Huge range of popular Catalan traditions. The one that most accurately reflects local character – working together, tenacity, and daring – is probably the castles or human towers. Other traditions have more of a festive character, among these the gegants or giants, present in many places, from villages to cities, and the correfoc, a celebration of gunpowder and fire that goes back to pagan mythology.
This latter celebration, closely linked to solstices and summer celebrations, turns the streets of Barcelona into a sea of fire where lights, flames, and sparks fly to bathe the night in the most brilliant colors. As a metaphor, it alludes to the briefness and finite nature of human existence, and can also be seen as an element in defining the local character – pragmatic, always ready to negotiate, and taking everything with a pinch of salt.
Groundings of breathtaking natural beauty, not forgetting the rivers where many adventure sports such as white-water rafting are practiced. The Costa Brava, with its rugged landscape and benign climate, is much appreciated as a holiday center. It is ideal for both water-sports enthusiasts and those who prefer to dedicate their leisure time to sunbathing and relaxation. There are many enchanting towns along the coastline, such as Cadaques and Calella de Palafrugell, where old-style traditions rub shoulders with modern facilities.
At the same time, the Costa Brava has a rich cultural heritage, the Museu Dali in Figueres being one of the most visited centers. Here, a great collection of the surrealist artist’s work is housed, and a visit to this museum forms part of a Dali circuit, along with his houses at Port Lligat and Pubol. Closer to Barcelona lies the impressive massif of Montserrat, carved and eroded by wind and rain over the centuries, and considered by the Catalan people to be a holy mountain and spiritual center where the image of the Black Madonna, patron saint of Catalunya, is venerated.
The Monestir de Montserrat with its splendid basilica is home to a notable library and art collection which includes contemporary works. The unmistakable silhouette of Montserrat, rising abruptly from the plain and visible for miles, is one of Catalunya’s most emblematic symbols. South of Barcelona lies the attractive wine-growing region of Penedes, world-famous for its cava ( a local equivalent of champagne ). On its coast, the towns of Sitges and Cambrils have been internationally popular resorts for many years. Also to the south of the city, three important monasteries are to be found: Poblet, Santes Creus, and Vallbona de les Monges, all of great importance to both the secular and spiritual history of the country.
Of a very different nature, the Port Aventura theme park, situated between Salou and Vilaseca, has taken its place among Catalunya’s many attractions. The millions of people who have flocked here since its inauguration in 1995., have made it the second most visited center of its kind in Europe.
In short, Catalunya offers the visitor a wide and often simultaneous spectrum of possibilities: from natural beauty spots to service industries, from winter sports to the pleasures of summer by the sea, from consumer goods to culture, all fruit of privileged resources and several decades of dedication to the development of the tourist industry.