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History & Culture

CataloniaOf all the regions that make up the ethnic, cultural and historical patchwork that is Spain, Catalonia is perhaps the most distinctive. You will notice immediately that the majority of people speak Catalan and not Castilian Spanish (the two languages are co-official), and you will soon learn that this is a region that is intensely proud of its own identity and heritage. Ask the Catalans themselves and they will tell you that their northeast corner of Spain is not a region but a nation. Not surprisingly, rivalry between Castile and Catalonia is an ongoing part of Spanish history. And while Castile directed its attention to the Atlantic and the New World, Catalonia concentrated its energies on the Mediterranean.

Bordering France to the north, Aragón to the west, the Valencia region to the south and the Mediterranean along its eastern coast, Catalonia is composed of four provinces: Lleida, Tarragona, Girona and Barcelona. This is a land of extraordinary contrasts. Flatter toward the south, where vineyards and olive groves are concentrated, jaggedly rocky along the stunning Costa Brava, and reaching soaring heights in the Pyrenees, Catalonia boasts some of Spain's most memorable scenery. You will find excellent skiing, national parks, and charming villages in the Pyrenees, and international holiday playgrounds along the Mediterranean. There is indeed so much to do and see in Catalonia that you could easily spend a week or two here without ever stepping beyond its borders.


CataloniaCatalans pride themselves on good eating, and you will find some of Spain's finest restaurants here. The region's cuisine features unusual dishes like goose with pears and lobster with chicken, and wonderful seafood stews, pastas and a great variety of wild mushrooms. Fine red and white wines are produced here, and Catalan sparkling wines (cavas) are favourite celebratory wines around the world.


CataloniaCatalonia is also home of great artistic achievements, ranging from grand Greek and Roman monuments (Empúries was an important Greek colony and Tarragona a Roman nucleus), exquisitely simple Romanesque works, especially in the foothills of the Pyrenees and characterized by wall frescoes and polychrome wood sculpture, to some of the most exciting avant-garde art of the twentieth century. Most of Antonio Gaudi's flowing, lava like buildings, set off by tortuous wrought-iron grilles, gates, and unique ceramic tiles, are in Barcelona, and Picasso, Dali, and Miró all spent their formative years in Catalonia.