There are many sides to Maresme, perhaps as many as there are towns in this region marked by contrasts. There's a coastal Maresme and a mountainous one with curative waters, there are large department stores and quaint, local boutiques, you'll find towns frequented by tourists and others still relatively undiscovered, there's an agricultural Maresme and an industrial one… Discovering all of these in just 48 hours is impossible, but the visit we recommend sums up the region's diversity.
Afternoon day 1: Vineyards and wine
It has the smallest Designation of Origin in the country, with only eight bottling companies and 96 wine-growers, and a wine-producing surface area of just 314.70 hectares. We're talking about D.O. Alella, mainly known for its white wines – although it also produces some reds – and which uses the most common white raisin grape variety, as well as garnacha, chardonnay and sauvignon grapes. But we'll leave it to the experts to explain this all to you as soon as you step foot in the Maresme, as one of the first things you simply must do is visit one of the local wineries. We particularly like Bodega Bouquet Alella, probably because of its motto: 'Savour the tradition, marvel at the innovation.' The winery started out in 2010, making it the youngest of the D.O., but it's located in a typical country house from the 14th century, nestled next to Alella's historic town centre. During the visit, you'll discover this small family-run winery and vineyards, and complete your visit with a wine tasting, as is only natural.
Day 2: The sea, parks and heritage
At the other end of the region is Malgrat de Mar, a family holiday destination with a relaxed beach vibe and plenty of attractions to see in one day. In summer, of course, the beaches are filled with sun worshippers, and although we recommend you go in autumn/winter for this getaway, make sure you do make some time to take in its 4.5km of sandy beaches and blue waters (or at least part of it!).
Malgrat stands out for its two large parks called Castell and Francesc Macià. The former is on a hill, so you can get a magnificent panoramic view of the town, and it includes botanical gardens with 127 labelled species. It's a great leisure attraction where many events take place throughout the year, such as parades, festivals, concerts and local fiestas. The latter, Francesc Macià, is the biggest park in the region, with a surface area of 40,000m2. There's space for everything: children's playgrounds; sports areas; an amphitheatre; sculptural, educational and botanical elements; and a picnic area.
Between the sea and the parks, in Malgrat you'll also find a few buildings and streets worth visiting. Go for a leisurely wander and wonder at the Church of Saint Nicholas, with its neoclassical façade; modernista buildings like the Ajuntament, Can Arnau and the Torre de la Vídua de Can Sala; or the Antic Hospital and Capella, which were built with the money donated by Hug Descolomer in 1441 and housed a hospital for the poor.
Day 3: Thermal baths at Caldes d'Estrac
You're sure to love the final activity of your trip. But the day is long and there's still time for a bit of everything. So why not head back to Alella in the morning for a wine-tasting workshop offered by Celler Alella Vinícola. You'll need to book in advance, and there needs to be a minimum of eight people booked on the workshop. The activity lasts two hours and includes a tasting of six different wine varieties and a guided tour of the winery. This will help you learn specific vocabulary from the world of wine and the differences between the varieties.
And finally, for the last leg of this getaway, you'll travel to the smallest town, but also one of the first in Catalonia chosen by holidaymakers to spend their hard-earned days off. One of the main reasons is the town's mesothermal waters, reaching 38.8ºC, that are great for your health and contain properties renowned since ancient times, and which can still be enjoyed today at the city-owned Balneari Caldes d'Estrac, where you'll be able to choose from a long list of treatments and services, adding the finishing touches to your break so you can return home feeling relaxed and re-energised.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.