Benvinguts a Catalunya! Bienvenidos a Cataluña! Welcome to Catalonia!!
A wonderful region in Spain!
We have many years of experience in exchanges, and we are constantly working to improve our program and make sure all of our incomings will live an unforgettable experience.
With a surface area of 32,107 square kilometres, Catalonia has a very diverse and divided orography, with extensive mountain ranges mirroring the coastline, inland depressions, mountain peaks reaching 3,000 metres high in the Pyrenees, and just 240 metres to the south is a delta that collects the sediments from one of the most abundant rivers of the Iberian peninsula: the Ebre.
The COSTA BRAVA begins where the Pyrenees subside to meet the Mediterranean, and this coastline stretches for 214 km, alternating between rocky areas with numerous coves and some very expansive beaches to the gulf of Roses and Estartit-Pals. The coast continues running southwards and it is 547 km long. The section from the Maresme to the Ebre's Delta is mainly flat with large beaches.
The orography itself is notably responsible for the climate. While it can be said that the winters are mild and the summers are hot and dry, the temperatures themselves vary considerably between the coastline and the inland plains and the Pyrenees. During the cold months (December, January and February), the average temperature in Catalonia is 6-7 degrees. At the beginning of spring (March and April), it is generally between 11 and 13 degrees and it can reach 17 degrees in May. In summer, it ranges from 24 degrees in June, July and August to 20 degrees in September. In autumn, it drops to 17 degrees in October and 11 degrees in November. In spite of this data, the temperatures are markedly higher in summer along the coastline and the plains, often reaching about 30 degrees. In winter, the temperatures are considerably lower in the Pyrenees and the Central Depression and they usually drop to about 0 degrees. Precipitation is also irregular, even if the peaks of the Pyrenees are generally covered in snow from December until spring.
Catalonia has 7,565,603 inhabitants, according to the population census of 2016, after some years of constant growth particularly as a result of foreign immigration. Since the beginning of this century, the population has increased by a million people, situating Catalonia with a growth of 3.4 per thousand, above the average Spanish and European rate. The growth corresponds nearly exactly to the number of foreigners currently living in Catalonia: close to a million.
Migration has made a particular impact on the metropolitan area of Barcelona, which has a population of nearly five million people, over 67% of the population of Catalonia.
The first time that the population exceeded seven million people was in 2006. Since then, the community has held 16% of the total population of Spain and it is the second most populated community, only behind Andalusia.
The most recent migratory wave was registered between 1950 and 1975, when the population increased by nearly two and a half million people. In those times, during the Franco regime, the immigrants came from all over Spain due to the difficult living conditions in their places of origin. That immigration resulted in a fast and chaotic growth in the city of Barcelona and its conurbation.
At present, a little over 60% of Catalans were born in Catalonia, 20% were born in other communities in the State and approximately 15% are of foreign origin. One out of three Catalans is between 20 and 39 years of age, the largest population group.
Catalonia has a great tradition of scientific research. It currently stands out in the bioscience field, as the research carried out in its extensive hospital network (more than 60 centres) is complemented with the activity of universities, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, and technological parks.
Centres such as the CRG (Centre for Genomic Regulation), the CMRB (Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Barcelona), the IDIBAPS (Institute for Biomedical Research August Pi i Sunyer), and the IRB (Biomedical Research Institute) are some of the more than 150 centres that bring together over 400 research groups in life sciences.
Some of the well-known names working in this sector are oncologist Josep Baselga, cardiologist Lina Badimon, biologist Anna Veiga and Juan Carlos Izpisúa and biochemists Joan Massagué and Fàtima Bosch. The BioCat organisation, mobilised by the Generalitat, groups and promotes the biomedicine cluster in Catalonia, which is known as the Bioregion.
However, biomedicine is not its only line of research. All fields of research are represented in Catalonia to some degree, both in the generation of knowledge and in its application. We can point out, for example, research in ecology, a product of the school created by scientist Ramon Margalef, who has an international award in his name for environmental sciences promoted by the Generalitat. There are also the groups dedicated to palaeontology, with obvious figures such as Eudald Carbonell and Salvador Moyà, linked to the exceptional sites of Atapuerca and the abric Romaní de Capellades respectively. With regard to social sciences, we can note the communication groups in the Autonomous University Barcelona or the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) of the UOC. In total, over 25,000 people work as researchers in Catalonia, which has about a thousand consolidated research groups and which, according to data from the Institute for Scientific Investigation, publish around 5,000 articles in international magazines, a figure higher than many European countries.
One of the major successes of the science policy in Catalonia is the Icrea programme, which gives grants to researchers from all over the world to come and work in Catalonia. The science policy is coordinated through research plans established by the Generalitat, the Spanish Government and the European Union through the Framework programmes. Catalonia is the autonomous community that receives the most financing in the majority of state and European competitions.
Catalan government manages innovation in all possible aspects: business, digital governance, entrepreneurship, education, etc.
We have a public health system that covers all of the Spanish population for free. It is considered one of the best systems, and it is very well considered among the population. The only problem it has is that there may be long waiting lists for certain procedures.
Also, we have a private system, which people can access to by having a private health insurance. The difference with the public system is that the waiting lists are much shorter.
There is a public university system, but it is not completely free. Students access university education depending on the mark obtained in a state exam.
The Medicine degree takes six years: the first two are pre-clinical, and on third year students start clinical practice at the hospitals.
After finishing the degree, in order to proceed to the get the speciality (4-5 years aprox.), every graduated student must face the MIR exam, which will arrange an order at the time of choosing specialty
There are also private universities, that have the same duration and structure as the public ones, the only difference is that in private universities there are fewer students per class.
In Catalonia you can use the extensive network of public transportation: buses, metro, tram, trains, ...
In Barcelona, it is highly recommended to purchase a monthly card, that will allow you to do as many trips by bus, tram or metro within Barcelona as you need.
In the other local committees there is also a good network of buses, and all of the LCs are within a relatively short train ride to Barcelona, the capital.
Here you can find the cost of the monthly card in Barcelona (2018): https://www.tmb.cat/en/barcelona/fares-metro-bus/travel-cards/t-mes - Barcelona (54€). Cities around Barcelona (72.20).
For those coming to Barcelona and its surroundings, we have chosen 9 must-do:
When you're travelling, especially if you're short on time, you really want to make the most of your destination so you go home feeling like you haven't missed anything and that you've really got a feel for the place. Sure, it can be a challenge, so we've worked to pare down all there is to do in Barcelona to 20 of the musts. If you can't get to them all, you can always come back.
- DISCOVER THE CITY ON FOOTBarcelona is a big city, but it's the perfect size to discover on foot. Spend a day away from the metro and the tourist bus, and take your time strolling around and stopping to recharge with some of the city's great gastronomic options. If you're in the mood for visiting some of the most impressive buildings and parks, you'll want to see all the Parc de la Ciutadella has to offer as well as the Parc de Joan Miró, and the Montjuïc castle, but there's also a Barcelona you won't find in guidebooks. Get off the beaten path and head up to Horta, get to know the charm of the Sant Andreu district, see a lesser-known side of the Eixample and take in breathtaking panoramic views.
If your legs are more up to the task than your feet, you can also see the city by bicycle. Of the numerous ones around town, you have a lot of routes to discover Barcelona while you pedal, whether you're a lifelong cyclist or still wobbling about without those extra wheels in the back.
- EXPLORE GAUDÍ AND MODERNISME: Without a doubt, one of Barcelona's top attractions for tourists (as well as for those who live here) is admiring the city's modernista architecture, and the works of Antoni Gaudí in particular. Just walking around you'll come across various examples of Gaudí's work throughout the city, be they civil or religious buildings. The most famous are the Sagrada Família, impressive both outside and in; Park Güell, a space that's out of a fairy tale and emulates an English garden city; and La Pedrera. But don't miss the opportunity to visit other Gaudí buildings that sometimes occupy smaller space in guidebooks, such as Palau Güell, Casa Batlló, Casa Vicensand (if you have time to venture a bit outside Barcelona) the crypt of the Colònia Güell, in Santa Coloma de Cervelló.
But Gaudí wasn't the only modernista architect who left his mark on Barcelona. Also worth a visit are Casa Amatller and the Palau de la Música, works by Puig I Cadafalch; Casa Lleó Morera, designed by Domènech i Muntaner; and Casa de les Terrades. Another example is the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, a World Heritage Site and whose gardens are an oasis in the bustle of the city.
- HIT A HIGH NOTE IN CONCERT: Barcelona has its fair share of live music venues, such as Razzmatazz and Apolo, but the city boasts some wonderful concert halls as well. The Gran Teatre del Liceuis a survivor in splendor, decorated with gold leaf, plush red carpets and ornate carvings. Don't shy away from checking out the programme, as tickets are not always as expensive as you might think, and it's a space that's definitely worth a visit. Then there's L'Auditori, a sleek space with a capacity for 2,400 concert-goers, and not just fans of classical - they also host jazz and world music performances, among others. The Palau de la Música Catalanais celebrated for its modernist architecture and for the sheer number of concerts it hosts. Barcelona is also home to several international music festivals, including Primavera Sound, the Festival Internacional de Jazz de Barcelona, Sónar and Cruïlla, among others.
- PICTURE THE CITY OF PICASSO'S YOUTH:Picasso's Barcelona, where he spent his early years, was beautiful and vibrant. Follow the footsteps of the artistic genius as you visit the landmarks that shaped his youth. Walk down C/Reina Cristina and then cross over to number 3 on C/Mercè to see where his family lived, though the building was later destroyed. If you need to make a stop along the way, head to Els 4 Gats, where artists, including Picasso and Salvador Dali, gathered at the time to chat, eat dinner and have meetings about art. Finally, visit the Museu Picasso itself, a gallery that houses works from Picasso's formative years.
- FILL UP ON TAPAS, PINTXOS AND VERMOUTH: Pintxos, in essence, are Basque tapas - plates of bite-sized goodies served atop a piece of bread - and they're also a culinary trend in Barcelona. Tradition calls for you to pick at the food with toothpicks, and at the end of the night you will be charged for the number of toothpicks that you have used. One of the best places to give them a try is Euskal Etxea, where you can get stuck in to hamempanadillas(a type of pie), pintxos made of chicken tempura with saffron mayonnaise, melted provolone with mango and ham, or a mini-brochette of pork. But lest you forget, there are many more pintxos places in town as well.
But if what you really want are tapas, your options multiply - traditional, elaborate, places where patatas bravas are the stars of the menu, and tapas bars to go to if a good beer to wash them down is a priority. Some of the essentials are Quimet i Quimet, La Esquinica or El Jabalí.
And of course, everything tastes better accompanied by a good vermouth. The weekends (or when you're on holiday) are ideal because there's more time to do a vermouth crawl, as is the custom, with a bite to eat as you sample the various types. But really any time is a good time to try the vermouth of the house in classic bodegas such as Bar Calders, La Pepita and Bar Electricitat.
- CLIMB UP THE MAGICAL MONTJUÏIC: Montjuïc mountain is the perfect place for a leafy stroll with great views, but it does take a bit of legwork to get up there, so it's less populated by tourists. But don't let that deter you. Aside from the natural surroundings and spectacular vistas, you'll find buildings from the 1992 Olympic Games, including the Palau Sant Jordi and the telecommunications tower designed by Santiago Calatrava. If you're feeling full of beans and you get to the top of the hill, you can check out the Olympic stadium and the Jardi Botànic. Plaça Espanya, at the foot of Montjuïc, is the most common access point to the mountain, and where you can also visit the Pavelló Mies van der Rohe and the CaixaForumcultural centre.
Walk through the Laribal gardens, designed by French landscape architect Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier; visit the Tres Pins nursery, where plants are grown for gardens and municipal parks in the city; and tip your hat to the bronze statue of the Italian poet Dante Alighieri in the square of the same name.
- WALK ON THE ARTY SIDE: In Barcelona, taking a walk in the park is not only a way to relax, it can also lead you to discover some great art. Get up and get out for a walk around the lush gardens of the Teatre Grecand then head over to the Fundació Joan Miró, one of the largest museums in the world and home to a collection of over 225 paintings, 150 sculptures and graphic pieces by the Spanish surrealist painter, along with a number of works by his contemporaries.
Listing all the museums and art galleries in the city would take quite a bit of time, but one of the jewels is the MNAC (Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya), with pieces that represent Catalan art from the Romanesque period to the mid-20th century.
If smaller rooms are more your speed, stop in to the Palau Robert - it's free in, has some great exhibitions and the building itself is worth a gander. Also pay a visit to some of the smaller but influental galleries throughout the city, some of the most prestigious of which are ADN, Joan Prats, Galeria 3 Punts and Toni Tàpies.
- REVEL IN THE RAVAL: Like Paris, Barcelona also has a literary flavour. Many a writer has been inspired by the lower Raval, which was once called the 'Barrio Chino', a name coined by an American journalist due to its underworld feel in the 1920s. Haunted by drifters and prostitutes (and, more recently, hipsters and their ilk), the seedy ghetto forms a strangely glamorous setting for Jean Genet's existential novel The Thief's Journal(1949) and provides the backdrop of the civil war novel The Palace (1962) by Nobel prize-winner Claude Simon and The Marginby André Pieyre de Mandiargues (1967), which was made into a film.
But the Raval is so much more. It's a place where local businesses thrive, including shops like Les Topettes, Chandal and Fusta'm; it's also about urban culture, music and good food, the likes of which you'll find in Bar Kasparo, Lo de Flor and Dos Palillos.
The Raval is also where you need to go to get some of the city's essential culture nourishment, including the CCCB (Barcelona's contemporary culture centre, which hosts exhibitions, conferences and more), the MACBA (the city's contemporary art museum), the Biblioteca de Catalunya (library) and the refurbished Filmoteca arthouse cinema.
- GET TO KNOW THE CITY'S HISTORY:When visiting a new city, it's always good to learn a bit about its history in order to understand its architecture, its art, what makes it tick, and something of the character of its people. As an international city, Barcelona is full of diverse cultures and heritages, and with every step you take through its streets, you'll stumble upon some of its history.
Catalonia is an autonomous community of Spain with its own language, laws and customs.
It has 500 km of coastline with lots of beaches; has many ski areas in the Pyrenees; a rich cultural and architectural heritage, Roman ruins, Gothic, Roman architecture and modernist highlighting Gaudí.
The Catalan nation has long been the industrial heartland of Spain – first for its maritime power and trade in goods such as textiles, but recently for trade, services, hi-tech companies and biomedical investigation.
However, Catalonia is not just in politics and economics. We have a different language; Catalan, and traditional dishes and celebrations.
Catalan culture has developed its own unique and universal identity over the centuries. The innovative flair, creativity, capacity to absorb different influences, co-existence and tolerance values has shaped a culture that is both national and cosmopolitan. Traditionally, art and thought trends seep into Catalonia as a result of the country's geographic location, open to the Mediterranean and European countries, and also due to the leading spirit and attraction created by Barcelona.
Catalan arts exemplify this national and universal vocation. Ramon Llull, Ramon Muntaner and Joanot Martorell made valuable contributions to the consolidation of the Catalan language and European medieval literature. Jacint Verdaguer, Víctor Català and Joan Maragall, in different genres, contributed decisively to the cultural Renaissance of the 19th Century. The 20th Century was very prolific in talents that still have an extensive international dissemination: from Salvador Espriu and Josep Pla to Josep Carner, Mercè Rodoreda, Manuel de Pedrolo, Pere Calders, Jesús Moncada, Pere Gimferrer, Baltasar Porcel, Quim Monzó, Miquel de Palol and Miquel Martí i Pol.
Catalonia has always been an intersection of cultures and influences. Before the consolidation of Catalan and the other Latin languages, the Christians in the country wrote in Latin, the Muslims in Arabic and the Jews in Hebrew. The current bilingualism can be noted in the number of remarkable Catalan writers writing in the Castilian language, such as Eduardo Mendoza, Joan Marsé, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, Javier Cercas, Enrique Vila-Matas and Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
Similarly, Catalonia set the pace in scenic arts. Àngel Guimerà brought international recognition to the Catalan theatre tradition. Other authors to be noted are Josep Maria de Sagarra and Santiago Rusiñol. The National Theater of Catalonia, inaugurated in 1997, does justice to this tradition of dramaturges, actors and directors, and it adds to the group of symbolic cultural and historical venues such as the Liceu, which is one of the most important opera venues in Europe.
93.8% of the citizens of Catalonia understand Catalan, the official language along with Spanish and Aranese. To these nearly seven million people that understand Catalan, we can add those from other territories where it is used as the everyday language, particularly the Valencian Community (where it is called 'Valencià'), the Balearic Islands and part of Aragon, the Franja de Ponent (Western Strip). It is the only official language in Andorra and its use extends to the south of France and the city of Alghero, Sardinia. As a result, it is calculated that there are a total of nine million people that speak Catalan and 11 million that understand it. It is therefore situated ahead of 14 official languages of the European Union and it is the ninth most spoken language.
Catalan is the common language used at school and its use is standardising the media, financial world and cultural productions. A survey carried out by the Statistical Institute of Catalonia (IDESCAT) in 2007 indicated that three out of four residents in Catalonia can speak and write Catalan. With regard to Spanish, nearly all citizens understand (98.9%) and speak it (96.4%).
Catalan was established between the 8th and 10th Centuries as an evolution of Latin, as were Spanish, French, Italian and the other Romance languages. Every year, 10,000 titles are edited in Catalan, which is the tenth most translated language in the world and taught in 166 universities
GASTRONOMY: The passion for seafood and agricultural produce, and the richness and originality of the traditional cuisine are the reason why Catalan cuisine has become one of the most admired on the planet in recent years.
- PAELLA: Creativity, ingenuity and daring are the terms often used to describe the Catalan chefs of avant-garde cuisine. These same words serve to qualify many of the combinations of ingredients that form part of the popular cuisine and which today may also seem revolutionary, as is the trend of the Empordà region to combine seafood and agricultural products.
- PA AMB TOMÀQUET: Different forms of cuisine as diverse as rural, seafood and bourgeois are combined in Catalonia, where it is not strange to find dishes from other areas that have become naturally popular.
- CALÇOTS: The first major step to the modernisation of Catalan cuisine, classified in the last century by Ignasi Domènech, was taken by Josep Mercader from Empordà at the beginning of the sixties in the Empordà Motel of Figueres. Very nearby, in the Montjoi cove (Roses), the great revolution that has positioned Catalonia at the centre of the gastronomic world has taken place in recent years. Ferran Adrià, repeatedly declared the best chef in the world, has managed to create a new cuisine language that has become universal from El Bulli Restaurant in Moltjoi Cove.
- BUTIFARRA AMB MONGETES: The interest in his creativity has meant that critics and gastronomes have become curious about what the Catalan cuisine has to offer, where the attraction of the cuisine of chefs renowned by the prestigious Michelin guide, such as Carme Ruscalleda, Santi Santamaria and Joan Roca, is complemented with the cuisine of restaurants run by young creative chefs around Catalonia.
Catalonia is an autonomous community and exercises its self-government in the Spanish State in accordance with the Constitution of 1978 and the new Statute of Autonomy, approved in 2006. The Generalitat is the institutional system around which Catalonia's self-government is politically organised and it dates from 1359. It consists of the Parliament, the Presidency, the Government (formed by the Executive Council) and other self-governing institutions such as the Síndic de Greuges (guarantor of the rights and liberties of citizens) and the Sindicatura de Comptes (control of the economic accounts of Catalan public institutions).
The Generalitat has extensive competencies in matters such as education, health, citizen security and civil protection, culture, linguistic policy, industry, urban development, housing, regional politics, transport and the environment, among others. Catalonia has its own police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, which has been covering the full territory since November 1st, 2008. Catalan civil law is applied in legal matters, of historical tradition, the modification of which is the exclusive competence of the Generalitat.