One of the most perfect surviving examples of the Catalan Gothic style, this graceful basilica stands out for its characteristic horizontal lines, plain surfaces, square buttresses and flat-topped octagonal towers. Its superb unity of style is down to the fact that it was built relatively quickly, with construction taking just 55 years (1329 to 1384). Named after Mary as patroness of sailors, it was built on the site of a small church known as Santa Maria d’Arenys (sand), for its position close to the sea. In the broad, single-nave interior, two rows of perfectly proportioned columns soar up to fan vaults, creating an atmosphere of space around the light-flooded altar. There’s also superb stained glass, especially the great 15th-century rose window above the main door. The original window fell down during an earthquake, killing 25 people. The incongruous modern window at the other end was a 1997 addition, belatedly celebrating the Olympics.
It's perhaps thanks to the group of anti-clerical anarchists who set the church ablaze for 11 days in 1936 that its superb features can be appreciated - without the wooden Baroque furniture that clutters so many Spanish churches, the simplicity of its lines can emerge. On Saturdays, the basilica is in great demand for weddings, and it's a traditional venue for concerts: look out for a Requiem Mass at Easter and Handel's Messiah at Christmas.