74 Best Sights in Catalonia, Valencia, and the Costa Blanca, Spain

Albufera Nature Park

Fodor's choice

This beautiful freshwater lagoon was named by Moorish poets—albufera means "the sun's mirror." The park is a nesting site for more than 300 bird species, including herons, terns, egrets, ducks, and flamingos. Bird-watching companies offer boat rides all along the Albufera. You can also explore the park on foot or by bike. 


Fodor's choice

The Begur coast is dotted with idyllic swimming coves and sandy beaches, from the northernmost Platja del Racó south to Aiguablava, its loveliest strand, framed by rugged cliffs and pine trees. Parking can be limited, so it’s best to take advantage of the shuttle bus that leaves from Begur’s Plaça Forgas, near the main tourist office, and drops you at the three main beaches: Sa Tuna, Sa Riera, and Aiguablava. A coastal footpath, the Camí de Ronda, links many of the beaches and coves. 

Cap de Creus

Fodor's choice

Northeast of Cadaqués, Spain's easternmost point is a fundamental pilgrimage, if only for the symbolic geographical rush. The hike out to the lighthouse—through rosemary, thyme, and the salt air of the Mediterranean—is unforgettable. The Pyrenees officially end (or rise) here. New Year's Day finds mobs of revelers awaiting the first emergence of the "new" sun from the Mediterranean.

Gaze down at heart-pounding views of the craggy coast and crashing waves from Bar Restaurant Cap de Creus ( restaurantcapdecreus.com), which sits on a rocky crag above the Cap de Creus. On a summer evening, you may be lucky and stumble upon some live music on the terrace.

Recommended Fodor's Video

Casa Salvador Dalí - Portlligat

Fodor's choice

This was Dalí's summerhouse and a site long associated with the artist's notorious frolics with everyone from poets Federico García Lorca and Paul Éluard to filmmaker Luis Buñuel. Filled with bits of the surrealist's daily life, it's an important point in the "Dalí triangle," completed by the castle at Púbol and the Teatre-Museu Dalí in Figueres.

It's about a 1.1-km (0.6-mile) walk northeast from Cadaqués, or you can take the scenic 3-km (2-mile) walk along the coast. Only small groups of visitors are admitted at any given time, and advance reservations are required.

Portlligat s/n, Cadaqués, 17488, Spain
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €15 or €18 (July and Aug.); advance reservations required, Closed Mon. Feb.–March and Nov.–Dec., Reservations essential

Castillo de Santa Bárbara

Fodor's choice

One of the largest existing medieval fortresses in Europe, Castillo de Santa Bárbara sits atop 545-foot-tall Monte Benacantil. From this strategic position you can gaze out over the city, the sea, and the whole Alicante plain for many miles. Remains from civilizations dating from the Bronze Age onward have been found here; the oldest parts of the castle, at the highest level, are from the 9th through 13th centuries.

The castle also houses the Museo de la Ciudad de Alicante (MUSA), which uses audiovisual presentations and archaeological finds to tell the story of Alicante, its people, and the city's enduring relationship with the sea.

Catedral de Girona

Fodor's choice

At the heart of the Barri Vell, the cathedral looms above 90 steps and is famous for its nave—at 75 feet, the widest in the world and the epitome of the spatial ideal of Catalan Gothic architects. Since Charlemagne founded the original church in the 8th century, it has been through many fires and renovations.

Take in the rococo-era facade, "eloquent as organ music" and impressive flight of 17th-century stairs, which rises from its own plaça. Inside, three smaller naves were compressed into one gigantic hall by the famed architect Guillermo Bofill in 1416. The change was typical of Catalan Gothic "hall" churches, and it was done to facilitate preaching to crowds. Note the famous silver canopy, or baldaquí (baldachin). The oldest part of the cathedral is the 11th-century Romanesque Torre de Carlemany (Charlemagne Tower).

The cathedral's exquisite 12th-century cloister has an obvious affinity with the cloisters in the Roussillon area of France. Inside the Treasury there's a variety of precious objects. They include a 10th-century copy of Beatus's manuscript Commentary on the Apocalypse (illuminated in the dramatically primitive Mozarabic style), the Bible of Emperor Charles V, and the celebrated Tapís de la Creació (Tapestry of the Creation), considered by most experts to be the finest tapestry surviving from the Romanesque era.

Catedral de Valencia

Ciutat Vella Fodor's choice

Valencia's impressive 13th- to 15th-century cathedral is the heart of the old city. The building has three portals—Romanesque, Gothic, and rococo. Inside, Renaissance and baroque marble were removed to restore the original Gothic style, as is now the trend in Spanish churches. The Capilla del Santo Cáliz (Chapel of the Holy Chalice) displays a purple agate vessel purported to be the Holy Grail (Christ's cup at the Last Supper) and thought to have been brought to Spain in the 4th century. Behind the altar is the left arm of St. Vincent, martyred in Valencia in 304.

Stars of the cathedral museum are Goya's two famous paintings of St. Francis de Borja, Duke of Gandia. Left of the entrance is the octagonal tower El Miguelete, whose 207 steps you can climb (entry, €2): from the top, the roofs of the old town create a kaleidoscope of orange and brown terra-cotta, with the sea in the background.

Centre del Carme Cultura Contemporánia (CCCC)

El Carmen Fodor's choice

Occupying a 13th-century Cistercian monastery in the old city’s bohemian Carmen quarter, this arts center showcases contemporary art juxtaposed against a historical setting. Rotating exhibitions featuring paintings, sculpture, and video installations take place in marvelously dramatic spaces, including a 13th-century monks’ dormitory and an ancient Gothic cloister.

Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències

Fodor's choice

Designed mainly by native son Santiago Calatrava, this sprawling futuristic complex is the home of Valencia's Museu de les Ciències (Science Museum), Hemisfèric (Hemispheric Planetarium), Oceanogràfic (Oceanographic Park), and Palau de les Arts (Palace of the Arts, an opera house and cultural center). With resplendent buildings resembling crustaceans, the Ciutat appeals to architecture buffs and kids alike.

The Science Museum has soaring platforms filled with lasers, holograms, simulators, hands-on experiments, and a swell "zero gravity" exhibition on space exploration. The eye-shaped planetarium projects 3-D virtual voyages on its huge IMAX screen. At Oceanogràfic (the work of architect Felix Candela), home to one of the largest aquariums in Europe, you can take a submarine ride through a coastal marine habitat.

Buy Tickets Now
Av. del Profesor López Piñero 7, Valencia, 46013, Spain
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Science Museum €8.70, Oceanogràfic €33.70, Hemisfèric €8.70. Combined ticket from €41.90.

El Call

Fodor's choice

Girona is especially noted for its 12th-century Jewish Quarter, El Call, which branches off Carrer de la Força, south of the Plaça Catedral. The quarter is a network of lanes that crisscross above one another, and houses built atop each other in disorderly fashion along narrow stone medieval streets. The earliest presence of Jews in Girona is uncertain, but the first historical mention dates from 982. This once-prosperous community—one of the most flourishing in Europe during the Middle Ages—was, at its height, a leading center of Kabbalistic learning.

La Moreneta

Fodor's choice

The shrine of La Moreneta, one of Catalonia's patron saints, resides in a Benedictine monastery high in the Serra de Montserrat, surrounded by—and dwarfed by the grandeur of—sheer, jagged peaks. The crests above the monastic complex bristle with chapels and hermitages. The shrine and its setting have given rise to countless legends about what happened here: St. Peter left a statue of the Virgin Mary carved by St. Luke, Parsifal found the Holy Grail, and Wagner (who wrote the opera Parsifal) sought musical inspiration here.

The shrine is world famous and one of Catalonia's spiritual sanctuaries, and not just for the monks who reside here—honeymooning couples flock here by the thousands seeking La Moreneta's blessing on their marriages, and twice a year, on April 27 and September 8, the diminutive statue of Montserrat's Black Virgin becomes the object of one of Spain's greatest pilgrimages. Only the basilica and museum are regularly open to the public. The famous Escolania de Montserrat boys' choir sings the Salve and Virulai from the liturgy weekdays at 1 pm and Sunday at noon.

Mercado Central

Fodor's choice

This bustling food market (at nearly 88,000 square feet, one of the largest in Europe) is open from 7:30 am to 3 pm, Monday through Saturday. Locals and visitors alike line up at its more than 1,200 colorful stalls to shop for fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, and confectionery. Hop on a stool at The Central Bar, located in the heart of the throng, and taste award-winning chef Ricard Camarena's casual yet no less tasty take on tapas and bocadillos (sandwiches), while enjoying front-row-seat viewing of the action.

Monasterio de Santa María de Poblet

Fodor's choice

Founded in 1150 by Ramón Berenguer IV in gratitude for the Christian Reconquest, the monastery first housed a dozen Cistercians from Narbonne. Later, the Crown of Aragón used Santa Maria de Poblet for religious retreats and burials. The building was damaged in an 1836 anticlerical revolt, and monks of the reformed Cistercian Order have managed the difficult task of restoration since 1940. Today, a community of 25 monks and novices still pray before the splendid retable over the tombs of Aragonese rulers, restored to their former glory by sculptor Frederic Marès.

Museo de Bellas Artes

Trinitat Fodor's choice

Valencia was a thriving center of artistic activity in the 15th century—one reason that the city's Museum of Fine Arts, with its lovely palm-shaded cloister, is among the best in Spain. Its permanent collection includes many of the finest paintings by Jacomart and Juan Reixach, members of the group known as the Valencian Primitives, as well as work by Hieronymus Bosch—or El Bosco, as they call him here. The ground floor has a number of brooding, 17th-century Tenebrist masterpieces by Francisco Ribalta and his pupil José Ribera, a Diego Velázquez self-portrait, and a room devoted to Goya.

The museum is at the edge of the Jardines del Real (Royal Gardens; open daily 8–dusk), with its fountains, rose gardens, tree-lined avenues, and small zoo. To get here, cross the old riverbed by the Puente de la Trinidad (Trinity Bridge) to the north bank. 

Museu d'Història dels Jueus

Fodor's choice

Housed in a former synagogue, this museum examines the history, daily life, and artistic and cultural traditions of Catalonia's Jewish communities in medieval times, with a focus on Girona.  A highlight is the 21 stone tablets, one of the finest collections in the world of medieval Jewish funerary slabs. These came from the old Jewish cemetery of Montjuïc, revealed when the railroad between Barcelona and France was laid out in the 19th century.

The museum organizes conferences, exhibitions, and seminars. It also contains the Institut d'Estudis Nahmànides, with an extensive library of Judaica.

Museu del Cau Ferrat

Fodor's choice

This is the most interesting museum in Sitges, established by the bohemian artist and cofounder of El Quatre Gats café in Barcelona, Santiago Rusiñol (1861–1931), and containing some of his own paintings together with works by El Greco and Picasso. Connoisseurs of wrought iron will love the beautiful collection of cruces terminales, crosses that once marked town boundaries. 

Passeig Maritim

Fodor's choice

A focal point of Sitges life, this 1½-mile-long esplanade is an iconic pedestrianized beachfront promenade that sweeps along the bay of Sitges. It's backed by upmarket villas, boutique hotels, restaurants, and bars.

Pont Fortificat

Fodor's choice

The town's most emblematic feature is this Romanesque 11th-century fortified bridge with crenellated battlements spanning the Riu Fluvià.

Sant Pere de Rodes

Fodor's choice

The monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes, 7 km (4½ miles) by car (plus a 20-minute walk) above the pretty fishing village of El Port de la Selva, is a spectacular site. Built in the 10th and 11th centuries by Benedictine monks—and sacked and plundered repeatedly since—this restored Romanesque monolith commands a breathtaking panorama of the Pyrenees, the Empordà plain, the sweeping curve of the Bay of Roses, and Cap de Creus. (Topping off the grand trek across the Pyrenees, Cap de Creus is a spectacular six-hour walk from here on the well-marked GR11 trail.)

In July and August, the monastery is the setting for the annual Festival Sant Pere (www.festivalsantpere.com), drawing top-tier classical musicians from all over the world. Find event listings online; phone for reservations or to book a post-concert dinner in the monastery's refectory-style restaurant (972/194233).

Teatre-Museu Dalí

Fodor's choice

"Museum" was not a big enough word for Dalí, so he christened his monument a theater. In fact, the building was once the Força Vella theater, reduced to a ruin in the Spanish Civil War. Now topped with a glass geodesic dome and studded with Dalí's iconic egg shapes, the multilevel structure pays homage to his fertile imagination and artistic creativity. It includes gardens, ramps, and a spectacular drop cloth Dalí painted for Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. Don't look for his greatest paintings here, although there are some memorable images, including Gala at the Mediterranean, which takes the body of Gala (Dalí's wife) and morphs it into the image of Abraham Lincoln once you look through coin-operated viewfinders.

The sideshow theme continues with other coin-operated pieces, including Taxi Plujós (Rainy Taxi), in which water gushes over the snail-covered occupants sitting in a Cadillac once owned by Al Capone, or Sala de Mae West, a trompe-l'oeil vision in which a pink sofa, two fireplaces, and two paintings morph into the face of the onetime Hollywood sex symbol. Fittingly, another "exhibit" on view is Dalí's own crypt.

Buy Tickets Now
Pl. Gala-Salvador Dalí 5, Figueres, 17600, Spain
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €17 (€20 in July and Aug.), Closed Mon. except July and Aug. and public holidays

Vila Vella and Castillo de Tossa de Mar

Fodor's choice

Listed as a national artistic-historic monument in 1931, Tossa de Mar's Vila Vella (Old Town) is the only remaining example of a fortified medieval coastal town in Catalonia. Set high above the town on a promontory, the Old Town is presided over by the ramparts and towers of the 13th-century Castillo de Tossa de Mar, and is a steep yet worthy climb up from the main town, accessed from the western side of Platja Gran (Playa Grande).

The cliff-top views, particularly at sunset, are remarkable, and the labyrinth of narrow, cobblestone lanes lined with ancient houses (some dating back to the 14th century) is a delight to explore at a leisurely pace.  Bar el Far de Tossa, near the lighthouse, has some of the best views in town, plus drinks, snacks, and light meals.


Tarragona, the Emperor Augustus's favorite winter resort, had arguably the finest amphitheater in Roman Iberia, built in the 2nd century AD for gladiatorial and other contests. The remains have a spectacular view of the sea. You're free to wander through the access tunnels and along the tiers of seats. In the center of the theater are the remains of two superimposed churches, the earlier of which was a Visigothic basilica built to mark the bloody martyrdom of St. Fructuós and his deacons in AD 259.


Constructed between 1696 and 1780, the town hall is a beautiful example of baroque civic architecture. Inside, a gold sculpture by Salvador Dalí of San Juan Bautista holding the famous cross and shell rises to the second floor in the stairwell. Ask gate officials for permission to explore the ornate halls and rococo chapel on the first floor. Look for the plaque on the first step of the staircase that indicates the exact sea level, used to define the rest of Spain's altitudes "above sea level."

Pl. de Ayuntamiento, Alicante, 03002, Spain
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Closed weekends, Free

Banys Arabs

The Banys Arabs were actually built by Morisco craftsmen (workers of Moorish descent) in the late 12th century, long after Girona's Islamic occupation (714–797) had ended. Following the old Roman model that had disappeared in the West, the custom of bathing publicly may have been brought back from the Holy Land with the Crusaders. These baths are sectioned off into three rooms in descending order: a frigidarium, or cold bath, a square room with a central octagonal pool and a skylight with cupola held up by two stories of eight fine columns; a tepidarium, or warm bath; and a caldarium, or steam room, beneath which is a chamber where a fire was kept burning. Here the inhabitants of old Girona came to relax, exchange gossip, or do business.

Basílica de Sant Feliu

One of Girona's most beloved churches and its first cathedral until the 10th century, Sant Feliu was repeatedly rebuilt and altered over four centuries and stands today as an amalgam of Romanesque columns, a Gothic nave, and a baroque facade. The vast bulk of this structure is landmarked by one of Girona's most distinctive belfries, topped by eight pinnacles. The basilica was founded over the tomb of St. Felix of Africa, a martyr under the Roman emperor Diocletian.

Pujada de Sant Feliu 29, Girona, 17004, Spain
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €7.50 (includes Girona Cathedral)

Basílica de Santa María

Constructed in a Gothic style over the city's main mosque between the 14th and 16th century, this is Alicante's oldest house of worship. The main door is flanked by beautiful baroque stonework by Juan Bautista Borja, and the interior highlights are the golden rococo high altar, a Gothic image in stone of St. Mary, and a sculpture of Sts. Juanes by Rodrigo de Osona.


Sitges’s coastline counts around 18 beaches, with many being easily accessible by foot from the old town. The most central, and hence the busiest, are Ribera and Fragata. Neighboring Bassa Rodona is a popular gay beach. Quieter, more family-friendly beaches are Sant Sebastià, to the east, which also has a large playground, and at the far western edge, Terramar, with a swimming cove that allows for calm, protected swimming.

Casa Museo Castellarnau

This Gothic palauet (town house) built by Tarragona nobility in the 15th century includes stunning furnishings from the 18th and 19th centuries. The last member of the Castellarnau family vacated the house in 1954. The museum's highlight is the ballroom, whose ceiling is decorated with mythological motifs by the 18th-century Provençal painter Josep Bernat Flaugier.

Casa Museo José Benlliure

The modern Valencian painter and sculptor José Benlliure (1858–1937) is known for his intimate portraits and massive historical and religious paintings, many of which hang in Valencia's Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts). Here in his elegant house and studio are 50 of his works, including paintings, ceramics, sculptures, and drawings. Also on display are works by his son, Pepino, who painted in the small, flower-filled garden in the back of the house, and iconographic sculptures by Benlliure's brother, the well-known sculptor Mariano Benlliure.

Calle Blanquerías 23, Valencia, 46003, Spain
Sights Details
Rate Includes: €2; free Sun., Closed Mon.

Castell de Sant Ferran

Just a minute's drive northwest of Figueres is this imposing 18th-century fortified castle, one of the largest in Europe—only when you start exploring can you appreciate how immense it is. The parade grounds extend for acres, and the arcaded stables can hold more than 500 horses; the perimeter is roughly 4 km (2½ miles around). This castle was the site of the last official meeting of the Republican parliament (on February 1, 1939) before it surrendered to Franco's forces. Ironically, it was here that Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero was imprisoned after his failed 1981 coup d'état in Madrid.

Call ahead and arrange for the two-hour Catedral de l'Aiguas guided tour in English (€15), which includes a trip through the castle's subterranean water system by Zodiac pontoon boat.

Buy Tickets Now