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Getaway to Maresme: Arenys de Mar and Mataró in depth

Travel to the capital of the region and to a coastal town with a rich cultural history

On this getaway to Maresme you'll explore two of the region’s most lively and dynamic towns. One is Mataró, the regional capital and Catalonia’s eighth-largest city in terms of population, with plenty of cultural and commercial attractions. The other town is Arenys de Mar, which is marked by the legacy of the 'Indians' who went to America to seek their fortune, by its fishing port, and by the verses dedicated to it by the poet Salvador Espriu.

Day 1: The legacy of the 'Indianos'

Day 1: The legacy of the 'Indianos'

Your getaway gets underway in Arenys de Mar. From here a number of people, popularly known as 'Indianos', set off to seek their fortune in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many of them did indeed manage to make that fortune and, when they returned to their native land, built great mansions, some of which are still inhabited today, while others are run by the town council.

The walking route we suggest begins at the upper end of the famous 'riera' (dry river bed prone to flash floods) of Arenys, and goes from one side of this main avenue to the other so you can see different buildings. Perhaps the most famous of Arenys' Indianos was Josep Xifré, who donated a hospital for the needy to his home town. It's a large building and contains his mausoleum. You should also look out for the Torrent Asylum, the El Paraiso palace and Can Còrdova, among others. You should also visit the Sinera cemetery on a hilltop overlooking the town, which was immortalised in the verses of Salvador Espriu. Many of the cemetery’s magnificent pantheons are the last resting places of the town’s Indianos.

Day 2: A day in the port

Day 2: A day in the port

There's a port almost every five kilometres in the Maresme region. But the one in Arenys may well be the most iconic, since it's still used by an active fishing fleet, whereas the others basically cater for leisure boats. Here you can still see nets being laid out to dry, and there's a fish auction every afternoon. And Arenys port also has on offer a lot of water-based leisure activities and plenty of restaurants where you can east fresh fish, making it a great place to spend a day.

Stroll along the quay looking at the fishing boats, and visit the fish auction house, Mont-Calvari with its magnificent sea views, the nurseries full of lobsters, and wait for the fishermen to return to port with their catch. You may be interested in one of the water sport activities on offer: you can accompany the fishermen when they go fishing for Mediterranean sand eels (if you do you’ll have to wake up early!), go sailing or take a diving course. At weekends in July and August you can also take a cruise along the nearby coast on a motor launch.

These are great ways to get closer to the water, and to the maritime traditions of Arenys de Mar.

Day 3: A capital city with history

Day 3: A capital city with history

You’ll be spending the last day of your getaway in Mataró, the capital of the region. The city has an enviable beachfront promenade and spacious beaches where there’s always plenty of room to spread out your towel. You've also got to explore the old town, near the  Santa Maria Basilica, as well as shopping areas like Plaça de Santa Ana, Carrer Barcelona and La Riera.

But perhaps one of the most interesting things about the city, at least for lovers of art and of architecture, is the presence of buildings and sites that bring to mind the town’s long history, from the time when it was known as Iluro and was under the rule of the Roman Empire, to Baroque buildings and the era of Catalan modernism with Josep Puig i Cadafalch, a native of the city, as its representative. Even the town’s old knitwear factories allow you to get an idea of Mataró’s rich industrial past – as exemplified by the Museum of Can Marfà – Knitwear, which opened in 2015.

Guided tours on a number of themes are scheduled for most weekends. Another option is to call in at the Tourist Information Office, which is located in the town hall, to ask for an audio guide and visit the town’s attractions at your own pace. You can wander from the Baroque artwork 'Els Dolors', which has recently been restored, to Nau Gaudí, architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch’s first building, where you can see contemporary art exhibitions featuring works from the collection of Lluís Bassat.

You’ll find plenty of restaurants here where you can stop in for lunch. And after your meal, you may well feel like relaxing on the granitic sands of one of Matarós beaches to soak your feet in the water.

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Can Casellas

Here they follow Josep Pla’s maxim, 'Don’t travel far away to look for what you’ve got close at hand.' Their dishes are made using locally sourced market produce and vegetables from their own garden, making for exquisite dishes that combine elements of traditional Mediterranean cuisine with more contemporary approaches. Meat and fish dishes, pasta and rice dishes: everything is top quality.

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El Parador de Canet

The folks at Parador de Canet say their approach is to make sure their customers have a pleasant time, and part of their success has got to be thanks to the restaurant’s friendly service, lovely rustic design and, most important, home-style dishes using locally sourced produce.

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Sumac

This is a well-decorated restaurant serving well-presented dishes incorporating locally sourced, seasonal produce. If you’d like to sample their varied cuisine, try the tasting menu. If not, you’ll be happy with whatever you opt for, whether that's a more traditional dish or a more daring choice.

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El Hogar Gallego

Products from the sea and the vegetable patch. This seafood restaurant, which is a classic in the town of Calella, first opened back in 1977 and brings together the finest produce from Galicia with the finest locally sourced products. They have their own fish tank, and the most prized pieces – the large-scaled scorpion fish, John Dory, sea bass – are presented to diners by two waiters who carry them on a cart while the customers decide what they prefer – it’s quite an experience!

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Can Formiga

Seafood and mountain dishes come together at this long-standing restaurant that combines traditional roots with avant-garde touches. The setting is also charming: a house that was built in the mid-18th century with a small but cosy dining room. Here you’ll find tempting dishes like monkish or cod in ‘suquet’ – a light seafood broth.

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Aqua Hotel Onabrava & Spa

This large and elegant hotel complex has 350 rooms and is located very close to the beach in Santa Susanna. With the latest technology in its rooms and public areas and even gymnasium equipment, one of the hotel’s biggest attractions is its health centre which consists of four distinct areas: a spa, a gym, a saltwater swimming pool and a treatment zone. Outside you can take advantage of another swimming pool, hydro massage area and terraces. It’s a whole world for you to enjoy.

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Hotel Rosa Nàutica

The Rosa Nàutica is a beachfront hotel that meets requirements in every way with their rooms, buffet restaurant and additional services. It's ideal for families, with a swimming pool, rooms that sleep four people, a recreational area, and a mini club that organises activities for children. Grown-ups also have plenty to do here, with shows staged for adults and a gym.

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Hotel Volga

Among the abundance of hotels in Calella, the four-star Hotel Volga is one of the premium-range establishments. You have to take into account, however, the fact that this is a large (164 rooms), family-oriented establishment that can get quite lively in summer. However, that takes nothing away from its services, which are top quality, or from its comfortable and pleasant recently refurbished rooms. All in all it’s a good choice for beach-loving visitors.

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Hostal Portofino

Located in the main avenue of Arenys de Mar, very near the beach, this simple but comfortable establishment offers well-lit rooms with fully equipped bathrooms, central heating and air conditioning, and free WiFi. Its restaurant serves home-style seafood cuisine, including rice and noodle dishes, as well as fresh fish from the town’s port.

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Ibis Mataró

Like all of the establishments in the Ibis chain, this is a functional hotel that's ideal for businesspeople. It has all the basic services and is very well priced. It's also very new and its location near the sea and the bus service that links Mataró and Barcelona makes it a good choice for spending a few days in the Maresme region.

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Fundació Palau Centre d'Art

Essayist, poet and writer Josep Palau i Fabre had a close friendship with Pablo Picasso. His Foundation in Caldes d’Estrac contains work by Picasso from Palau i Fabre's private collection as well as works by other artists like Miró and Gargallo. Aside from the permanent exhibitions, the centre has rooms for temporary shows and hosts many other activities throughout the year, such as the Festival Poesia i +, roundtables, conferences and workshops.

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Museu de Mataró

Set in a Renaissance-style building in Plaça de l'Ajuntament, the first floor of the museum is reserved for temporary exhibitions. The first and second floors take you on a chronological trip through the history of Mataró from the Roman era to the present, with special attention given to the industrial development of the city as a textile-manufacturing centre. The museum has other sections in a number of buildings around the town, such as Ca l'Arenas (C/ Argentona 64), which houses an art collection.

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Museu Marès de la Punta

In Arenys de Mar lace-making has a long history. So a Lace Museum makes perfect sense here. The Marès Museum has several valuable collections, starting with that of Frederic Marès himself, who acquired pieces from the Marquis de Valverde, among others. Other highlights include the collection that once belonged to the dancer Carmen Tórtola Valencia, who designed her own costumes, and the Castells collection, with laces, patterns and frames from one of the lace manufacturers in Arenys.

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Museu del Càntir d'Argentona

Set in the centrally located Plaça de l'Església, this museum has an excellent collection of pitchers, some of which are very original and amusing. The collection is the result of the donations and acquisitions made since 1975. The explanations on the history and manufacturing process of these objects make for an educational experience that’s suitable for all ages. The museum also stages major temporary exhibitions.

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Casa Museu Domènech i Montaner

Lluís Domènech i Montaner is one of the most important names in the history of Catalan modernism, and he left behind a rich legacy, both in architectural and personal terms, in his home town of Canet de Mar. The museum that bears his name is made up of two buildings: Masia Rocosa and Casa Domènech. The first building was his workshop and offers insights into his professional life; while the second is a building he designed for his family, so it offers a more personal vision of the man. The museum also has spaces for a permanent exhibition on the history of the town and for temporary exhibitions.

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Museu-Arxiu Municipal de Calella Josep M. Codina i Bagué i Pinacoteca Gallart

The building that houses the town's museum-archive has a number of different sections, but the Gallart Gallery on the first floor is a real standout. It contains more than 200 works, mostly figurative oil paintings and drawings by local artist Lluís Gallart i Garcia, which are exhibited on a rotating basis. While you’re here, head up to the second floor and visit the modernista-style Barri pharmacy. The other exhibition spaces in this multidisciplinary museum are given over to dresses and embroidery.

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