Catalonia is a wildly popular tourist destination that seems to have it all – a fun, funky and sophisticated cosmopolitan center in Barcelona, the spectacular beaches of the Costa Brava and Costa Dorada, and enough medieval beauty to make you wonder why architecture styles ever changed. Read on for a few of the best things to discover in Catalonia. All of Catalonia is very accessible from the Barcelona airports, with a plethora of accommodation options, including conveniently located Barcelona airport hotels.

Barcelona

You cannot explore Catalonia without giving a fair amount of time to the center, to the capital, to Barcelona. And when it comes to Barcelona – one name rules above all: Gaudi. The late architect’s famed Sagrada Familia cathedral remains perpetually under construction, and the ultimate paragon of his fanciful parabolic gothic architectural style. The cathedral is worth a visit, as is a walk through the Park Guell.

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BarcelonaPaco CT / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Once you have had your fill of Gaudi, you can pay some homage to some of the other famed Spanish artists, and visit the Fondacion Miro. This museum is dedicated to Joan Miro, but along with some of his masterpieces, features temporary exhibitions as well.

Aside from art, Barcelona (and Catalonia in general) is renowned for its cuisine. From the tapas bars sprinkled throughout the city, to the famous markets Santa Caterina (near the Barrio Gotic) and La Boqueria (on Las Ramblas), to the high-end gastronomy that Spanish chefs have innovated over the last decades, it is difficult to not eat well in Barcelona.

While in Barcelona, be sure to save some time for some walking tours. The narrow, haunting streets of the Barrio Gotic are worth an aimless afternoon wander, and if you can stand the crowds, then parading up and down Las Ramblas is a unique experience.

Girona

If Barcelona is still a bit too modern for you, make your way to Girona to explore its medieval beauty. You will have the benefits of smaller crowds, and equal beauty. This is a city for walking, and some of the highlights include the ancient walls of the Rambla district, the Jewish quarter, the Girona Cathedra, and the Casa Maso Museum.

Puente fortificado de Besalú
GironaLuciti / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Tarragona

This spectacular city perched right on the water dates all the way back to the Roman era. In fact, the city surrounds a Roman amphitheater that is still mostly intact, open to visitors, and offers what is probably one of the greatest backdrops in the history of performance venues: the glittering blue waters of the Mediterranean. Aside from the amphitheater, the town is littered with beautifully well-preserved Roman ruins, allowing history buffs the chance to explore, dine under some Roman arches, and see the roots of the city. Just down from the main town is a small fisherman’s village – head there at night for the freshest seafood imaginable, and a great view of the towns annual fireworks festival!

Monestir Santas Creus
TarragonaJose Luis Mieza Photography / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA