barcelona, catalonia, and the costa brava - detailed itinerary

  Barcelona Cardona La Seu d'Urgell Vic Cadaques Costa Brava
 

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Day 1 - 4 Barcelona

Barcelona’s proximity to France makes it more European than other cities in Spain. And as the capital of Catalonia, it possesses a history and culture that make it unlike anyplace else.

The city is huge, so invest in a transportation pass that will allow you to travel on the metro and on local buses. You can purchase passes at the Tourist Information Office on Placa de Catalunya. Pick up a detailed map while you’re there. Another alternative is to use the Bus Turistic, which stops at 24 of Barcelona’s most popular attractions. You can hop on and off wherever you like and buses come along about every 15 minutes.

Placa de Catalunya is the hub of the city and it’s a good place to start your explorations. Las Ramblas is the most famous street in Spain, and you’ll likely stroll it many times during your visit to Barcelona. It ranges from sophisticated to sleezy, refined to rowdy. But it’s jumping any time of the day or night.

There’s a little bit of everything on La Rambla from flower stalls to bird markets. And enjoying a coffee or a cocktail at a sidewalk table should be high on your list. Just keep an eye on your purse or wallet.

From Placa de Catalunya, walk south along the tree-lined promenade toward the water. You’ll pass the Font de Canaletes, a lovely 19th-century fountain. The Reial Academia de Ciencas i Arts on your right was converted to a theater in 1910. There are palaces from the 18th century on your left and right.

Barcelona’s most colorful food market, La Boqueria, is also on the right. Consider starting your morning here with "churros" (fried doughnuts) and thick, hot chocolate. Across the Placa de la Boqueria, look for the fanciful building with the Chinese dragon and the parasol. Built for the Universal Exposition of 1888, it now houses a bank.

The square also features a mosaic designed by Miro.

On the right, the Gran Teatre del Liceu is Barcleona’s superb opera house. The building burned in 1994 and reopened five years later following a meticulous restoration. Today, it’s one of the most beautiful opera houses in Europe and one of the most beautiful spaces in Barcelona. It’s open for tours in the morning.

On the left, a block off La Rambla, palm-lined Placa Reial is one of the liveliest squares in the city. The lampposts here were designed by Gaudi and there’s a popular coin and stamp market on Sundays.

Continue down La Rambla all the way to the monument to Christopher Columbus (the Monument a Colom). The 200-ft. Monument was erected on the spot where Columbus came ashore in 1493 after discovering America. If the weather’s fine, take the elevator to the top for great views.

There’s a flea market along the waterfront on weekends. And you can take one of the golondrinas or traditional two-tiered boats on a half-hour cruise from here.

Take the Passeig de Colom to Via Laietana and head for the Barri Gotic or Gothic Quarter. The oldest part of the quarter dates from 27BC where a Roman forum was established. Today, the city’s administrative offices remain here and the narrow streets are lined with stylish shops.

On Placa de Sant Jaume, the Casa de la Ciutat or town hall was built in the 14th and 15th centuries. If you want to tour the interior which contains the magnificent Sale de Cent council chamber and sculpture by all the great Catalan masters, you’ll need to make arrangements in advance.

Across the Placa is the Palau de la Generalitat, the seat of the Catalonian parliament since 1403. It is open to the public only on the saint’s feast day.

The Museu d’Historia de la Ciutat on Placa del Rei occupies a Gothic building that was moved here in 1931. Today it contains articles and documents tracing Barcelona’s history from Roman times to the present.

The adjoining Palau Reial Major or Royal Palace is where Ferdinand and Isabela received Columbus when he returned from the New World. Inside the palace, there’s a magnificent 14th-century banqueting hall and a splendid royal chapel with a 15th-century altarpiece.

When you’re ready for lunch, you’ll find plenty of cafes in the Gothic Quarter.

The Catedral de Barcelona was begun in the 13th century on the foundations of a Roman temple and a Moorish mosque. The Catalan Gothic nave has soaring vaulted ceilings and 28 side chapels. The choir stalls were carved in the 15th century and display the coats of arms of many European rulers.

Beneath the main altar, the Crypt contains the 1339 Sarcophagus of St. Eulalia. The Cloisters here are among the loveliest in Spain. They now house a museum of medieval art.

The Museu Frederic Mares across from the Cathedral contains a wonderful collection of Romanesque and Gothic art and sculpture. The palace in which the collection is housed is an attraction in itself.

When you’re through exploring the Barri Gotic, take Via Laietana to carrer de Sant Pere and the Palau de la Musica Catalana. Designed by Domenech i Montaner in 1908, it is one of the most spectacular examples of Catalan Modernisme. The exterior with its red brick facade, elaborate mosaic columns, statue of St. George, and busts of leading composers is striking enough.

But its the opulent interior, with its mosaics, plasterwork, and inverted stained glass dome that will take your breath away. Busts of the muses spring forth from mosaic murals and Wagnerian horses protrude from the concert hall walls to astonishing effect.

Over the years, the Palau has become a symbol of Catalan national pride and it’s absolutely a must see, unlike anything else. Don’t miss it.

When you’re beat, head back to your hotel, stopping for a drink along the way. Spaniards eat dinner quite late, so you’ll have plenty of time to freshen up or nap before heading back out again.

Have dinner tonight at Els Quartre Gats (the Four Cats). Opened in 1897, the restaurant was designed by Puig i Cadafalch and was frequented by Picasso, Gaudi, and other Catalan artists and writers. Today, it’s a stylish and popular bistro with good food and wonderful ambience. The fixed price menu is a good value.

Barcelona’s nightlife is second to none. The only challenge is staying up late enough to enjoy it. Many of the most popular designer bars don’t even open until after midnight. If you’re longing to dance the night away, head up Montjuic to Poble Espanol. Torres de Avila is still one of the most stylish clubs in town and La Terrazza behind Poble Espanol continues to pack them in. Expect long lines at the door.

Day 2 - Barcelona

A sensational day for architecture buffs as you follow the "Ruta del Modernisme" to Barcelona’s architectural masterpieces.

Start by taking Passeig de Gracias from Placa de Catalunya to the Eixample district, one of Barcelona’s most fashionable addresses.

Barcelona is the only city in the world to have seven Art Nouveau buildings designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. At the turn of the century, three brilliant architects -- Antoni Gaudi, Lluis Domenech i Montaner and Josep Puig i Cadafalch -- were interpreting the emerging Art Nouveau style in a uniquely Catalan way.

You can see the work of all three on the Mansana de la Discordia, or "block of dischord," named for the widely divergent architectural styles juxtaposed there. Your first stop should be Casa Amattler at Number 41 which now houses the Centre del Modernisme.

The center sells a Route of Modernisme pass that includes a map, a guidebook, and discounted admission to many of the attractions along the route. They also offer a highly-informative and entertaining tour of the houses on the block.

Casa Amattler at number 41 was redesigned by Josep Puig i Cadafalch between 1898 and 1900. It combines Gothic, Catalan, and Flemish elements to create a modernista neo-Gothic style. The tile and plasterwork here are striking.

Casa Lleo Morera is exuberant, over-the-top, and fantastic. Restored for the owner by Domenech i Montaner between 1902 and 1906, the house is a complete, cohesive work of art. The dining room is illuminated by nine floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows and the walls are decorated with marquetry and mosaics. Elaborate allegorical wood and plaster work make the house a delight to decode.

On the ground floor of Number 41, Joierie Bagues has a large collection of modernisme jewelry designed by Lluis Masriera.

Also on the block is Casa Battlo. Remodeled by Gaudi between 1905 and 1907, the exterior is a zoomorphic fantasy of dragons and serpents. The building, which contains nary a right angle, was designed to depict the glory of St. George, the patron saint of Catalonia.

Just around the corner on Arago is Fundacio Antoni Tapies in the old Montaner i Simon publishing house. The exterior features a Mudejar facade and an unusual metal wire sculpture by Tapies called "Cloud and Chair." The interior displays the artists work in many media.

When you’re ready, continue along Passeig de Gracia. Antique lovers will want to stop by the Bulevard dels Antiquaris at Number 55, where there are 73 dealers selling all kinds of antiques.

One of the finest design stores in Spain, Vincon, is at number 96. If you’re hungry, you’ll find lots of sidewalk cafes en route. We enjoyed New Kansas, especially the refreshing Cava Sangria.

Gaudi’s Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera (the "stone quarry) was built between 1906 and 1910. The organic, undulating structure defied conventional construction techniques and the building was uniformly reviled for decades. Today, you can tour the inside, and take an elevator to the roof garden, where the twisting, turning chimneys and air ducts were described as a "garden of warriors."

La Pedrera now houses Espai Gaudi which exhibits drawings, photographs and illustrations of the architect’s work. And Pis de la Pedrera is a furnished apartment showing early 20th-century urban life.

Those who are interested in music should visit the Museu de la Musica on Avinguda Diagonal in the Puig i Cadafalch redesigned Casa Quadras. The museum contains one of the finest collections of guitars in the world, the oldest of which originated in Andalusia 200 years ago. The building itself is also worth a look.

Walk down Avinguda Diagonal past Casa Terrades, a six story apartment building designed by Puig i Cadafalch combining medieval and Renaissance elements. When you reach Provenca, take a left and walk to Gaudi’s masterwork, Temple de la Sagrada Familia. The twelve spires of the church are visible from almost everyplace in the city.

To save your feet, you can take the Number 5 Metro Line or the Red Bus Turistic from La Pedrera to Sagrada Familia.

Despite dedicating 40 years of his life to the structure, Gaudi completed very little of Sagrada Familia, though work has continued according to his plans since his death in 1926. Before venturing inside, explore the exterior of the church. The difference between the facades is striking. The Passion Facade, which was completed by Josep Maria Subirachs in 1980 is angular and severe. The Nativity Facade, which was completed by Gaudi in 1904 looks like someone left a cake out in the rain.

The whole structure is symbolic, so to get the most from your visit, take a tour or bring a good guide book. And be sure to ascend the tower for unforgettable views and photographs of the spires and Barcelona. An elevator takes you most of the way, but there are still some stairs to climb and the trip is not recommended for claustrophobics.

Gaudi is buried in the crypt and there’s also a museum showing various stages of construction of the church.

Those who’d like to see more modernisme can take the 25 Parada Bus to Hospital de la Santa Creu i de Sant Pau. Designed by Domenech i Montaner in 1902, the hospital features 48 Mudejar-style pavilions linked by lovely gardens and underground passageways. Visitors are free to stroll the gardens and courtyards enjoying the mosaics, murals, stained glass, and sculptures.

From the hospital, you can take the 24 Parada Bus or the red Bus Turistic to Parc Guell.

Although Gaudi’s plans for a garden city here were never realized -- only two houses were built -- the fantastic park itself is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The 50-acre complex includes the Room of a Hundred Columns, the Gran Placa Circular, and two pavilions decorated with mosaics. Also in Parc Guell is the Casa-Museu Gaudi, which occupies the house where he lived for 20 years.

Visitors and locals enjoy the fanciful dragons and lizards, as well as the views of the city.

When you’re beat, have something cool to drink before heading back to your hotel for a siesta.

For dinner, head to Barceloneta, Port Olympic, or Port Vell for seafood and water views.

After dinner, treat yourself to a dose of Latin music and dancing at La Paloma, a popular dance hall since the turn of the century. If you want to salsa, try Antilla Barcelona, Sabor Cubano, or Terrasamba. And if you’re a jazz fan, go to Harlem Jazz Club in the Barri Gotic.

Day 3 - Barcelona

This morning, stop off at La Boqueria for breakfast and then head to Palau Guell, one of the few private residences designed by Gaudi that is open to the public. Built between 1886 and 1889 for a textile baron -- the same one who commissioned the park -- Palau Guell is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Designed with money as no object, Palau Guell allowed Gaudi to articulate his unique artistic vision without restraint. The dark, Gothic interior features parabolic arches, balustrades, and fireplaces created from the finest available materials such as Brazilian rosewood.

The ceiling of the Great Parlor is nearly seven stories tall and the basement contains stables and grooms’ quarters. The roof garden with its fantastic chimneys is another highlight. The tours here are very informative and enjoyable.

Palau Guell is currently closed for renovations until October 2006.

After you’ve seen Palau Guell, head for Montjuic. It’s a steep climb to the top of the hill, but there are several ways to get there, including funicular and cable car. In addition to wonderful views of the city, Montjuic has world-class museums and lovely gardens.

For the best views, take the cable cars from the funicular station up to the Castle which now houses a military museum. Not worth visiting unless you’re interested in arms and Spanish military history.

From there, you can walk down the hill to the Fundacio Joan Miro. The building, designed by Miro’s friend Josep Lluis Sert, uses natural light to show Miro’s painting and tapestries to best advantage. Most of the work here was donated by the artist, so many of his finest pieces are here. Traveling exhibits of other artists’ work are also displayed.

Not far from the Fundacio Joan Miro, the Museu Arqueologic is housed in the Palace of Graphic Arts built for the 1929 International Exhibition. There are artifacts here from Greco-Roman, Carthaginian, and Visigothic periods.

Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in the National Palace built for the 1929 exposition contains one of the finest collections of Romanesque art in the world. The 12th-century frescoes here were removed from churches in the Catalan Pyrenees. The collections of Gothic altarpieces and wood carvings are also outstanding. This is the most important art museum in Barcelona.

Poble Espanyol was built to recreate architectural styles from throughout Spain for the 1929 world’s fair. Today, the 116 buildings are filled with craftsmen and their crafts. Although some people find Poble Espanyol too touristy, it is a good place to find top-quality crafts from throughout the country -- though you won’t find any bargains. There are also lots of places to eat and drink.

Also on Montjuic is the German Pavilion that Mies van der Rohe designed for the 1929 International Exhibition. The stunning glass and polished stone structure was reconstructed in 1986, the centenary of the modern master’s birth. It was here that Mies introduced his elegant "Barcelona Chair."

At the base of Montjuic, placa d’Espanya is where you’ll find Font Magica de Montjuic, the fabulous fountains that are illuminated every evening. Come back after 9PM some evening to enjoy a musical performance.

When you’re through exploring Monjuic, do a little shopping. Spain’s finest department store, El Corte Ingles, is on Placa de Catalunya. And there are many charming small shops on Passeig de Gracia.

Start your evening at one of Barcelona’s Xampanyerias or champagne bars. Spanish Cava is every bit the equal of its French cousin and you can sample many accompanied by tapas at La Folie, or El Xampanyet.

If you can, attend a performance at the Palau de la Musica Catalana or the Gran Teatre del Liceu and then have a late supper in the Barri Gotic at Los Caracoles or Agut.

Day 4 - Barcelona

There’s still lots to see and do in Barcelona, so you’ll need to pick and choose, based on your interests.

Bargain hunters will want to visit Els Encants, Barcelona’s best flea market, on the corner of Placa de la Glories.

Art lovers can choose between the Picasso Museum which has an outstanding collection of the Spanish artist’s early work, the Contemporary Art Museum and Center for Contemporary Culture, and the Monestir de Pedralbes with its fine collection of Renaissance art including Fra Angelico’s "Virgin of Humility."

Those interested in the sea and its creatures will want to visit the Museu Maritim and L’Aquarium de Barcelona, the largest aquarium in Europe. And those who want to spend some time outdoors can head for Parc de la Ciutadella where boats and bikes are available to rent. Also in the park is the Museu de Zoologia which was designed by Domenech i Montaner, the Museu de Geologia, the Museu d’Art Modern which showcases Catalan art from the 19th and 20th centuries, and the Parc Zoologic.

Barcelona’s loveliest church -- Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar -- has a beautiful 15th-century rose window and superb accoustics. It is just off Carrer Montcada, the most medieval street in the Barri Gotic. The more interesting than you’d think Textile Museum is at Number 12. It has an atmospheric cafe inside.

For your last night in Barcelona, have a cocktail at Boadas. Then have dinner at Agua, Tragaluz, or Beltxenea. If you’re not going to Seville this trip and want to see some flamenco, stop by Los Tarantos after dinner. And if you haven’t seen the fountains yet, be sure to swing by on the way back to your hotel.


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Day 5 - Cardona

Pick up your rental car this morning.

Leave Barcelona via the A2 in the direction of Lleda. Then take N11 outside Martorell to C1411 and follow the signs to Monistrol village. If you follow the twisting, turning road up the hill to the monastery, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views. Otherwise, you can take the cable car up from Monistrol.

The Monastery of Montserrat ("serrated mountains") is the holiest site in Catalonia, and one of the most spectacular. Thousands make a pilgrimage to the 4,055-ft mountain each year to visit La Moreneta, the Black Madonna who is the patron saint of Catalonia. The monastery itself dates from the 9th century, though it was destroyed and rebuilt in the 19th century.

Highlights here include the domed basilica with its exquisite enamel altarpiece, and the old and new museums which contain paintings by Caravaggio, El Greco, Dali, and Monet, as well as some interesting ancient artifacts.

The monastery is surrounded by caves and chapels, notably the Santa Cova or Holy Grotto where the Black Madonna was allegedly discovered.

There are shops and restaurants in the complex, so take time to enjoy the unforgettable location. You can take a funicular to Saint Joan ridge for terrific photos of the monastery and the massif.

When you’re ready, return to C1411 and drive to Cardona. The little village is dominated by a castle built to protect the Cardona family’s salt mines. The fortress is now one of Spain’s most striking paradors and it’s a great place to stay.

The 11th-century Esglesia de Sant Vicenc is next to the castle. The Dukes of Cardona, constables to the Crown of Aragon, are buried here.

Have dinner tonight at the Parador.


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Day 6 - La Seu d’Urgell

This morning, drive 15 minutes to the ancient village of Solsona. Inside the nine remaining towers and three gateways of Solsona’s medieval ramparts there are many noble houses, as well as a cathedral begun in the 12th century.

The Diocesan Museum in the Palau Episcopal contains some fine paintings, frescoes, and altar pieces, and there’s an interesting museum about the salt trade. The salt mine has reopened and those who are interested may tour it too.

If you’re up for a picnic, shop for supplies in Solsona, then drive to Basella and follow the Segre River to Embaise de Oliana, an aquamarine reservoir. You can find lovely picnic spots on the reservoir or at Coll de Nargo and Organya at the north end of the lake.

There are nice walks in the area, so if you’re ready to stretch your legs, enjoy the fresh mountain air and beautiful scenery.

When you’re ready, drive La Seu d’Urgell, your gateway for exploring the Pyrenees. With snow-capped peaks reaching nearly 10,000 feet, villages dating back to Roman times, and more than 100 lakes, the Pyrenees are one of Spain’s most beautiful, and unexplored, regions.

Situated in a gorgeous valley at the foot of the Cadi Range, La Seu was made a bishopric in the 6th century and the feuding between the bishops and the neighboring counts eventually led to the formation of Andorra.

The Tourist Office near the Town Hall on Placa del Oms has information about activities in the area and hikes in Cadi Moixero Nature Park. The town itself is so quiet, you might not believe that the canoeing events for the 1992 Olympics were held here.

The Romanesque Cathedral of Santa Maria dates back to the 12th century and has a lovely cloister and a Romanesque statue of Santa Maria d’Urgell. The Museu Diocesa here is also worth visiting for its medieval manuscripts, Romanesque, and Gothic art.

La Seu is a fantastic destination for anyone who enjoys water sports. You can raft the Olympic whitewater course in an inflatable dinghy or descend the course in a water sleigh or sea-kayak. You can rent a canoe or row boat to float down the calm water course and mountain bikes are also available.

If the weather’s fine, make a point of visiting Parc Olympic and getting out on a boat.

Have dinner tonight at the Parador.

Day 7 - La Seu d’Urgell

If you’re lucky enough to be in La Seu on Tuesday or Saturday, visit the market in the morning. Cheese, wild mushrooms, and charcuterie are all top quality.

Then, spend the day doing whatever you enjoy. There are fantastic hikes in the two National Reserves adjacent to La Seu. To the north, there’s Cerdana and to the south, Sierra del Cadi. You can access the GR7 and GR3 trails right from La Seu, but the hikes are challenging so check at the tourist information office to make sure you find a walk that’s appropriate for your level of ability.

Even if you opt to drive through the parks, you’ll enjoy pristine natural beauty and unbelievable scenery.

Shoppers may want to drive to Andorra. The tiny principality -- less than 200 square miles -- is ruled by the President of France and the Archbishop of La Seu d’Urgell. Today, the spectacular setting has been marred somewhat by development. But if you’re interested in duty-free shopping, or want to add another country to your list, you may find it worth the brief drive.

If you can get away from the shops of Andorra La Vella, the scenery is fantastic and the country is a paradise for walkers. One of the best trails leads past rustic villages and Romanesque churches to the Cercle de Pesson, a spectacular bowl of lakes.

Catalonia’s only national park, Parc Nacional d’Aiguestortes, is a beauty. Though small by our standards, it’s filled with lakes and twisting streams, waterfalls and tarns. There are dozens of gorgeous walks here for hikers of all abilities.

Those who burned plenty of calories today can splurge with dinner at the Michelin-starred restaurant at El Castell hotel.


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Day 8 - Vic

Today’s drive is marked by beautiful scenery, so after breakfast at your hotel, take the N260 east to Puigcerda. With its pretty main square and balconied houses, the town, which overlooks the 9,500-ft mountains of the French/Spanish region known as Cerdanya is worth exploring. The 15th-century Ajuntament and 13th-century churches of Sant Domenec and Santa Maria are highlights.

From Puigcerda, take N152 east past the ski resort of Molina to Ribes de Freser, a cute little town on the River Freser. If you’re interested, there’s a funicular ride from Ribes de Freser up to Nuria. The 45-minute ride travels through pine forests and past mountains peaks.

Nine miles south of Ribes de Freser, Ripoli is best known for its 9th-century Monastery of Santa Maria. The Romanesque carvings on the portal here are some of the best in Spain. The two-story cloister is also original, though much of the monastery was reconstructed in the 19th century.

Ripoli also has mountain bike rentals available.

When you’re through exploring, continue on N152 south to Vic, at the confluence of the Meder and Gurri rivers. If you’re staying at the Parador, you’ll reach it before entering Vic. It’s off the C153 road to Roda de Ter. If the weather’s fine, have a swim after getting checked in.

Have dinner tonight at your hotel, and be sure to try the local sausages, which are a specialty of the area.

Day 9 - Vic

If you’re here on Tuesday or Saturday, start your day at the local market in the large Placa Mayor. The Gothic main square is colorful and lively and lined with arcades. Take time to explore the winding alleys and hidden plazas off the Placa Mayor. Those interested in ancient history may want to seek out the remains of a Roman temple dating from the 2nd century AD.

Vic’s Cathedral, which was begun in the 11th century, is covered with murals by Josep Maria Sert. The retable or altarpiece dates from the 15th century.

Across from the Cathderal, the Museu Episcopal de Vic has one of the finest collections of Romanesque and Gothic art in the country. There are simple wooded panels, 11th- and 12th-century frescoes and some superb altarpieces.

If you’re still interested in spending your time outdoors, Santa Fe del Montseny is an interesting sidetrip from Vic. The drive through mountains and lush forests is beautiful. And there are many gorgeous walks from the village, which is perched at 3,610 feet.

For dinner tonight, try Floriac in a 16th-century farmhouse surrounded by woods.


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Day 10 - Cadaques

After breakfast at your hotel -- or at the market -- head out on C153 to Olot, a market town surrounded by the remains of extinct volcanoes. An earthquake here in 1474 destroyed much of the town’s medieval history, but Olot flourished again as a textile center in the 18th century and you can tour the Museu Comarcal de la Garrotxa which contains work from the town’s historic School of Art.

Not far from Olot, Besalu is a wonderful medieval town on the Riu Fluvia. The old fortified bridge across the river serves as the main entrance to the town, which once served as the capital of the Garrotxa region.

Allow some time to explore the narrow streets and medieval houses. The Tourist Office has keys to all the city’s attractions, which include the Romanesque churches of Sant Vicenc and Sant Pere and one of three surviving Jewish baths in Europe. It dates from 1264.

When it’s time for lunch, gather up some supplies and head for Banyoles, the azure lake south of town where the Olympic rowing contests were held in 1992.

After lunch, take N260 north to Figueres, where Salvador Dali was born in 1954. The Dali Museum is the indisputable highlight of a visit here. And even those who are not fans of his work should plan to visit this stunning museum. Only the Prado has more visitors each year.

With its glass-domed ceiling and dramatic installations, the museum, which is housed in an old theater, is as much a work of art as any of the paintings it contains. Don’t miss it.

Also in Figueres is a toy museum with exhibits from all over Catalonia.

When you’re through exploring Figueres, take C260 to Cadaques, your base for the next two nights. Although it’s only 25 miles, the trip takes an hour.

Cadaques’s remoteness -- it’s reached by a single, winding road -- has helped to preserve it and it’s one of the few unspoiled towns left on the Costa Brava. The little white-washed fishing village retains all it original charm and you’ll want to explore each of its cobalt coves and pebbly beaches.

The town’s narrow streets are lined with chic galleries, boutiques, and restaurants. For dinner, try Can Pelayo behind Placa Port Alguer or Es Trull.

Day 11 - Cadaques

You can spend the day doing absolutely nothing but enjoying the scenery in Cadaques. The combination of colorful fishing boats, deep blue sea, and brilliant sky make this one of the most beautiful spots in Spain.

If you’d like to do a little more, you can walk to the tiny village of Port Lligat, where Salvador Dali constructed a bizarre home on the site of several fishermen’s houses. You can tour the house, where he lived for 30 years, but you must make reservations in advance.

Art lovers will also want to visit the Centre d’Art Perrot-Moore and the Museu d' Art Municipal where more works by the surrealist master are displayed.

Those who want to spend the day enjoying the water should head for Roses, just a couple of miles from Cadaques. You’ll find every conceivable water sport here as well as the longest beaches on the Costa Brava.

History buffs should visit the ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Empuries at Ampurias, one of the most important archaeological sites in Spain. There are three separate settlements here built between the 3rd and 7th centuries BC. Visitors can explore several temples and the remains of the agora in the Greek New Town and two villas and a forum in the Roman town.

For dinner this evening, splurge at La Galliota or El Bulli on the Cape of Montjoi, one of the top restaurants in Spain.


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Day 12 - Costa Brava

Get an early start this morning so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy Girona, one of Spain’s most charming medieval cities. As with most Spanish cities, parking and driving in Girona are challenges, so park your car in the lot off A on the river and explore the city on foot.

Girona, which was occupied by Iberians, Romans, and Moors before being retaken by Charlemagne in 785, is divided in two by the River Onar. The tall, pastel buildings of the Old Town line the east bank of the river and most of Girona’s attractions are on this side.

The narrow streets and hidden squares have changed little since the middle ages, so enjoy stepping back in time. The old city walls have been turned into the Passeig Arqueologic, or archaeological walk, which leads around the city.

Perched atop a 90-step staircase, Girona’s Cathedral is one of the finest in Catalonia. Begun in 1416, the church is Gothic with the exception of the west facade which is Catalan Baroque. At 75 feet, the nave is the widest in the world and the marble throne behind the altar is known as "Charlemagne’s Chair." The jewell-encrusted silver and enamel altarpiece in the chancel is exquisite.

The museum inside the Cathedral contains the 12th-century "Tapestry of the Creation," many Romanesque paintings and sculptures, and a 10th-century illuminated manuscript.

The adjoining 12th-century cloisters are also worth a visit.

The Palau Episcopal or Bishop’s Palace next door houses the Museu d’Art, which is one of Catalonia’s best galleries. The museum exhibits work from Romanesque times to the present, including a 10th-century silver altar.

When it’s time for lunch, try Bronsoms on Sant Francesc or Cal Ros off Placa de la Llibertat.

The mis-named Banys Arabs or Arab Baths were actually built in the 12th century, 300 years after the Moors had left the area. The Romanesque/Moorish design is striking and the baths are lit with a beautiful octagonal lantern.

Esglesia de Sant Pere de Galligants -- the Church of St. Peter of the Cock Crows -- now houses the town’s archaeological collection. And Esglesia de Sant Feliu contains eight Roman sarcophagi.

If you’re interested in shopping, Girona offers some of the best around, particularly on carrer Santa Clara and Rambla Llibertat.

When you’re through exploring Girona, take C255 or C250 east to the coast. Though this part of the Costa Brava is overdeveloped, you’ll still be able to enjoy the charms of the area if you base yourself in Begur-Aiguablava, S’Agaro, or Tossa del Mar, away from the main tourist meccas. Especially if you come off season.

After settling into your hotel, enjoy a swim or a walk along the beach.

For dinner, try Bahia, Can Tonet, or Castell Vell in Tossa or any of the restaurants at Hostal de la Gavina in S’Agaro or the Parador Costa Brava.

Day 13 - Costa Brava

Tossa is the most appealing town on this stretch of the Costa Brava, so if you want a day of sightseeing, go there. Otherwise, you can just lie by the pool or on the beach.

The drive between Sant Feliu and Tossa is one of the most scenic on the Costa Brava -- and one of the most challenging. As the road climbs through groves of pine and cork, the views are absolutely breathtaking, but you’ll need to pay attention as the road twists and turns atop the clifftops.

This area also offers the best ferry trips, so if you enjoy being on the water, cruise from Sant Feliu to Tossa, explore the town, and then return by ferry. There are three sailings a day and the trip is highly recommended. The scenery is fantastic.

Marc Chagall, who visiting here in 1934, called Tossa, "The Blue Paradise." If you enjoy his art, you’ll find the only one of his paintings in Spain at the Museu de la Vila Vela, in the Old Quarter.

With its narrow cobbled streets, brilliant flower boxes, and medieval houses, the Old Quarter is a lovely place for a stroll. The massive walls encircling the quarter and their turrets date from the 12th century.

It’s worth climbing up Tossa’s largest hill to the lighthouse for the splendid views. And there are three small beaches here for those who want to hit the water.

Paseo del Mar is the town’s main promenade and you’ll find several restaurants, bars, and shops there.

Those who are interested in gardens and gardening may want to visit the Botanical Gardens of Mar i Murta where there are more than 7,000 species of Mediterranean and tropical plants. The gardens are just beyond the harbor in Blanes.

Walkers will enjoy the Avinguda de Mar, a cliffside path joining the towns of Calella de Palafrugell and Llafranc. The walk provides unforgettable views -- and photo ops -- over the bays.

Have a special dinner tonight at Es Moli in Tossa. Be sure to make reservations in advance. Then take a beachside stroll before bed.

Tossa has the best nighlife on the Costa Brava, so if that’s your cup of tea, check with the concierge at your hotel to find out which clubs are the current hot spots.

Day 14 - Barcelona

You don’t have far to drive this morning, so take advantage of it and sleep in.

When you’re ready to return to Barcelona, if you’re in no particular hurry, you can take the scenic route along the coast, stopping in Arenys de Mar, a pretty little port town, for lunch.

Otherwise, you can take A7/E15 back to Barcelona for your flight homeward.