deciding what to pack, organizing transportation, and arranging accomodation can all be holiday stressors. When traveling with your friends or family, follow the tips below to ensure that you next vacation is as stress-free as possible.

 

Plan, plan, plan. Travel can get crazy once you’re on the road. Bring the group together before you depart to draft a tentative plan for your holiday. While you’re at it, draft a Plan B in case weather or unforeseen circumstances get in the way. Spain is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.

 

Search for group discounts. Loosen your travel budget by looking for group discounts for accomodation, excursions, and vehicle rentals.

 

Take time for yourself.

Take time for yourself.

 

Take private time. When you’re not used to people around you 24/7, it’s perfectly normal to get a bit overwhelmed when traveling with a group. Take a step away from the group if you need to and seek out relaxing activities.

 

 

Communication is key. Telling your travel mates about what you want to see and do will help you learn who shares your desires and can help the group organize the agenda. If problems arise, get them out in the open right away so that the issues do not weigh on the group throughout your holiday.

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Fun family activities during your Spain holiday

While on holiday with family and friends, children can get restless, and sometimes the beach isn’t enough to compete with their tireless spirits. Parents, you are in luck! We are providing a list of activities that both children and the adults can enjoy together. It is like watching one of the 7 wonders of the world.

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Amusement Parks are obvious entertainment options that offer kilometers of thrilling attractions. One of the notable amusement parks in Catalonia is PortAventura. This adventure park in Salou, Costa Dorada, is both a theme park and a water park, all in one. At the Costa Caribe Aquatic Park in PortAventura, you can go water rafting, slip and slide downs water slides, or spend the day lounging by the water. Its one-hour distance from Barcelona makes it an accessible day trip destination.

 

If you´re keen to explore other water parks to keep cool under the Spanish sun, you might consider Aquopolis Costa Dorada or Water World in Lloret de Mar. Both parks have various rides and attractions for all ages and offer ultimate refreshment during the hot summer days.

 

Lovers of the outdoors will enjoy Arbre Aventura Park and Gnomo Park. For children with adventurous spirits, Arbre Aventura Park has zip lines, suspension bridges, balance logs, and networks connecting between trees to challenge your athleticism. Gnomo Park is a movie-themed park set in a pine forest with obstacle courses, indoor playgrounds, and even film screenings.

 

For calmer days, the city of Barcelona has abundant attractions that will bring out children´s curiosity and wonderment.

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The Barcelona Aquarium and the Barcelona Zoo are perfect for exploring and snapping photos with the animals. Those with a sweet tooth and imaginative spirit will delight in the Chocolate Museum. If the history of chocolate is not educational enough for you, there is also CosmoCaixa Barcelona, a hands-on science museum that features exhibits like the “Flooded Forest” and the “Room of Matter.

 

Regardless of what you choose to do, take advantage of this precious time with your family as you create memories that will last a lifetime!

 

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Easter traditions in Catalonia

Easter in Catalonia is more than just a celebratory Sunday every spring. In this primarily Catholic region of Spain, the week leading up to Easter Sunday is know as ‘Semanta Santa’ (or ‘Holy Week’) and is full of events in preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

The week in Barcelona is enjoyable for Christians and non-Christians alike as trees begin to bloom and the weather warms up. If you’re spending the holiday in Barcelona, consider making plans to witness one of the elaborate parades and processions throughout the region.

 

To satisfy your nagging sweet tooth, head to Barcelona’s Chocolate Museum to view some of the most elaborate chocolate sculptures on the planet. Guests will receive a free chocolate bar upon arrival to satiate any cravings that arise after viewing (and smelling) rooms full of chocolate.

 

Catalonian church

Catalonian church

Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is the Sunday one week before Easter Sunday, and kicks off the beginning of Holy Week in the region. On this day, there are parades and processions all over the city of Barcelona and in other towns across Catalonia. At churches in Barcelona, priests will bless palm leaves and sometimes go outside the church to bless people who carry laurel branches. According to the Catalan saying, ‘Domingo de Ramos: al que no estrena se le caen las manos!’, or ‘Palm Sunday: If you don’t wear something new, your hands will fall off!’

 

Good Friday. The Friday before Easter weekend is known as Good Friday, a day when most businesses are closed. In Barcelona, parades take place in Raval and in the the Gothic Quarter.

 

Catalonia cathedral

Catalonia cathedral

Easter Sunday. Most restaurants and shops close, and throngs head to Barcelona Cathedral where most of the action takes place. Parades feature floats of the Virgin Mary and other biblical figures, large Easter candles, and replicas of the cross.

 

Easter Monday. The day after Easter is a day of rest when Catalonians enjoy their famous Easter cakes called monas. During the 40 days leading up to Easter, a period known as ‘Lent’, Catalonians abstain from meat and eggs, so on Easter, families enjoy preparing and eating their desirable cakes. If you’re not much of a baker, pastry shops all over Barcelona sell their own versions of monas.

 

Easter is just a few weeks away, but it’s not too late to reserve you vacation villa! Visit our website and book your villa today!

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Benefits of booking your holiday with a full-service agency

When booking your family holiday accomodation, your options are limitless: travel agents, hotel packages, and discount websites abound and can potentially turn an enjoyable activity into a veritable reservation nightmare.

 

However, full-service villa rental agencies have entered the travel landscape and have rescued vacationers from deceitful property owners and misleading advertisements. See below for even more benefits to booking through an authorized villa rental agency.

 

  • Personal attention. Reserving a hotel room online is quick and convenient, but what happens when you have questions about your reservation and your only option is to send message using the ‘Contact Us’ form? At a private rental agency, there is an actual person on the other end of your phone call, as well as someone who reads and instantly responds to your e-mail requests. Instead of waiting for hotel or resort staff to weed through masses of messages, get an instant answer from the staff at an agency.

 

  • The right answers. Hotels and resorts have vital information on their websites, of course, but when you have a specific question about the room or the villa that you reserved, they might not always know the answer right away as they have hundreds of rooms through which to sift. Private agencies may have a large number of rentals, but you can be sure that they know their properties inside and out.