The autonomous region of Catalonia covers an area of nearly 32,000km2 and is located in the Northeast corner of Spain.
It has its own government known as the Generalitat, over 6 million inhabitants, more than a thousand years of history, its own language and unique traditions and culture.
Catalonia is divided into four sub-regions:
Girona, Barcelona, Lleida and Tarragona.
It boasts almost 600km of stunning Mediterranean coastline, stretching from the Portbou at the French border to the Delta of the River Ebro. It encompasses the Costa Brava in the north, followed by the Costa Maresme and then the Costa Daurada, where you’ll find the well-known resort of Salou, home to the largest theme park in Spain.
Catalonia is also blessed with a remarkable variety of landscapes. To the north, the jagged peaks of the Pyrenees offer skiers, walkers and bikers a year-round haven.
These snowy peaks, that reach heights of 3,000km, tumble down through valleys of thriving pine and fir trees that clear to accommodate shimmering lakes. There are oddly formed mountain ranges like the extinct volcanic parklands around Olot, and the unique mountain range at Montserrat - so unique it has been declared a UNESCO conservation area.
Inland Catalonia is as diverse as its coastline: there are undulating hillsides, draped with rich vineyards in some parts, and in others, dry, flat land. The intense dedication of the land workers and the irrigation from the River Ebro favours the region with exceptional olive oil, wine and fruit.
The interior of Catalonia is also graced with amazing historic buildings, fortified villages, superb cities and stunning architecture.
Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is also known as the cosmopolitan capital of Spain. It really is one of the most amazing and lively cities in Spain and offers enough sights to fill guidebook upon guidebook with pages and pages of information. For more information on Barcelona, see our Things to do Guide and Region Links pages.
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There are several natural parks and botanical gardens in the region, which are listed in the Things to do Directory.
There are also several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Catalonia:
- Archaeological Ensemble of Tarraco, Tarragona
- Catalan Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí
- Palau Güell, Barcelona
- Casa Milà, Barcelona
- Poblet Monastery, Poblet, Tarragona province
- Palau de la Música Catalana, Barcelona
- Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona
Catalonia – general information
Region capital: Barcelona
National Anthem: Els Segadors (The Reapers)
National Day: 11 September
Patron saint: Sant Jordi (Saint George)
Patron saints day: 23 April
Government: The Generalitat
Flag: The Senyera
Major Football Club: FC Barcelona
Catalan Tourist office: 934 849 900
Sport in Catalonia
Sport plays an important role in Catalonia’s tourism infrastructure. Here is a summary of what is on offer:
- 40 marinas for sailing
- 29 golf courses
- 3 flying clubs
- 15 ski resorts
- A wide range of adventure and water sports
Catalan cuisine is based on three basic ingredients: oil, wine and wheat, the staples from the land.
There are three different types of cuisine: from the mountains (meat, cheese and sausages), from the land (fruit, vegetables and poultry) and from the sea (fish and seafood).
Gastronomy is covered in more detail in the Eating & Drinking section on Gastronomy.
The following are some of the best-loved dishes of the region:
- Escalivada (baked vegetable salad)
- Rovellons a la llauna (wild mushrooms)
- Faves a la catalana (stewed broad beans)
- Pa amb tomaquet (the popular tomato bread)
- Botifarra amb mongetes (sausage with white beans)
- Escudella i carn d'olla (broth, stewed meats and vegetables)
- Cargols a la llauna (snails)
- Graellada de peix i marisc (grilled fish and seafood)
- Llagosta amb pollastre (spiny lobster with chicken)
- Sarsuela and suquet de peix (fish casserole)
- Romesco (spicy sauce)
And for dessert…
- Fresh fruit (strawberries, melons, apricots, figs, peaches, etc.)
- Bunyols (fritters)
- Crema cremada (caramelized custard cream)
- Panellets (marzipan cakes)
- Torrons (almond sweets)
- Tortells (pastry rings)
Feasts and Traditions
This topic is covered in detail in the Fiestas, Siestas section.
Perhaps one of Catalonia’s most important fiestas is that of Sant Jordi – Saint George – the patron saint of Catalonia. On this day, couples exchange books and roses, and in Barcelona you’ll find Las Ramblas lined with stall upon stall of books. It is the equivalent of the UK Valentines Day.
National Day is 11 September and is celebrated with Castellers and Sardanas.
This topic is covered in more detail in the Shopping section.
The ceramics from La Bisbal are renowned in Catalonia where the pottery tradition goes back many, many years.
Also celebrated is the region’s olive oil and cava, and of course the fish. There is a weekly market in most of the towns where you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables, meats and handicrafts.
Has the region captured your heart? Catalonia is one of Europe’s leading tourist destinations for many reasons: its friendly people, its extraordinary cuisine, its amazing collection of architectural and historical monuments, its wonderful climate and sun-drenched beaches, as well as its plentiful tourist services.
Why not see for yourself?
If you’re ready to explore this amazing region, then visit our travel pages for details on how to get there!