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Total population
c. 9 million
Regions with significant populations
         (people born in Catalonia of any ethnicity; excludes ethnic Catalans in other regions in Spain)
8,005,784 (2023)[1]
         (people born in Pyrénées-Orientales)
491,000 (2023)[2]
         (estimates vary)
188,000[citation needed]
 Mexico63,000[citation needed]
 Germany48,000[citation needed]
 Peru39,000[citation needed]
 Andorra29,000[citation needed]
         (Algherese dialect speakers in Alghero, Sardinia)
 Chile16,000[citation needed]
 Brazil11,787[citation needed]
 Venezuela6,200[citation needed]
 Cuba3,600[citation needed]
 United States
         (estimates vary)
Catalan, Catalan Sign
Occitan (In Aran Valley)
Spanish, French, Italian (as a result of immigration or language shift)
Related ethnic groups
Occitans, Spaniards (Aragonese, Castilians), Valencians, Northern Italians

Catalans (Catalan, French and Occitan: catalans; Spanish: catalanes, Italian: catalani, Sardinian: cadelanos) are a Romance ethnic group[10][11][12] native to Catalonia, who speak Catalan.[13] The current official category of "Catalans" is that of the citizens of Catalonia, an autonomous community in Spain[14] and the inhabitants of the Roussillon historical region in southern France, today the Pyrénées Orientales department,[15] also called Northern Catalonia[16][17][18] and Pays Catalan in French.[19][20][21][22]

Some authors also extend the word "Catalans" to include all people from areas in which Catalan is spoken, namely those from Andorra, Valencia, the Balearic Islands, eastern Aragon, Roussillon, and the city of Alghero in Sardinia.[23][24][25]

The Catalan government regularly surveys its population regarding its "sentiment of belonging". As of July 2019, the results point out that 46.7% of the Catalans and other people living in Catalonia would like independence from Spain, 1.3% less than the year before.[26]

Historical background[edit]

In 1500 BCE the area that is now known primarily as Catalonia was, along with the rest of the Iberian Peninsula, inhabited by Proto-Celtic Urnfield people who brought with them the rite of burning the dead. Much of the Pyrenees mountains was inhabited at the time by peoples related to modern Basques, and today many town names in the western Catalan Pyrenees can be linked to Basque etymologies. These groups came under the rule of various invading groups starting with the Greeks that founded Empúries and the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, who set up colonies along the coast, including Barcino (present-day Barcelona). Following the Punic Wars, the Romans replaced the Carthaginians as the dominant power in the Iberian eastern coast, including parts of Catalonia, by 206 BCE. Rome established Latin as the official language and imparted a distinctly Roman culture upon the local population, which merged with Roman colonists from the Italian peninsula. An early precursor to the Catalan language began to develop from a local form of popular Latin before and during the collapse of the Roman Empire. Various Germanic tribes arrived following nearly six centuries of Roman rule, which had completely transformed the area into the Roman province of Tarraconensis. The German Visigoths established themselves in the fifth century, making their first capital in the Iberian peninsula Barcelona, and they later would move to Toledo.

This continued until 718 when Muslim Arabs took control of the region in order to pass through the Pyrenees into French territory. With the help of the Franks, a land border was created commonly known nowadays as Old Catalonia (which would consist of the counties County of Barcelona, Ausona, County of Pallars, County of Rosselló, County of Empúries, County of Cerdanya and County of Urgell) which faced Muslim raids but resisted any kind of settlement from them. The southern New Catalonia was under Arab/Muslim rule for about 4-5 centuries. The Franks on the other side of the Pyrenees held back the main Muslim raiding army which had penetrated virtually unchallenged as far as central France at the Battle of Tours in 732. Frankish suzerainty was then extended over much of present-day Catalonia. Larger wars with the Muslims began in the March of Barcelona which led to the beginnings of the Reconquista by Catalan forces over most of Catalonia by the year 801. As the border between Muslim and Frankish realms stabilized, Barcelona would become an important center for Christian forces in the Iberian Peninsula.

Battle of the Puig by Andreu Marçal de Sax, depicting the Christian victory with the aid of Saint George

In 1137, the County of Barcelona entered a dynastic union with the Kingdom of Aragon to form what modern historians call the Crown of Aragon in the so-called Reconquista. This allowed the reclamation of Muslim-dominated lands, eventually conquering the kingdoms of Valencia and Majorca (the Balearic Islands). From the 13th century onwards, the territory of the County of Barcelona and the other Catalan counties progresivelly began to be identified as a single political entity and, from the mid-14th century, that polity began to be known as the Principality of Catalonia. The crisis of the late Middle Ages, the loss of hegemony within the Crown, as well as urban and feudal internal conflicts led to the Catalan Civil War in 1462. In the last quarter of the 15th century, the marriage of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon led to the dynastic union of the Crown of Aragon with the Crown of Castille, in which each of the constitutive realm kept its own laws, policies, power structures, borders and monetary systems.[27]

Continuous unrest led to conflicts on the states of the Crown of Aragon, such as the Revolt of the Germanies in Valencia and Majorca, and the 1640 revolt in Catalonia known as the Reapers' War. This latter conflict embroiled Spain in a larger war with France as the Catalan institutions allied themselves with Louis XIII. The war continued until 1659 and ended with the Peace of the Pyrenees, which effectively partitioned the Principality of Catalonia as its northern strip came under French rule, while the rest remained under Spanish Crown. The Catalan government took sides with the Habsburg pretender against the Bourbon one during the War of the Spanish Succession that started in 1705 and ended in 1714. The Catalan failure to defend the continuation of Habsburg rule in Spain culminated in the surrender of Barcelona on 11 September 1714 which came to be commemorated as Catalonia's National Day. The surrender led to the imposition of absolutism and the abolition of Catalan political institutions and public law, thus ending the status of Catalonia as a separate state within a personal union.

After the Catalan defeat during the War of Spanish Succession, Philip V of Spain ordered the burning of all the Catalan flags and banners.

During the Napoleonic Wars, much of Catalonia was seized by French forces by 1808, as France ruled the entire country of Spain briefly until Napoleon's surrender to Allied Armies. In France, strong assimilationist policies integrated many Catalans into French society, while in Spain a Catalan identity was increasingly suppressed in favor of a Spanish national identity. The Catalans regained autonomy during the Spanish Second Republic from 1932 until Francisco Franco's nationalist forces occupied Catalonia by 1939. It was not until 1975 and the death of Franco that the Catalans as well as other Spaniards began to regain their right to cultural expression, which was restarted by the Spanish Constitution of 1978. Since this period, a balance between a sense of Catalan national identity versus the broader Spanish one has emerged as the dominant political force in Catalonia. The former tends to advocate for even greater autonomy, national recognition and, part of it, independence; the latter tends to argue for maintaining either a status quo or removal of autonomy and cultural identity, depending on the leanings of the current government. As a result, there tends to be much fluctuation depending on regional and national politics during a given election cycle. Given the stronger centralist tendencies in France, however, French Catalans display a much less dynamic sense of uniqueness, having been integrated more consistently into the unitary French national identity.[22]


The vast majority of Catalans reside in the autonomous community of Catalonia, in the northeast part of Spain. At least 100,000 Catalan speakers live in the Pays Catalan in France. An indeterminate number of Catalans emigrated to the Americas during the Spanish colonial period and to France in the years following the Spanish Civil War.[28]

Culture and society[edit]

The castells, human towers, are part of the Catalan culture since 1712 and were declared by UNESCO to be amongst the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.[29]

Described by author Walter Starkie in The Road to Santiago as a subtle people, he sums up their national character with a local term seny meaning "common sense" or a pragmatic attitude toward life. The counterpart of Catalan "seny" is "rauxa" or madness, epitomized by "crazy", eccentric and creative Catalan artists like Antoni Gaudí, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró or Antoni Tàpies.[30][31] The masia or mas is a defining characteristic of the Catalan countryside and includes a large house, land, cattle, and an extended family, but this tradition is in decline as the nuclear family has largely replaced the extended family, as in the rest of western Europe. Catalonia in Spain is officially recognised as a "nationality" and enjoy a high degree of political autonomy,[32] which has led to reinforcement of a Catalan identity.


A Catalan speaker from Mallorca

The Catalan language is a Romance language. It is the language closest to Occitan, and it also shares many features with other Romance languages such as Spanish, French, Portuguese, Aragonese, and Italian. There are a number of linguistic varieties that are considered dialects of Catalan, among them, the dialect group with the most speakers, Central Catalan.

The total number of Catalan speakers is over 9.8 million (2011), with 5.9 million residing in Catalonia. More than half of them speak Catalan as a second language, with native speakers being about 4.4 million of those (more than 2.8 in Catalonia).[33] Very few Catalan monoglots exist; basically, virtually all of the Catalan speakers in Spain are bilingual speakers of Catalan and Spanish, with a sizable population of Spanish-only speakers of immigrant origin (typically born outside Catalonia or with both parents born outside Catalonia) [citation needed] existing in the major Catalan urban areas as well. In Roussillon, only a minority of French Catalans speak Catalan nowadays, with French being the majority language for the inhabitants after a continued process of language shift. According to a 2019 survey by the Catalan government, 31.5% of the inhabitants of Catalonia have Catalan as first language at home whereas 52.7% have Spanish, 2.8% both Catalan and Spanish and 10.8% other languages.[34]

The inhabitants of the Aran valley count Aranese–an Occitan dialect–rather than Catalan as their own language. These Catalans are also bilingual in Spanish.

In September 2005, the .cat TLD, the first Internet language-based top-level domain, was approved for all web pages intending to serve the needs of the Catalan linguistic and cultural community on the Internet. This community is made up of those who use the Catalan language for their online communication or promote the different aspects of Catalan culture online.

Traditional clothes[edit]

The traditional dress (now practically only used in folkloric celebrations) included the barretina (a sort of woollen, long cap usually red or purple) and the faixa (a sort of wide belt) among men, and ret (a fine net bag to contain hair) among women. The traditional footwear was the espardenya or espadrille.

Catalan children wearing the traditional outfit, including the barretina


Traditional diet[edit]

The Catalan diet is part of the Mediterranean diet and includes the use of olive oil. Catalan people like to eat veal (vedella) and lamb (xai).

There are three main daily meals:

  • In the morning: a very light breakfast, consisting of fruit or fruit juice, milk, coffee, or pa amb tomàquet "bread with tomato". Catalans tend to divide their breakfast into two parts: one early in the morning before going to work or study (first breakfast), and the other one between 10:00 and 12:00 (second breakfast)
  • In the afternoon (roughly from 13:00 to 14:30): the main meal of the day, usually comprising three dishes. The first consists of pasta or vegetables, the second of meat or fish, and the third of fruit or yogurt
  • In the evening (roughly from 20:00 to 22:30): more food than in the morning, but less than at lunch; very often only a single main dish and fruit; it is common to drink moderate quantities of wine.

In Catalan gastronomy, embotits (a wide variety of Catalan sausages and cold meats) are very important; these are pork sausages such as botifarra or fuet. In the past, bread figured heavily in the Catalan diet; now it is used mainly in the morning (second breakfast, especially among young students and some workers) and supplements the noon meal, at home and in restaurants. Bread is still popular among Catalans; some Catalan fast-food restaurants don't serve hamburgers, but offer a wide variety of sandwiches.

In the past, the poor ate soup every day and rice on Thursday and Sunday.

Catalans have a rich cuisine, including traditional desserts like the xuixo. Also, Catalan chefs like Ferran Adrià i Acosta or Jordi Roca i Fontané are widely renowned.

The discipline of abstinence, not eating meat during Lent, once was very strong, but today it is only practiced in the rural areas. Spicy food is rare in the Catalan diet but there are quite garlicky sauces such as allioli or romesco.

Traditional dishes[edit]

One type of Catalan dish is escudella, a soup which contains chick peas, potatoes, and vegetables such as green cabbage, celery, carrots, turnips, and meats such as botifarra (a Catalan sausage), pork feet, salted ham, chicken, and veal. In Northern Catalonia, it is sometimes called ollada.

Other Catalan dishes include calçots (a type of onions that are similar in shape to leeks, often grilled and eaten with a romesco sauce) and escalivada.


Catalan music has one of the oldest documented musical traditions in Europe.[35]

Catalans, traditionally devoted Catholics, during its recent history had become much less religious. Even so, the presence of religion is maintained through the traditions, values and monuments, like the Church of Sant Cristòfol de Beget.


The traditional religion in Catalonia is Roman Catholicism. However, in the course of recent history, Catalonia has undergone several waves of secularization.

The first wave of secularization happened during the eighteenth century as a result of the enlightenment influence to the bourgeoisie. The second one happened during the nineteenth century, that had a huge impact on the lower and middle class, but was interrupted by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939).[36]

The end of the Francoist regime led to a loss of power by the Catholic Church and to another wave of secularization that extends since the 1980s. During the 1990s most of the population of Catalonia was non-practising Catholic.[37] Nowadays 52.4% of Catalans declare themselves Catholic, practising or not, 30.2% of Catalans are agnostic or atheist, and there is also a considerable share of other religions, often connected to recent immigration: 7.3% Muslim, 2.5% Evangelical, 1.3% Buddhism, and 1.2% Orthodox Christians.[38] According to the most recent study sponsored by the government of Catalonia, as of 2016, 61.9% of the Catalans identify as Christians, up from 56.5% in 2014.[39] At the same time, 16.0% of the population identify as atheists, 11.9% as agnostics, 4.8% as Muslims, 1.3% as Buddhists, and a further 2.4% as being of other religions.[40]

Social conditions[edit]

Catalonia is one of the richest and most developed regions in Southern Europe.[41] Barcelona is among the most industrialized metropolises. A regional capital, it is a magnet for domestic and foreign migrants.[42]


Fire is the element used in most important traditional festivals, which are derived from pagan roots. These celebrations have a high acceptance of fire between the Catalans, like the Flame of Canigó to the Bonfires of Saint John.

An important and well-known celebration is La Diada de Sant Jordi, held on 23 April, in which men give women roses, and women give men a book.

Saint George's Day In Barcelona

Historical memory is the second axis of celebrations in Catalonia, where the Catalan people reunite with their date of birth as a people.

Among the religious celebrations, there are St. George's Day and the celebrations of Saint Vincent Martyr and Saint Anthony Abbot. The maximum expressions of this element are the Easter processions and performances of Passion Plays. Some festivals have a complicated relationship with religion, such as Carnival and the Dances of Death, or specific aspects of Christmas such as the Tió de Nadal or the caganer in Nativity scenes.

Other key elements of a Catalan celebration are: food, central to every party and especially to the pig slaughter and harvest festivals; contests such as the castells (human towers), choice of major and festive floats; music, songs and bands; processions; dances; and animals, especially bulls and representations of mythological creatures. The Patum of Berga has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.


Catalan protesters in Barcelona in 2019

Because of their intertwining history, many of the traditional symbols of Catalonia coincide with Aragon, Valencia and the Balearic Islands. The oldest known Catalan symbol is the coat of arms of the King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona, or bars of Aragon, one of Europe's oldest heraldic emblems; in modern times, Catalan nationalists have made it the main symbol of Catalan identity and it is even associated with the Catalan language.

As for anthems, "The Reapers" (Els Segadors) is the official national anthem of Catalonia and is also used in the other lands of the Principality; the Balanguera represents the people from the Balearic Islands and, in the case of Valencia, the official "Anthem of the Exhibition" (Himne de l'Exposició) alongside Muixeranga as symbols of the country.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ de població Archived 17 July 2024(Date mismatch)(Timestamp date invalid) at the Wayback Machine, Statistical Institute of Catalonia, 19 February 2024.
  2. ^ "Les Pyrénées-Orientales : un département toujours attractif malgré les difficultés sociales". Retrieved 13 March 2024.
  3. ^ "Did you know Algherese Catalan is vulnerable?". Endangered Languages. Archived from the original on 9 February 2023. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  4. ^ "¿Qué piensan los catalanes en Colombia sobre la crisis en España?". 8 October 2017. Archived from the original on 8 October 2018. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  5. ^ de 2016, 9 de Octubre (9 October 2016). "Guayaquil, una ciudad que creció con aporte extranjero". El Telégrafo. Retrieved 23 May 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ "Idescat. Statistical Yearbook of Catalonia. Population. By place of birth. Counties, areas and provinces". Archived from the original on 26 April 2020. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
  7. ^ Ancestry and Ethnic Origin Archived 23 July 2017 at the Wayback Machine, US Census
  8. ^ Government of Canada, Statistics Canada (8 February 2017). "Census Profile, 2016 Census - Canada [Country] and Canada [Country]". www12.statcan.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 17 March 2017. Retrieved 24 January 2023.
  9. ^ "031 -- Language by sex, by region and municipality in 1990 to 2017". Statistics Finland. Archived from the original on 26 June 2018. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  10. ^ Guelke, Adrian; Tournon, Jean (2012). The Study of Ethnicity and Politics: Recent Analytical Developments. Barbara Budrich Publishers. p. 23. To make things as concrete as possible, let us consider a well recognized ethnic group, say: the Catalan one.
  11. ^ Cole, Jeffrey (2011). Ethnic Groups of Europe: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 67. ISBN 978-0313309847. As a relatively wealthy, peaceful and generally successful ethnic-national unit, Catalans have often sought to be a model for conflictive zones in Europe
  12. ^ Miller, Henry; Miller, Kate (1996). "Language Policy and Identity: the case of Catalonia". International Studies in Sociology of Education. 6: 113–128. doi:10.1080/0962021960060106.
  13. ^ Minahan, James (2000). One Europe, Many Nations: A Historical Dictionary of European National Groups. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 156. ISBN 0313309841. Archived from the original on 16 January 2023. Retrieved 10 July 2018. The Catalans are a Romance people
  14. ^ Article 7 of Catalonia's Statute of Autonomy of 2006: "Gaudeixen de la condició política de catalans o ciutadans de Catalunya els ciutadans espanyols que tenen veïnatge administratiu a Catalunya."
  15. ^ "France's Catalans want more regional autonomy". www.aljazeera.com. Archived from the original on 26 October 2018. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  16. ^ Arfin, Ferne (26 July 2011). "Catalan culture in France and Spain: Homage to both Catalonias". Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  17. ^ "Stock Photo - Border sign between France and Spain". Alamy. Archived from the original on 6 December 2018. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  18. ^ Sauvy, Alfred (July 1980). "Les pays catalans. La population de Catalunya nord". Population (French Edition) (in French). 35 (4/5): 972–973. doi:10.2307/1532373. ISSN 0032-4663. JSTOR 1532373. Archived from the original on 20 February 2021. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  19. ^ "[1] Archived 13 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine Présentation Perpinyà 2008" (in French and Catalan)
  20. ^ Culture et catalanité Archived 30 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine Conseil Général des Pyrénées-Orientales (in French and Catalan)
  21. ^ Trelawny, Petroc (24 November 2012). "The French who see Barcelona as their capital". BBC News. Archived from the original on 29 June 2018. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  22. ^ a b Minder, Raphael (8 September 2016). "'Don't Erase Us': French Catalans Fear Losing More Than a Region's Name". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 8 February 2017. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  23. ^ "Catalan" (in Catalan). Institut d'Estudis Catalans dictionary. Archived from the original on 26 January 2021. Retrieved 17 August 2019. Relative to or belonging to the Catalan Countries or their inhabitants
  24. ^ "Catalan" (in Catalan). Gran Enciclopèdia Catalana. Archived from the original on 8 August 2019. Retrieved 17 August 2019. Inhabitant or natural of Catalonia or the Catalan Countries.
  25. ^ Danver, Steven L. (2013). Native Peoples of the World: An Encyclopedia of Groups, Cultures and Contemporary Issues. Routledge. p. 278. ISBN 978-1317464006. Archived from the original on 11 March 2023. Retrieved 16 October 2020. The majority of Catalans (5.9 million) live in the northeast of Spain in the administrative regions of Catalonia and Valencia.
  26. ^ "El 46,7% de catalanes quiere que Cataluña sea independiente, un 1,3% menos que en un sondeo anterior, según el CEO". www.europapress.es. 20 July 2018. Archived from the original on 30 July 2019. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  27. ^ Elliott, J. H. (2002). Imperial Spain 1469-1716. London: Penguin. ISBN 0141007036. OCLC 49691947.
  28. ^ El exilio cultural de la Guerra Civil, 1936-1939. Abellán, José Luis., Balcells, José María., Pérez Bowie, José Antonio., Universidad de Salamanca., Universidad de León. (1st ed.). Salamanca, España: Ediciones Universidad Salamanca. 2001. ISBN 8478009604. OCLC 48474208.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  29. ^ BBC, Close-Up: Catalonia's human towers Archived 8 November 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ Hughes, Robert (1993). Barcelona (First Vintage books ed.). New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 0679743839. OCLC 26502930.
  31. ^ Gayford, Martin (25 March 2006). "From earth to eternity". Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  32. ^ "First article of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia. "Catalonia, as a nationality, exercises its self-government constituted as an autonomous community..."". Gencat.cat. Archived from the original on 28 May 2008. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
  33. ^ Informe sobre la situació de la llengua catalana (2011) Archived 23 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine Report on the situation of the Catalan language (2011) (in Catalan)
  34. ^ Geli, Carles (8 July 2019). "El uso del catalán crece: lo entiende el 94,4% y lo habla el 81,2%". El País (in Spanish). ISSN 1134-6582. Archived from the original on 8 July 2019. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  35. ^ Garrigosa i Massana, Joaquim (2003). Els manuscrits musicals a Catalunya fins al segle XIII : l'evolució de la notació musical (1st ed.). Lleida: Institut d'Estudis Ilerdencs. ISBN 8489943745. OCLC 60328821.
  36. ^ Capdevila 2013, p. 9.
  37. ^ Capdevila 2013, p. 10.
  38. ^ "El 45% dels catalans afirma que no té creences religioses" [45% of the Catalans claims to have no beliefs]. Ara (in Catalan). Barcelona. 8 April 2015. Archived from the original on 8 November 2020. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  39. ^ "Baròmetre sobre la religiositat i sobre la gestió de la seva diversitat" (PDF). Institut Opiniòmetre, Generalitat de Catalunya. 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 September 2017. p. 30. Quick data from the 2014 barometer of Catalonia Archived 27 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine.
  40. ^ "Baròmetre sobre la religiositat i sobre la gestió de la seva diversitat 2016" (PDF). Institut Opiniòmetre, Generalitat de Catalunya. 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 October 2018. p. 30. Quick data from the 2016 barometer of Catalonia Archived 20 October 2018 at the Wayback Machine.
  41. ^ "L'execonomista en cap de l'FMI: "Catalunya, aïllada, seria un dels països més rics del món"". Ara.cat. 4 April 2011. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
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  • Collier, Basil. Catalan France (J.M. Dent and Sons Ltd., 1939).
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  • Guibernau, Montserrat. Catalan Nationalism: Francoism, Transition and Democracy (Routledge, 2004).
  • Hargreaves, John. Freedom for Catalonia?: Catalan Nationalism, Spanish Identity and the Barcelona Olympic Games (Cambridge University Press, 2000).
  • Simonis, Damien. Lonely Planet Catalunya & the Costa Brava (Lonely Planet Publications, 2003).
  • Starkie, Walter. The Road to Santiago (John Murray, 2003).
  • Michelin THE GREEN GUIDE France (Michelin Travel Publications, 2000).

External links[edit]