Things to Do in Catalonia - page 5
The quirky onetime abode of eccentric traveler Frederic Marès is now a museum devoted to his lifetime collection of artifacts—a fascinating space crammed with an eclectic array of curiosities. Opened by Marès in 1948, the Frederic Mares Museum (Museu Frederic Marès) was bequeathed to the city upon his death in 1991 and has become one of Barcelona’s most distinctive attractions.
Cava is one of Catalonia’s greatest exports, so take the time to sample some at Freixenet Winery in Altes Penedes. This almost century-old vineyard—which makes for an easy day trip from Barcelona—is perhaps the country’s best-known cava producer. Here you can learn about the history and production of cava, and ride an underground train through the cellars to the tasting room.
The municipality of Sant Sadurni d'Anoia is the center of production for cava, Spain’s version of Champagne. The area is home to some 100 wineries specializing in the production and export of the sparkling wine, and travelers can visit vineyards, tour production facilities, and taste some of Spain’s best cavas at their source.
Down the centuries the Port of Barcelona has played a strategic role in the development of the city it serves; its geographical location on the Mediterranean Sea made it an important trading port that brought great wealth into Catalonia. Today it is a major stopover on cruising itineraries as well as the base for ferry services to the Balearic Islands and Mediterranean ports such as Rome, Genoa and Algiers; it is currently being extended in a development that will see it double in size and capacity.
Port Vell is adjacent to the ferry port, an historic area of fishing fleets and marinas into which new life was breathed in 1995; it is Barcelona’s number-one spot for destination shopping and dining, strolling along the seafront promenades and taking boat trips out onto the Med. It’s also the place to learn about Catalan history in the sprawling 19th-century Palau de Mar and travel by cable-car high above Barcelona to the museums and Olympic stadium at Montjuïc; to enjoy wrap-around movies at the IMAX; and to catch the sharks and rays in Europe’s largest aquarium.
The Barcelona Pavilion was built for the city’s 1929 International Exposition by German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and stands today as important building for both the city and the modern architecture movement. It once served as the official opening for the German section of the exhibition, and is now admired for its simple design and intelligent use of special materials. It was constructed in less than one year, following World War I, with materials such as travertine, Greek marble, steel, glass, and golden onyx. Its emphasis on simplistic structure and minimalism makes this a peaceful place to visit, and still a model of expert design.
Perhaps the highlight of a visit to the Barcelona Pavilion is the prestigious and iconic Barcelona Chair, also designed by Mies van der Rohe. The Barcelona Chair was purposefully designed and keeps with the minimalistic style of the building. The Barcelona Pavilion continues to inspire modernist artists all over the world.
In a city filled with gardens, Barcelona's Labyrinth Park of Horta (Parc del Laberint d'Horta) ranks among the oldest and least known. Once a private estate, the park contains an 18th-century neoclassical garden, 19th-century romantic garden, and a popular hedge maze. Visitors can still see the original mansion, built in neo-Gothic and neo-Arabic styles.
A trip to Barcelona isn’t complete without sampling some of Catalonia’s renowned wines, and Bodegas Torres—Spain’s largest winery—is the perfect place to start. A sprawling vineyard that reaches across the Penedès region, the winery is owned by the Torres family, whose winemaking legacy dates back more than 140 years.
This delicious museum tells the story of chocolate across Europe, including its history, trade, manufacturing, and uses all the way back to its origins in South America. The collection includes various devices used to manufacture the sweet treat, as well as chocolate models of some of the city’s most recognizable landmarks.
Located on lively Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s Teatre Poliorama first opened in 1899 as a cinema, then became a theater. Housed in the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences, the theater has been renovated to its former glory and continues to be a center of Catalan arts and culture, hosting regular stage productions and theatrical performances.
At the MónNatura Delta de l’Ebre Nature Reserve—one of Western Europe’s largest wetlands—you can see the restored La Tancada salt works, try your hand at traditional fishing, and, with luck, spot flamingos and other wetland birds. Plus, the observatory offers 360-degree views of the salt pans.
More Things to Do in Catalonia
The Barcelona Museum of Modernism (Museu del Modernisme) is the only museum in the city dedicated to displaying Catalan modernist art. It was converted from a textile factory in 2010, and exhibits some of the finest pieces of art nouveau furniture constructed in Catalunya. Most of the collection comes from two antique dealers, who have added their private collection to be shared with the public. There are over 350 works of art across several mediums, with premier modernista artists like Ramón Casas, Joan Busquets, and of course, Antoni Gaudi. A range of everything from paintings and sculptures to decorative arts and furniture can be found. The museum has become a bit of a cultural center for the city, unique to showcasing this very specific type of art created right in Catalunya.
The museum is housed in a modernista building designed by architect Enric Sagnier, with original floors kept intact. Don’t miss Gaudi’s couch designed in the shape of lips, or the exquisite stained glass on the first floor.
Formerly an industrial area, Diagonal Mar is one of Barcelona’s newest neighborhoods—a mix of residential complexes, hotels, businesses, and conference centers. Located along the northeastern portion of the city’s coastline, the area is known for its huge shopping complex, Parc del Fòrum event center, Parc Diagonal Mar, and the city’s newest beach.
Music lover or not, you’re bound to walk away singing a satisfied tune after visiting this museum. Barcelona’s Music Museum (Museu de la Música) sets out to take visitors on an educational and sweet-sounding tour through the evolution of music across culture and time — and all via its on-display collection of some 500 instruments.
While exploring the museum’s exhibits, you’ll have the chance to check out one of the world’s most important collections of classic guitars, and even play some tunes yourself on various instruments via an interactive gallery. The experience is all the more rich given the themed itineraries, including one for the general public, another for youngsters, and others that are more specialized.
El Tablao de Carmen is one of Barcelona’s best flamenco shows, honoring one of the world’s greatest flamenco dancers, Carmen Amaya. Known for her skill, passion, technique, and fiery personality, Carmen—a native of Barcelona—performed at this very site for King Alfonso XIII of Spain during the opening of the 1929 Universal Exposition.
El Poblenou (“new village” in Catalan) is sandwiched between the Mediterranean Sea and the Avinguda Diagonal, which slices through the modern heart of Barcelona. The former working-class neighborhood was given a facelift for the 1992 Olympics and is today one of the Catalonian capital's most modern and creative quarters.
There are many reasons to head up to Montjuïc hill’s Olympic Ring, and Saint Jordi Palace (Palau Sant Jordi) is certainly one of them. Designed for the 1992 Olympics, the indoor stadium played host to events including gymnastics, handball, volleyball, as well as various competitions during the Paralympics.
On the outside the structure looks like a square spaceship of sorts, and on the inside it’s nothing but beautiful light that pours through the building’s famous window-checkered ceiling. Today the stadium — which can hold over 16,000 people — still hosts top sports competitions, as well as events, and high-profile concerts for artists ranging from U2 to Bruce Springsteen and Rihanna. Go there to see a show yourself, or simply to admire Palau Sant Jordi’s exterior as you explore the Olympic Ring and its other sights, including the Olympic Stadium and Esplanade.
With an area of nearly 20,000 acres, Collserola Natural Park is one of the largest metropolitan parks in the world. It sits in the Serra de Collserola coastal mountain range, on the northeastern edge of Barcelona, where vast woodlands are home to an abundance of flora and fauna.
Rising high from the top of the tallest mountain in Barcelona, the unique design of the Collserola Tower (Torre de Collserola) has made its mark on the city’s skyline. Built for the 1992 Summer Olympics, the tower stands at 288 meters high (946 feet), and is used as a radio and TV transmitter that broadcasts throughout Catalonia. Outside of its functional use, it has an observation deck with some of the best views of the surrounding city, mountains, and sea. From its windows you have 360 degree views from the highest vantage point in all of Barcelona.
The tower appears futuristic, almost like a needle pointing toward the sky. It takes two and half minutes to reach the observation deck, but you’ll be rewarded with views that can reach as far as 70 kilometers on a clear day. The experience is almost like seeing Barcelona from the sky. (Helicopter tours are really the only way to get a better view.)
The Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) will give you good reason to head into the gritty streets of the El Raval neighborhood, just west of the tourist-filled Las Ramblas. Partially located in a 19th-century almshouse, the urban culture center is a hub for discovery, debate and reflection.
The multidisciplinary institution is noted for its impressive offering of everything from debates, concerts, readings, festivals and exhibitions. Indeed, it’s those conversation-worthy rotating exhibitions that will draw the everyday visitor, so be sure to check the center’s schedule in advance to see what might be of interest to you. And, since the CCCB sits in the El Raval neighborhood, you have all the more reason to wander this often-unexplored part of Barcelona.
Experience winter on the beach and cool off at Icebarcelona, the world’s first beachfront ice bar. Located in the Port Olímpic neighborhood on the Barcelona waterfront, visitors can enjoy cocktails and dancing in this unique bar where everything is made of ice—including the walls, bar, seats, and decor, and the temperature is kept at a chilly -20ºF (-5ºC).
With its unique, modern design and interactive exhibits, CosmoCaixa is frequently recognized as one of the best science museums in Europe. With hands-on displays and activities for both children and adults, the museum explores the earth through environmental and natural exhibits and the skies through its large, 3D planetarium.
Home to more than 300 wineries, Spain’s Penedès region produces some of the country’s best cava, a sparkling wine made with the same method that’s used to make French champagne. The historic town of Vilafranca del Penedès is filled with medieval and Modernista architecture, as well as restaurants pouring locally made wines.
Between France and Spain lie the Pyrenees mountains, a 305-mile (491-kilometer) range stretching from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean, separating the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of Europe. These snow-dusted mountains have long been a playground for outdoor adventure, but the hilltop castles and alpine villages beckon as well.
Many come to Barcelona to see the colorful mosaics (trencadís) by famous architect Antoni Gaudí. Far fewer get to learn about the process and create their own works of mosaic art. That’s where Mosaiccos comes in; this studio offers hands-on workshops, as well as a shop selling unique gifts made from broken tile and glass.
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