The Spanish city of Barcelona has bags of Catalonian charm. Works from pioneering architect and modernist mastermind Gaudí are colourfully dotted around the city, it’s home to a long stretch of sandy beach that is awash with happy sun worshippers, and of course endless snaking alleyways with impossibly cool bars spilling out onto the cobblestones. But you can find enchanting architecture, picturesque beaches and flowing sangria elsewhere along the coastline, you just need to know where to look…
Just southwest of Barcelona and set against a dreamy backdrop of mountains that tumble into the sea is the resort town of Sitges. The heart of the town is a labyrinth of winding lanes that lead to vibrant plazas that come to life in the evenings, and the seafront – a wide promenade lined with palms. Its sandy sweeping bay isn’t as long as Barcelona’s main beach, but instead of the modern high rises, Sitges maintains a rustic feel with the spectacular landmark church that frames the seafront.
Whilst Barcelona’s architecture is distinctly modernist, a trip to laid-back Tarragona is like a trip back to the days of the Roman Empire. The town is home to an ancient amphitheatre – an open-air venue once used for sports and plays – that overlooks the sea and beaches of the ‘Golden Coast’. Despite the wealth of eye-opening ruins to be seen, the town isn’t a big destination for tourists. This only adds to Tarragona’s authentic charisma, with rustic seafood restaurants that cater for locals with low prices to match, and vibrant markets.
Tossa de Mar
Sandwiched between the French border and Barcelona is the picturesque terracotta town of Tossa de Mar. A rocky horseshoe bay is framed by jumbled clifftop villages and the beautiful Fortress Vila Vella at one end. The other end of the ‘Blue Beach’ standard bay is home to modern tourist tower-blocks, yet this sunny seaside town is still a far cry from the vast stretches of mammoth coastline that lure tourists with casinos and mega-resorts. By night, the warm glow of lanterns from al fresco bars and restaurants reflect on the cobbled stones, giving the town a romantic feel. Whilst the nightlife isn’t on the same level of neighbouring Lloret de Mar, Tossa still has some vibrant bars with dance floors and flowing sangria.
Image © joan_bautista
Popular amongst Spaniards heading to their own coastline for a beach holiday, Castelldefels enjoys an enviable location on the splendid Costa del Garraf. The castle of Fels from which the town takes its name was once a frontier fortress in the town, originally built to defend the town against intimidating Moorish territories. It features a architectural style and a beautifully decorative entrance. The green rolling hills of Parc del Garraf also provide visitors to this town a much needed break from a coastline that can often be overwhelmingly built up. The beach is a mammoth five kilometres so plenty of sunbathing spots, and there is a pretty marina filled with colourful boats.
Vilanova i la Geltrú
Historically a Spanish fishing port, the city of Vilanova i la Geltru has developed into a fully-fledged tourist hot spot that has kept a firm grasp on its heritage and culture. Rustic and unpretentious unlike some other resorts on this stretch of coastline, the town hosts annual festivals and events where the town springs to life to honour this sense of community. Vilanova’s yearly Carnaval is a celebration of indulgence and involves riotous revellers enjoying feasts, street plays and parades. The town is just down the coast beyond Sitges and there is even a charming coastal walk that takes around two hours.