Barcelona is more than just a football team! In this city with a strong identity, art and architecture have influenced the 20th century. There is plenty to look up to, admire, smell the sea air and play golf. There are some nice courses around Barcelona that are worth a visit. Here are three Golfy courses, not far from a capital with countless treasures.
In 2003, the Real Club de Golf El Prat, born in 1912, found refuge in the north of Barcelona, driven out of El Prat by the expansion of the airport.
In the heart of the Sant Llorenç del Munt Natural Park, the terrain is hilly and wooded, with vast mountain views that inspired Greg Norman to design the 45 holes, the Red, Yellow and Vallès Golf. The fairways are wide, unlike the narrow greens. There is little water in play, but bunkers and many trees define the course. The 18 of the Rouge is a return to an ultra modern club-house, with futuristic architecture, which is normal on these avant-garde grounds !
To the north of Barcelona, the Llavaneras Golf Club, a very English course, has been unfolding its fairways since 1945 facing the Big Blue. Fred Hawtree knew how to dress these sun-drenched hills to create a harmonious, technical and playful layout…
Recently, the design has been revised, the fairways have been tightened, some bunkers have been created and well placed water holes have been dug. A photo break is necessary at the start of the 17th, a hole dominating the whole course and the sea on the horizon. The terrace of the “casa-club” is ideal to enjoy the sweet and sour cuisine.
Closer to the Ramblas, the Vallromanes Golf Club was created in 1971 by the Englishman Fred Hawtree. The course offers a slight relief, meanders between pines and holm oaks, the small elevated greens are hard to catch.
On this course, crossed by a small mountain river, one must take into account the gusts of a strong sea wind.
Behind the thick walls of an 18th century mansion with an aristocratic appearance, the club’s restaurant, La Mossegada, offers a menu highlighting Catalan specialities where the harmony between land and sea excels.
Where to stay ?
With 95 ultra-modern rooms, the Hotel Atenea Port in Mataró, on the seafront, is ideally located for golfing and enjoying the marine environment. Away from the urban stress, this hotel has a wellness spa that is highly appreciated. Between the swimming pool and the whirlpools, everything is provided to relax. Just like in the Nuus restaurant where the reputation of the table exceeds the space of the terrace, facing the sea.
In Calella, still on the Mediterranean coast, the Hotel Kaktus Playa offers spacious rooms – from 24 to 45 m2 – overlooking the sea. The charming village of Calella offers beautiful beaches and shady streets with a host of artisanal shops. The hotel’s swimming pools blend into the sea, especially the Sky Lounge, which is protected from the wind by large windows and is a welcome place to enjoy a drink at the end of the day as the sun sets.
At the gateway to the Serra del Collserola park, the charming village of Sant Cugat del Vallès was at its height in the Middle Ages, before the Catalan bourgeoisie found peace and quiet here at the end of the 19th century, far from the bustle of the city. Between the Romanesque monastery and the narrow streets of another time, this picturesque village is full of charm. In stark contrast, the much more modern El Sant Cugat Hotel has 97 rooms and suites with views of the old stones. In a contemporary decor, the table gives priority to local products, the sea is ten kilometres away, the mountains even less! Close to Barcelona, Sant Cugat is perfect for relaxing after a busy day in the city.
Barcelona is easily visited on foot, and the city is worth looking up. The architectural delusions of Catalan Modernism, led mainly by Antoni Gaudí over a century ago, are often hidden in the air.
A visionary architect, Gaudí left his mark on his time, inspiring the Art Nouveau school across Europe, even if his work has been slow to be recognised. His name is often associated with the construction of the Sagrada Família, the basilica that remains unfinished almost a century after his death, but his work is far from being limited to this dreamlike delirium. In the heart of Barcelona, on the Passeig de Gràcia – a wide middle-class avenue – his most accomplished work is undoubtedly the Casa Milà, named after his patron and nicknamed La Pedrera (the quarry because it is so mineral). The rounded forms, without angles, of this building give it a surprising dynamic, movement. The ceramics on the façade add to the elegance of the architecture, which is completed by an undulating roof that can be visited in good weather, with its turrets and spiral chimneys, whose elegance is surprising. From up there, the view of Barcelona is exceptional. Today, numerous exhibitions take advantage of these gigantic volumes, while on the fourth floor, a flat that has retained its Art Nouveau furniture can be visited.
Throughout the city, other buildings such as the Casa Battló, the Casa Calvet or the Casa Vicens, built in 1883, a time when Gaudí moved away from the influence of Viollet-le-Duc and the neo-Gothic style to assert his modernist touch, pay tribute to the artist. Closely linked with the industrialist Eusebi Güell, Gaudí created a great deal for his patron, starting with Finca Güell, then Palau Güell and finally Parc Güell, where Gaudí lived. A lung of greenery dominating the city, this park is a concentrate of “Gaudian” architecture with its modernist pavilions, its monumental staircase, the Nature Square and, at the pinnacle, the undulating mosaic bench that seems to move, a psychedelic illusion as Dalí, another Catalan legend, might have said !
However beautiful they may be, the stones and ceramics have never satisfied a tourist’s stomach! Catalan gastronomy easily mixes flavours like this plate of artichokes with black pudding, this suckling pig with carrots and hazelnuts, this sea bass with citrus fruits…
The land and the sea go hand in hand in the tapas bars where, in small portions, it is easy to taste everything without spending too much. Walking down the Rambla from Plaça de Catalunya towards the sea, the Mercat de la Boqueria, a steel and glass hall teeming with activity, exudes a warm atmosphere through 200 stalls where freshly caught fish rub shoulders with the finest hams proudly displayed above the stalls. Considering the large number of tourists, a morning visit is welcome, as it gives you time to talk, listen, taste, smell and soak up this magical place, which was born in 1217 and has been in its modern configuration since 1840 !
Pablo Picasso was born on 25 October 1881 in Malaga, but when he was fourteen his family moved to Barcelona and he enrolled in the city’s School of Fine Arts. He began to paint and in 1900 exhibited his first paintings at the “Els Quatre Gats” cabaret.
Throughout his life, the Catalan capital would remain a reference point for his work and inspiration. It was only logical that the city should pay tribute to him in keeping with his fame. Opened in 1963, the Picasso Museum, a wish of Jaime Sabartés – his private secretary – has been enriched with works over the years and donations from the artist as well as from collectors and patrons. Today, the museum contains more than 4,200 paintings, engravings, prints and ceramics, and has grown considerably over the past 60 years. Housed in the former Aguilar Palace, a building dating from the 13th century, it has invaded the neighbouring houses on Calle Montcada, in the La Ribera district. A Catalan Gothic architectural heritage from the Middle Ages, now saved thanks to the museum, covering more than 10,000 m2. The majority of the works on display are from the period between 1890 and 1917, although in 1968, after the death of his friend Jaime Sabartès, Picasso bequeathed to the museum all of his work – 57 canvases – on “Las Meninas” (The Maidens), painted in 1957, reinterpreting the original work of Diego Velázquez, the immense 17th-century Baroque painter. In 1982, Jacqueline Roque, his widow, donated 40 ceramics and more than a hundred engravings to complete the museum’s collection. Along with the museums in Paris and Malaga, the one in Barcelona is a must for discovering the artist’s complete work.
In 1991, the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit was inaugurated. If its vocation was linked to F1 as well as to motorbikes, its first feat was to host the road cycling events during the 1992 Olympic Games. But very quickly the roar of the engines took over from the efforts of the “forçats de la route”, as Antoine Blondin nicknamed them. For more than thirty years and Nigel Mansell’s victory in 1991, this circuit has hosted the F1 Spanish Grand Prix and the GP motorbike race every year, while the rest of the time it is used for private testing like many other circuits. The greatest have triumphed here, with the exception of Ayrton Senna who was fighting for the win in the first edition. Alain Prost won in 1993, Fernando Alonso – the only Spaniard to win on home soil – in 2006 and 2013, Michael Schumacher won six times (5 times with Ferrari) as did Lewis Hamilton a few years later (6 wins with Mercedes). In 2022, Barcelona was a stage for Max Verstappen’s world supremacy. Who will succeed him this year? We will have to wait until late afternoon on Sunday 4 June to find out…