Northern Spain

Barcelona

The region around Barcelona has more than five million residents and architecture dating from Roman times to medieval, gothic and modern.

One of the most popular activities in the city is to take a walk along Las Ramblas, a boulevard which runs from the city centre to the waterfront, filled with florists, bird sellers, street performers, restaurants and cafes, as well as the world-famous Opera House El Liceu, a food market and Placa Reial – Royal Square filled with arches and palm trees. 

 

 

Touring around the city and you will find plenty of fantastic sights and activities, including the Maritime Museum - medieval shipyards used for the building of ships that sailed to the Mediterranean; parliament house; the zoo; and Barrio Gotico district – the medieval/gothic centre of the city where antique dealers hide among one of the most impressive gothic cathedrals, Cathedral de la Santa Crue. 

 

 

By far the most unique buildings in Barcelona are the work of architect Antoni Gaudi, including Park Guell is a unique garden estate and park, famed for its ceramic mosaics and myriad of organically-shaped beams and vaults; Casa Batllo, a city residence with balconies that seem to move, interesting-looking chimneys and an undulating roof; and The La Pedrera Building, a celebration of flowing living forms proving that internal walls were not needed – only intertwined metal girders and vaults supported by columns. 

 

 

The most extraordinary is the still-unfinished church of Sagrada Familia, which has been under construction since 1882. Gaudi had even lived in the church in the last years of his life to try and finish it, but he died after being hit by a tram in 1926, and it was almost impossible for anyone to match his exceptional craftsmanship. Today there are around 10 architects and sculptures trying to finish Gaudi’s work and the church is expected to be complete in 2020 – almost 100 years after his death.

 

 

For fantastic views of the entire city and coast, head to Montjuic Hill, next to the harbour above a large container terminal. At the top is an old fortress and around the hill you’ll be able to explore Olympic Stadium, the Sports Palae and the Botanical Gardens. 

SAN SEBASTIAN

San Sebastian is a quiet ocean town, on the Bay of Biscay, close to the French border. San Sebastian was originally a small fishing village where whales were hunted and cod were fished. It was also a thriving port, importing wines and oil for France and England.

 

It is a popular summer destination for its beaches, La Concha – considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe; Ondarreta – which stands at the foot of Mount Igeldo and is more aristocratic with villas and gardens leading to the sand; and La Zurriola – found on the right bank of the river. In summer, Santa Clara Island, a small island in the La Concha Bay, is open to tourists as a fourth beach.

 

Take a walk along the esplanade, enjoy some delicious fresh seafood, hit some of the local bars, explore and relax. San Sebastian is a town that will suit everyone.

PAMPLONA

Pamplona is a medieval town with cobble stoned streets which is probably most famous for its annual San Fermin festival – the Running of the Bulls. 

 

The Running of the Bulls is held in July and was actually born out of necessity to transfer bulls from outside the town to the bullring. By the late 1800s it was a well-established tradition. 

 

Take a walk through the streets (being careful on the stones) and you will find there are many beautiful gothic and medieval buildings around the city. You might also like to visit Plaza de Toros, a bullring near the Arga River, which is home to some of Spain’s most important bullfights.

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