Things to Do in Catalonia - page 5
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.
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.
Though Egypt may not come to mind when you think of Barcelona, think again, as the Egyptian Museum of Barcelona (Museu Egipci de Barcelona) displays an impressive collection of some 1,000 ancient artifacts from the African country. The pieces once belonged to the museum’s founder, Catalan Jordi Clos, and are now on display in the intimate and relatively crowd-free galleries found just off the main drag of Passeig de Gracia.
The diverse permanent collection spans everything from ceramics to jewelry, mummies, and a host of items related to the culture and funeral practices. Meanwhile, rotating exhibitions offer other themed looks into Egypt’s distant past. Cap off your visit with a snack at the outdoor terrace and a visit the museum’s Egypt-inspired store.
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.
El Poblenou (“new village” in Catalan) is sandwiched between the Mediterranean Sea and the Avinguda Diagonal, which slices through the modern heart of the city. The former working-class neighborhood was given a facelift for the 1992 Olympics and is today one of Barcelona’s most modern and creative quarters.
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.
Montjuïc Mountain (from Catalan, meaningmountain of the Jews) is located southwest of Barcelona’s old city, and gets its name from a Jewish cemetery flowing down its slopes. After hosting both the World Exhibition in 1929 and the Olympics in 1992, the neighborhood is home to numerous attractions, including a castle, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, the Miró Museum (Fundació Miró), and the Magic Fountain.
Designed to resemble a fortified medieval castle, Torre Bellesguard is an underrated gem from modernist Antoni Gaudí. Striking features include oddly angled gabled windows, narrow walkways, crenellated walls, and a tower topped with a mosaic representing the Catalan flag. The interior is awash with Gothic and art nouveau detailing.
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.
The Gaudí House Museum (Casa Museu Gaudí) was the home of architect Antoni Gaudí for the last 20 years of his life. It was opened to the public as a museum in 1952 to celebrate the centennial of his birth year. The artist designed pieces of furniture that fill the house, and walls are covered with his drawings and other original artwork.
More Things to Do in Catalonia
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.
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.
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.
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.
Found along the ancient road to Barcino (the former name of Barcelona) the Via Sepulcral Romana is one of the most intriguing remnants of the city’s Roman past. Located on the site of the present-day Plaça de la Vila Madrid, the unique site served as a burial ground, where more than 80 graves have been uncovered, dating from the 1st to the 3rd century AD, during which period burials were forbidden within the city walls.
Today, visitors can visit part of the excavated ruins and view artifacts found at the site at the on-site museum, which also offers insight into the Roman road network and burial rituals.
Barcelona teems with modernist architecture, including several notable buildings by famed Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. Fans of this architectural style can immerse themselves in it with a short trip south to Colonia Güell, a modernist industrial village commissioned by Eusebi Güell and home to a Gaudi-designed crypt.
Learn all about the beer brewing process and what goes into each bottle of this popular Mediterranean beer on a guided tour of the Estrella Damm Factory in Barcelona. See the brewhouse, fermentation and lagering tanks, and the bottling plant, then sample four different beers, all made by the brewery, in a guided tasting experience.
Originally constructed in 1326, Barcelona’s Monestir de Pedralbes, a church and monastery-turned-museum, is one of the city’s most striking examples of Catalan Gothic architecture and the Pedralbes quarter’s oldest building. The cloister has been carefully reconstructed, while the small but impressive chapel is home to both spectacular 14th-century Ferrer Bassa murals and the ornamental grave of Queen Elisenda, who lived in the monastery for a time.
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.
Located in Barcelona’s Born neighborhood, the European Museum of Modern Art (Museo Europeo de Arte Moderno, or MEAM) displays a collection of contemporary figurative art from the 20th and 21st centuries. The collection features thousands of works from artists from all five continents, with a focus on young Spanish artists.
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.)
Located on the slopes of Montjuïc Mountain, the Botanical Garden of Barcelona spans 35 acres (14 hectares). Dedicated to protecting and promoting Mediterranean plants, the garden is home to more than 1,300 species from Australia, California, Chile, South Africa, and the Mediterranean Basin.
Cardona Castle (Castell de Cardona) sits proudly on a hilltop opposite the mines of Salt Mountain. The stone fortress was built in Gothic and Romanesque style in AD 886, and is perhaps the most iconic medieval structure in Catalonia. Inside this symbol of Catalonian identity stands the stone St. Vicenç Church, which dates back to the 11th century.
Entertainment, culture, history, and even a scare — these are all things you can expect to find at the Barcelona Wax Museum. Housed in a fancy 19th-century neoclassical palace of sorts, the museum is home to over 300 characters, both real and fictitious.
Wandering the museum’s exceptionally staged galleries, you’ll come face to face with a range of noteworthy figures, such as kings and queens, politicians, and painters, singers and actors. From Albert Einstein to Catalan surrealist Salvador Dali, and frightful personalities such as Frankenstein, there’s no shortage of surprising characters that will stand in your path. The quirkiness doesn’t stop at the wax figures, either, as the museum also has two eccentric cafés — one in the theme of a forested fairytale, the other an avant-garde paradise of origami.
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