Area guide – Barcelona & Tarragona

17 Feb | 39 min read

Excellent weather, great business opportunities, world-class culture and food, and areas of outstanding natural beauty are just some of the reasons you should move to the Province of Barcelona.

Located in the Northeast of Spain in the region of Catalonia, this geographically diverse area features a variety of climates and microclimates, but mainly enjoys Mediterranean weather characterised by hot, dry summers and mild winters. In business and in schools, Catalan is the main language of the province (and the wider region of Catalonia), but Castilian Spanish is also widely spoken. Barcelona province features a number of coastal areas or ‘costas’ and is home to four natural parks: the Cadi Moixero, Montserrat, Sant Llorenç del Munt i l’Obac, and the Montseny. There is also the Delta del Llobregat Nature Reserve.

If you love wine, you are well-advised to visit the Vinseum Wine Culture Museum of Catalonia in the beautiful medieval town of Vilafranca del Penedès. You could also head over to Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, where cava is produced using the same method as French Champagne. However, if you prefer wine of the sacramental kind, why not embark on a pilgrimage to Manresa to visit the famous cave where Saint Ignatious of Loyola spent a year creating his famous Spiritual Exercises in 1548.

Continue your spiritual pilgrimage to the beautiful coastal town of Badalona, where you can discover the beautiful 15th century monastery of Sant Gerònim de la Murtra. While you’re there, it’s also worth paying a visit to one of the city’s 3 beaches, which benefit from being less crowded than those in Barcelona. If all those afternoons relaxing at the beach leave you craving some excitement, head over to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, which hosts the Spanish Grand Prix each year.

Of course, the Province of Barcelona is probably best known for the city from which it takes its name, famous for its groundbreaking artists, architects, and chefs, and home to some of the most important works of the legendary Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. However, Barcelona city isn’t the only cultural hotspot in the province. If you love films, you should definitely visit the town of Sitges, which is famous for its film festival. Also, worth checking out is the world-famous Sitges Carnival, which takes place in February each year and features wild costumes, live music, theatrical performances, and dance.

The home of Cava, four restaurants with 3 Michelin stars and 3 of ‘the World’s Best 50 Restaurants’, it’s truly a land of plenty with natural resources including almonds, olive oil, fresh fruit, Mediterranean vegetables and fish to tickle the palate on any budget. As a result of the separatist culture, many traditions thrive.

 

Barcelona city

Called the ‘Paris of Spain’ by the famous Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. Barcelona is a major cultural, artistic, industrial and tourist hub in the Catalan province of Northern Spain.

Sandwiched between the scenic Pyrenees mountains and the Mediterranean, with an agreeable climate that fosters street life and featuring superb examples of Modernist art and architecture Barcelona has everything.

Bound by two rivers, the Besós and the Llobregat and an arc of inland mountains, Barcelona did not expand beyond its medieval walls until the 19th century, when industrial age towns and suburbs developed around the city centre. Now the largest in Catalonia, the second largest in Spain, and sixth largest in the European Union, Barcelona is an Alpha City. The 1992 summer Olympics saw vast regenerative infrastructural changes, including the creation of 3 km of sandy beaches in the city centre.

The escarpment of Montjuïc hosts Montjuïc Castle, a fortress built in the 17–18th centuries. Today, it houses a museum and is home to several sporting and cultural venues, as well as Barcelona’s biggest park and gardens. The Gran Teatre del Liceu is a renowned opera house on La Rambla — a long, tree-lined pedestrian street. The Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) encompasses the old city of Barcelona. Catalan ‘modernista architecture’ left an important legacy, most famously, the unfinished church of the Sagrada Família, by Antoni Gaudi.

Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (La Boqueria) is a public market in the Ciutat Vella district of Barcelona which has existed since the 13th century, a feast for both the eyes and the appetite. Barcelona’s restaurant scene celebrates both international and local cuisine, with everything on offer from fast food, bistro cooking, beachside dining and bakeries. Spanish artists such as Picasso, Dalí, Miro and Velázquez and many others, feature in public spaces plus there are plenty of museum collections spanning medieval times to the current.

Property

Properties in Barcelona are big-ticket investments, and it’s a crowded market. The city has clamped down on the buy-to-lets forcing local residents out; it’s worth researching if the area you’re buying in is a frozen rental licence zone. Within the city walls, apartments are the most common type of accommodation, but houses and even small chalets are an option if you’re prepared to live on the outskirts.

Transport

Barcelona is the twelfth most popular tourist destination in the world and fifth in Europe, with its airport seeing a whopping 40 million passengers pass through per year. Located 17 km away, it’s connected to the city by highway, metro, commuter train and bus service.

The central railway station Estación de Sants Barcelona is home to the high-speed rail system which runs to both Madrid and Paris (via Perpignan). Commuter services include trams, metro, buses and even aerial cable cars.

Health

Register at a local centre d’atenció primària — or CAP — and they will give you details of a local general practitioner (Metge de capçalera). There are six hospitals in the city, and essential phone numbers are 061 for medical emergencies or 112 more general emergencies — the equivalent to 999 in the UK.

Living expenses

As in many cities, it is possible to live well on a range of budgets. Many of the attractions, galleries and museums are free. Rent though, is very high, due to demand outstripping supply.

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Sitges

Just 30 minutes from Barcelona, this lively coastal town is situated on the Garraf coast and is surrounded by the hills of the Garraf National Park.

Move to this bohemian city for lively nightlife, year-round festivals, gorgeous beaches and luxurious living.

Sitges has been called the St Tropez of Spain thanks to its beautiful beach location and its enviable style, culture and bohemian energy. Located just 45 minutes south of Barcelona, Sitges is also one of the world’s top gay destinations. This former village has a permanent population of around 25,000 but tourism expands that number to 100,000 during the summer season. From July to August, the coastline is transformed into one long beach party.

However, the fun isn’t limited to the summer months – Sitges has a year-round programme of events. These include the famous Sitges Carnival, Mardi Gras, the vintage car rally and the Sitges Film Festival, the world’s top fantasy film festival.

Sitges reputation as a creative centre is rooted in its history: in the late 19th century, the town was a key location for the Modernist movement, enticing artists such as Picasso to explore its winding streets and stroll along its beautiful promenade. Visit those same streets today and you’ll find an array of galleries and museums, stylish independent boutiques, quirky bars and excellent restaurants.

Community

Sitges youthful community comprises a mix of families, wealthy Barcelonians, artists and bohemian types, tech millionaires and an international gay community.

Property

You will find a mix of property here: think luxury villas with pools and terraces, modern apartments and duplexes plus chic townhouses. Sitges commands some of the highest property prices in Europe, which means that this is a great area to invest.

Amenities

Sitges has an excellent variety of shops – whether it’s well-known supermarket brands or organic local produce you are looking for – you can find it here. You’ll also find plenty of excellent restaurants, cafes and bars, museums and art galleries. Visit one of the town’s many markets to sample some excellent Spanish produce or head to the marina for a spot of messing about on boats or luxury yachts. You’re also a stone’s throw from various sporting activities including water sports, golf, tennis and horse-riding.

Transport

If you want to head to Barcelona, going by train is the fastest (just 30 minutes) and cheapest option. You can also travel by bus, which is almost as cheap and quick, with the added bonus that buses run through the night and are available 24 hours.

Health

Sitges is served by the ‘CAP’ (Centre d’atenció primària) public health centre. The closest public hospitals are located in Sant Pere de Ribes (Hospital-Residència Sant Camil) and Vilanova i la Geltrú (Hospital Comarcal de Sant Antoni Abat). There are a number of private clinics in the area, including the Centre Medic Sitges, Institut Pediàtric Sitges, and Nou Policlínic.

Cost of Living

Sitges is an upmarket area and is known to be the most expensive town in Spain, so the cost of living is likely to be higher here relative to other parts of the country. However, the standard of living is also very high, so you will certainly get your money’s worth.

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Tarragona province (Costa Dorada)

Discover historic cities, glorious coastline, pretty fishing villages, and plains, mountains, and valleys in this bohemian province of art, culture, and wine.

Move to this land of plenty to experience a feast for your mind, senses and soul with a cornucopia of history, art, culture, gastronomy and breathtaking natural scenery. Enjoy some of the most beautiful beaches in Spain surrounded by glorious countryside, ancient historical sites and some excellent family days out.

Located in eastern Spain in the region of Catalonia, the province of Tarragona is known for its beautiful cities, culture and rich history. The province has a Mediterranean bordering on subtropical climate, with mildly cool winters and hot, sultry summers. Tarragona is lined with gold in the form of its beautiful coastline, the Costa Dorada, or ‘Golden Coast’.

Though this part of Spain is less well-known to tourists, the province has a number of blue flag beaches and is one of the go-to family holiday destinations for native Spaniards. With pretty fishing villages, award-winning beaches of fine golden sands, clear turquoise waters and secluded, picturesque coves, it’s not hard to see why those in the know choose to holiday here.

Another draw might be the dizzying number of festivals and fiestas that take place here – gastronomic, religious, traditional, historical re-enactments and carnivals all provide a feast for the senses. Here, you can view stunning pyrotechnic displays, dance the night away to live music and enjoy local specialities such as the calçotada (grilled spring onions) and xató (cod and escarole salad).

Abundance and plenty seem to typify the area, as this part of Catalonia is steeped in history and culture, including several UNESCO world heritage sites such as the Roman civilisation of Tarraco. Incredible medieval architecture seems to emerge wherever you look – it’s unsurprising then, that this province was the birthplace of legendary architect Antoni Gaudi.

Love art? This could be the place for you, as these fertile lands nurtured the creative talents of Picasso, Gaudi, Miró and Casals. You can quite literally follow in their footsteps on the ‘Four Geniuses’ route, which takes you through Reus, the city of Gaudí’s birth, onto Horta where you can spot some of Picasso’s paintings, through the Mont-Roig, where Miró claimed all of his work was conceived and finally El Vendrell, homeland of the legendary musician, Pablo Casals.

Perhaps the wealth of creative talent in the province is connected to the Dionysian juice which flows in abundance here – namely, cava and wine. This is wine country – with a multitude of excellent wine routes to discover. If the epicurean art and wine routes leave you feeling somewhat over-indulged, you can revive yourself with a brisk hike through plains, mountains and valleys to explore the Cistercian monastery route, where you will discover the haunting medieval cloisters of Catalonia’s most emblematic monasteries.

You don’t need to walk though, as with other parts of Spain, transport is excellent. With Reus airport just 7 kilometers outside Tarragona city and regular, air-conditioned buses and trains, you are well connected to the rest of Spain and beyond.

The Costa Dorada (Golden Coast) is a 216 km stretch of coastline located in the region of Catalonia. It is only one or two hours away from Barcelona depending on which part of the coast you are heading to. The climate here is warm and dry, with summer temperatures often reaching the 30s. The prestigious blue flag – which indicates high environmental and quality standards – flies at 38 of the Costa Dorada’s beaches, which are spacious with fine, golden sand and clear shallow water.

The coast’s long stretches of golden sands are set amid a striking and rugged landscape with a mountainous backbone. Venture inland and you will discover picturesque villages and towns nestled beneath fairytale castles and sprawling farmlands surrounded by an idyllic natural landscape of vineyards, olive, carob and almond groves. Head to Miravet, a pretty little village located in the middle of the Terres de l’Ebre – presided over by a beautiful hilltop castle, the village’s historic houses literally spill into the River Ebro, which you’ll need to cross by ferry in order to get there.

You can also head to Tarragona, located on the Costa Dorada coastline; this was once a major Roman city and has some magnificent ruins to prove it, including an amphitheatre and well-preserved Roman circus. History is rich and alive here –  you can soak it in through the sun-bleached streets and crumbling grandeur of the old town. The city’s cathedral is a gothic masterpiece that needs to be seen to be believed.

You might wish to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, in which case, you can head to the Ebro Delta, a huge nature reserve just south of L’Ampolla, sandwiched between the sea and the Ports de Beseit mountains. Here you’ll find endless rice fields, herons, marsh harriers and flamingoes. Other beautiful sights along the coast include the Les Ferreres Aqueduct, the striking remains of an ancient Roman aqueduct and the Circ Romà, the ruins of a Roman chariot track which will give you a unique glimpse into Roman sporting history. If you are looking for family days out you’re in luck, as both the Port Aventura family theme park and Shambhala amusement park are located on the Costa.

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Cambrils

Cambrils is located on Spain’s Costa Dorada (Golden Coast) in the region of Catalonia. A seafaring village, the local life mainly revolves around the harbour.

The area attracts visitors for its golden, sandy beaches, the abundance of fabulous seafood restaurants and its close proximity to the Universal Studios Port Aventura theme park.

Cambrils is easy to reach from the international airports of Reus, just 12 km away and Barcelona about a one hour drive away.

Around town
The town has an area of detached houses sheltering below a castle, the old fortress of the Baron of Vilafortuny.

Located by the sea there is a signal tower, known as the Telégrafo de l’Esquirol, which in times gone by was used to establish communication with other parts of the coast by means of flags and lights.

From the harbour, a path follows the Garbí watercourse and leads inland into the town. It is worth visiting the sanctuary of El Camí, with its crypt and an adjoining watchtower.

Beaches
The beachs of Cambrils are characterised by a fine golden sand and shallow sea, the perfect combination, which sets these beaches apart from others. They are popular with both tourists and residents alike, as there are also many facilities such as water sports, sunbed hire, showers, first aid, restaurants, kiosks and bars.

Leisure & Recreation
The popular Port Aventura theme park is located between Salou and Vila-seca, and is easily reached either by car or public transport. Besides the famous theme park, in the town of La Pineda, is the famous Water Park Aquopolis, which like Port Aventura, is easily accessible, with a variety of public transport links.

Visitors can also enjoy activities such as horse riding, tennis, cycling, running and walking.

Excursions
If you feel like a day’s excursion to discover further the region, then we recommend Salou, Tarragona, Reus, and Barcelona, all popular destinations within a comfortable visiting distance.

You can enjoy the various gastronomic festivals like ‘The killing of the pig’ in Montblanc, the ‘Xatonada’ in Vendrell or the famous ‘Calçotades’, amongst other culinary festivities.

Cuisine
The most famous dish is ‘Romesco’. a type of tomato and herb sauce with onion. Another speciality is rabbit with balls of cod, which is delicious. Local produce and seafood of the area, includes eels, frogs legs, duck dishes, paella, iod, olives, rice dishes, poultry, seafood rabbit, pigs trotters, cod stew with spinach and eggs, noodles, biscuits and sweets.

Calçotada which is a dish comprising of barbequed shallots dipped in romesco sauce and served with grilled meats is a fabulous dish full of flavour.

Climate
Cambrils is favoured by the typical Mediterranean climate, although the temperatures can be less favourable in the winter than other Spanish Costa destinations. Temperatures range between 10 degrees in the winter and 35 degrees during the summer months. The area enjoys sunny days all throughout the year.

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Salou

The town of Salou is a favourite destination with British tourists; it’s located on the Costa Dorada, or ‘the Gold Coast’, in the Catalonia region of Spain. It is the most visited of the holiday resorts on the Costa Dorada, with a clean, sandy coastline, which stretches far into the horizon. Salou is just 20 minutes from Reus Airport.

Salou has become one of the main tourist areas of Costa Dorada, with over two million visitors a year attracted to its hot, golden Mediterranean beaches. Salou has become a popular family resort with its safe shallow waters, friendly locals, Port Aventura theme park and a great variety of entertainment facilities and attractions.

Culture
Salou, like many other Mediterranean towns, has a rich cultural history. While it doesn’t portray as strong a cultural heritage as the neighbouring towns of Tarragona and Reus, Salou has its own subtleties.

The modern buildings built as tourism expanded in the town blend with the classical styled older buildings. The Church of Santa María del Mar was built in 1766, consisting of a church with a walled belfry and single bell, it was mainly used by seafaring folk. It was extended early in the 20th century to its present form.

Beaches
The popularity of Salou as a holiday resort is largely built on its superb beaches. The coastline of Salou enjoys eight main beaches, each with fine golden sand and inviting shallow waters due to the long beach and slow tide.

The beaches themselves are quite varied, some beaches consisting of long plains of sand, some mixing with the beachfront hotels and bars, while others have coved areas sheltered with pine trees giving a more intimate feel.

The Ponent Beach joins with neighbouring resort Cambrils, while Llevant beach, the largest in Salou, has specially designated areas in the summer for sporting activities.

Capellans Beach is quite small but a very attractive open beach, while Llenguadets and Llarga beaches are littered with small coves and are shielded by pine trees.

Penya-Tallada, Cala de la Font and Cala Crancs beaches are all quite small but have a very tranquil atmosphere.

Shopping
Keen shoppers will be spoilt for choice in Salou; the local shopkeepers pride themselves on providing a good friendly service. While Salou as a whole has many shopping zones, the Old Town area contains some shops, which are as old as Salou has been a holiday resort.

The Jaume I Promenade and Major Street areas are more modern shopping areas, containing many restaurants and terrace cafes underneath a canopy of palm trees.

Market day
The weekly market here is a good chance to see what traditional Salou has to offer. The Municipal Market area also contains many solid, year-round businesses including food shops, fashion boutiques and restaurants.

Leisure & recreation
Salou has many activities for both children and grown ups. Port Aventura theme park, owned by Universal, is a fantastic modern theme park built around the basis of five worlds, with rides to match the theme of each world. The park also has 25 live shows a day as well as restaurants and bars.

Salou also has two water parks – Aquaopolis and Aqualeon. While both are filled with the slides and pools you would expect from a waterpark, Aqualeon also has a zoo with a large selection of animals.

Many hotels and bars in Salou will provide entertainment throughout the day and night for both adults and children, while the beaches play host to many sporting activities and water sports, the surrounding streets provide play parks and terrace cafes, and at night a selection of clubs and bars light the pavements.

Bikes are available for hire in Salou. Horse riding is available nearby. The coast here is excellent for sea fishing. The many paths make this a great place for walkers and runners alike. Golf is available nearby.

Eating out
Local restaurants in Salou serve mainly Catalan dishes, many of which are based on fresh fish caught in the local clear waters, but also incorporates many traditional Spanish dishes such as paella. Plenty of restaurants and hotels in Salou will serve traditional foods alongside the more international tasting fast-foods such as burgers, pizzas and hot dogs.

Cuisine
A coastal town, Salou favours seafood in its local gastronomy; there are some excellent bars and restaurants in the town and along the coast where you can enjoy the delicious catch of the day.

Romesco Sauce made with olive oil, hazlenuts, almonds sweet peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes, is a local speciality; its mainly served with fish, but is also delicious accompanying meat dishes.

Other specialities of the regiona include Arrs Negre – rice boiled in cuttlefish ink, Rossejat – a rice or noodle dish made with fish broth and calamars amb xocolata, or chocolate squid. Tarragona is renowned for its white wine production; look out for the Tarragona wine denomination when selecting a wine to accompany your meal.

Climate
Salou enjoys mild winters with some rainfall, warm blossom filled springs long hot summers and autumns of golden sunlight and rich sweet plums.

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