2019, Year of Cultural Tourism in Catalonia
The Council of Europe designated 2018 Cultural Heritage Year in a bid to highlight the continent’s artistic and historical heritage. To mark the occasion, the Catalan Tourist Board and the Costa Brava Girona Tourist Board have declared 2019 Year of Cultural Tourism in order to promote and publicise the wealth of culture to be found in the Costa Brava and Girona Pyrenees.
The Costa Brava and Girona Pyrenees are the ideal destination for visitors who want first-hand experience of a land with a strong sense of identity, and who also appreciate the chance to interact with the local people as they go about their daily lives.
The main reasons that attract cultural tourists to the province of Girona are the visits to monuments built by past civilisations and to see contemporary architecture, themed tours and participation in traditional festivities and festivals.
The province’s resources in figures
- 550 heritage sites listed of great interest
- 24 museums and 63 collections throughout the province of Girona
- Over a hundred festivals of nine different genres throughout the year
- Seven popular festivities declared of national interest
- Salvador Dalí’s Dalinian Triangle, with 1,336,207 visitors in 2018
- Ripoll’s Romanesque portal, a candidate for recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2014
- 52,753 spectators at the performing arts festival Temporada Alta 2017
- Projects by RCR, the firm of architects from Olot, who were selected as the 2017 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureates, with 19 of their projects in the province of Girona, 6 in Barcelona and 7 in Europe
A destination which celebrates its roots, popular festivities and genius every day of the year
Over 5,000 years ago, the first inhabitants of the province of Girona left fascinating vestiges scattered throughout the area. From the Albera mountain range inland, the megalithic routes reveal such enigmatic traces as the Creu d’en Cobertella dolmen, the largest in Catalonia, and the Cova d’en Daina dolmen, one of the best preserved megalithic sites in the region.
Before the arrival of the Greeks and the Roman colonisation of the Iberian Peninsula, the Iberians built incredible villages, as can be seen from the settlements at Ullastret, the ruins at Empúries and the Citadelle in Roses.
Similarly, the Middle Ages played an important part in the formation of this region and its society. The Romanesque era left authentic architectural masterpieces, such as the Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes and the Monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll’s portal, numerous superb altarpieces and the extraordinary example of textile art provided by Girona Cathedral’s Creation Tapestry, as well as the Descent from the Cross sculptural representation in the Monastery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses.
In addition to the ubiquitous religious constructions, the castles, towers and forts, together with the villages of Peralada, Castelló d’Empúries, Peratallada, Pals, Tossa de Mar and Santa Pau, all combine to rank the region’s medieval stone architecture as exceptional and uniquely attractive. We cannot conclude this era without mentioning the important legacy left by the Jewish communities, which lives on today in the Jewish Quarters and alleyways of Castelló d’Empúries, Girona and Besalú, with its mikveh, or ritual bath house. It is one of the most important buildings of its kind in Europe and has been declared a National Cultural Heritage Site.
By the end of the nineteenth century, Catalonia had entered the modern era and its towns brimmed with art and beauty. The industrial revolution brought prosperity to the Catalan bourgeoisie, who were enthralled by a colourful style full of undulating forms which utterly pervaded the new form of architecture. Antoni Gaudí, the indisputable master, made the city of Barcelona into a sumptuous showcase of style. In the province of Girona, the streets and buildings of the city were embellished with Rafael Masó’s work, and the Art Nouveau movement reached as far as Caldes de Malavella, with the Vichy Catalan thermal spa, and towns such as Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Figueres, Olot and Puigcerdà. The Indianos, Spanish expatriates that had emigrated to the overseas colonies to make their fortune and then returned to Spain at the beginning of the twentieth century, were responsible for building the Cuban-style houses and mansions that can still be seen today in Lloret de Mar, Begur and Cadaqués.
However, nobody else has left such a huge imprint on the region as Salvador Dalí, the surrealist genius from Figueres. The Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres, the Gala Dalí Castle in Púbol and the Salvador Dalí House in Portlligat, reflect the extent of the legacy and work left by the most international of the Costa Brava’s artists.
There is a wide range of museums both on the coast and in the Girona Pyrenees, allowing visitors to experience life in the province in the past and present through innovative media and projects. Girona’s Provincial Network of Museums brings together the main museums in the province and promotes shows within the sphere of tourism.
Besides all this, of course, the province has its own traditional craftsmanship, such as the ceramics produced in La Bisbal d’Empordà, the industrial heritage of the Farga Palau iron forge in Ripoll, the cork industry and the traditional festivals with capgrossos (giants), correfocs (“fire-runs”) and castellers (human towers), like the Marrecs de Salt group. The seven popular festivities classified as being of national interest also bring the province alive, making it unique and strengthening the sense of identity of our land and its people.
The Espai Carmen Thyssen in Sant Feliu de Guíxols has become an essential visit every summer for those interested in modern Catalan and European painting. And the Exile Memorial Museum in La Jonquera (MUME) is at the forefront of collective historical memory, retracing the routes taken by exiles during the Spanish Civil War and inviting critical reflection.
The province of Girona’s cultural vibrancy is reflected in almost a hundred events and over a thousand performances throughout the year. Music, theatre, dance, cinema, magic, humour and circus all come under the label of Costa Brava Girona Festivals. On the Costa Brava, events like the Castell de Peralada Festival, the Cap Roig Festival in Palafrugell, the Porta Ferrada Festival in Sant Feliu de Guíxols and the Torroella de Montgrí Festival attract music lovers and musicians from all over Europe. Music also resounds in the Girona Pyrenees with the Isaac Albéniz Music Festival in Camprodon, and the performing arts find their place within the framework of the Temporada Alta Festival and the International Elefant d’Or Circus Festival in Girona.
Throughout the province of Girona there are plenty of different types of places to stay in order to make the most of all the destination’s cultural options. These range from all the various kinds of hotels, holiday apartments, camping sites and holiday villages to country guesthouses and hostels. Many of them are located in natural settings that served as an inspiration to artists, in charming pretty medieval villages, in refurbished historical buildings or right in the heart of the old part of a town or village. What’s more, in most cases the people working in them are pleased to tell guests about the local cultural attractions and they provide tourist information, the local calendar of events and services for booking activities.
All year round, there are numerous cultural experiences to be found throughout the Costa Brava and Girona Pyrenees. They are organised by local authorities, associations, charitable organisations, the Tourist Board’s Culture and Identity Marketing Club and by a number of service companies with the aim of helping visitors to discover, understand and interpret the history and heritage of this welcoming land.
5 PROPOSALS FOR ENJOYING THE COSTA BRAVA AND GIRONA PYRENEES
- The Dalinian Triangle enables you to follow in Salvador Dalí’s footsteps by visiting the three museums, in Figueres, Púbol and Portlligat, which reveal the artist’s life and work. Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí – www.salvador-dali.org
- The Josep Pla Foundation in Palafrugell proposes the Josep Pla Route, visiting all the favourite places of the town’s most universal writer. http://fundaciojoseppla.cat
- The routes and exhibitions of the Exile Memorial Museum explain the history of the exiles and the Spanish Civil War. www.museuexili.cat
- The Indiano Route in Lloret de Mar is a way of discovering the buildings, streets and places where Lloret’s townsfolk returning from Cuba erected their majestic legacy, inspired in the architecture that they had seen overseas. Lloret Turisme – http://lloretdemar.org
- Be enthralled by the rich heritage of the Garrotxa region. Discover the 15 themed tours proposed by Garrotxa Cultour. http://ca.turismegarrotxa.com/garrotxa-cultour