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Woman looking at the sea and the church of Sant Bartomeu in Sitges

Villages in Spain, near Barcelona, between the mountains and the sea

Catalonia

Near Barcelona there are hundreds of places to discover. It’s not only the city itself that’s beautiful. It’s well worth adding a visit to Cadaqués, Sitges and Tossa de Mar to your itinerary. These three villages nestled between the mountains and the sea are waiting for you.  

Cadaqués, the cradle of art

Cadaqués is considered one of the most iconic spots on the Catalan coast. Its beauty was an inspiration to some of the great painters of the 20th century. Salvador Dalí himself, the Spanish painter, sculptor, engraver, set designer and writer, chose to build his eccentric home to the north of Cadaqués, on the bay of Portlligat. His house is now a museum that is well worth a visit. You can see the studio where he worked, and discover 35 years of memories.  To reach the village you’ll need to go to the most easterly part of the peninsula, between the Puig de Paní and Puig de Bufadors mountains in the Alt Empordà region in the province of Girona.  You’ll discover its traditional fishing culture, as for many years the village was totally isolated, with the sea providing the only link to the outside world. Roam narrow whitewashed streets where the balconies overflow with flowers. You’ll find shops selling local handicrafts, and lots of little boats bobbing up and down by the shore. Other places of interest are the castle of Sant Jaume, a 19th century gem; the church of Santa María in the old quarter; and the Cap de Creus Natural Park, with its lighthouse up on high. 

Distant view of Portlligat beach, location of the Salvador Dalí house museum, in Cadaqués

Sitges, a destination for cinema lovers

Sitges, in the Garraf region, is one of the most Art Nouveau-infused towns in the area. At the end of the 19th century, indianos, former emigrants to the Americas, returned newly rich to build summer homes here, so Art Nouveau villas rub shoulders with fishermen’s cottages on the cobbled streets.   On the seafront promenade the church of Sant Bartolomeu sits in a privileged position on high ground, a view that is one of the most iconic images of Sitges.  Nearby you’ll find the Maricel museum. Book a guided tour to see its courtyard, the distinctive blue and white of the walls, hundreds of mosaics, and a magnificent chapel. Afterwards, you could have a quick dip on Balmins, Sant Sebastián, La Ribera or La Barra beaches. 

Views of Sitges beach and the church of Sant Bartomeu, located in the Port of Sitges

Tossa de Mar, a real fortress

Called a ‘blue paradise’ by Marc Chagall, one of the most idiosyncratic French 20th-century painters, Tossa de Mar conceals hundreds of medieval secrets.  The first one that you'll see will be its impressive walled medieval quarter. Inside the walls you can climb up to the Vila Vella, the only remaining fortified medieval village in the area, protected by three towers, the Torre de Joanàs, the Torre del Reloj and the Torre del Codolar.  Be sure to try one of Tossa’s culinary specialities while you’re there - simitomba is a delicious dish of fresh fish with potatoes, garlic, tomato, saffron, olive oil, parsley, salt, and aioli.  Later, you could visit the Roman villa of Ametllers, on the hill of Sant Magí, the cove of Cala Es Codolar, or the beach, Platja Gran. You’ll want to relax after all that walking around!  

Views from the city wall of the historic quarter of Tossa de Mar and its beaches