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Costa Brava vs Barcelona - A holiday guide

You might think that it'd be a clear cut call between holidaying in the beautiful Gothic city of Barcelona and its nearby coastline, the Costa Brava.

But the distinction is very much blurred, with both offering glorious sands, active nightlife and heaps of activities, as well as the option of exploring or just lying back and soaking up the sun.

Our guide helps you decide where to stay and what to do in each area depending on how you like to holiday. And it's good to know that you can easily travel between Costa Brava and Barcelona while you're there.


If you want your holiday to be rich in modern and classic culture, quirky bars and either active or chilled out activities, consider the 'Capital of Cool', Barcelona.

A full-blown city break

There's a lot to fill your days here, starting with the landmark Sagrada Familia – the still-in-progress cathedral of Barcelona's most famous architect, Antoni Gaudi.

Take a guided tour to see the intricate Gothic details or scale the tower to peer out of high-up nooks. Then you have options like seeing komodo dragons, gorillas and hippos at Barcelona's zoo, watching a high-octane match of world-class football at Camp Nou, or going on the Camp Nou experience tour.

And after watching street performers on the street hub that is Las Ramblas, you can make a pitstop in one of the many bars. Later, head to the Gothic Quarter for cooler vibes, and finish your night at Port Olympic's big name clubs, like Opium, that's open until 6am.

Lazily wandering and beach lounging

To take in Barcelona at a slower pace, you can follow a trail to spot more of Antoni Gaudi's one-of-a kind architectural pieces. Passeig de Gracia alone houses the curving stone cut La Pedrera building with iron balconies, and Casa Batllo's Saint George and the dragon iconography.

Or roam around Gaudi's former home and gardens, Park Guell, which he decorated with leaning columned walkways, mosaic dragons and other characteristic Gaudi Art Nouveau features.

If you've a head for heights, you might like to glide up the Teleferico de Montjuic cable car from the port to Montjuic castle. Be sure to stay for the evening Magic Fountains, with huge jets of water lit-up and dancing to music.

And if all that is still too energetic for you, simply head down to one of Barcelona's excellent beaches – there are five kilometres of them stretching from the port northwards.

Costa Brava

This stretch of coast that pans out north of Barcelona is quieter than many of Spain's other Costas, but has energetic resorts where you can explore during the day and let loose in the evenings.

A full-on beach holiday

The most popular resort in Costa Brava, Lloret De Mar is ready for fun-filled, water-based days with 13 beaches and the large WaterWorld waterpark.

Other activities include wandering around the ruins of Castell de Sant Joan or taking on the Arbre Adventura Park treetop obstacle course.

The nightlife capital of the region doesn't disappoint come evening either, with everything from shisha bars and Irish pubs to huge clubs with foam parties like Disco Tropics.

Another busy town, but with a different vibe, Tossa De Mar has a Vila Vella historic centre with a castle for eye candy perched on the end of the bay.

A road train drops you off there and will keep the kids amused, as will the good selection of watersports.

Chilled out natural vibes

If it's all beach and nature that you want, Costa Brava has that too. Calella's craggy coastline houses a long sandy beach with a lighthouse beyond. Or stroll through town to shady Dalmau Park with gardens, walking trails and occasional outdoor concerts.

Peaceful Santa Susanna is right beside the Massif Montnegre National Park where you can mountain bike or walk along beautiful routes.

The town has two kilometres of beach to its name, but if it's far-reaching shores you're after, Malgrat De Mar could be for you. Over four kilometres of sand mean you can walk to a quiet retreat to read a book or play with the kids.

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