Secrets of Spain: resplendent Reus

Reus is best known as the home town of Gaudí, but apart from this, the city centre is throbbing with remarkable architecture, sublime shopping and oodles of great food, culture and history. Located around 6 miles inland from the golden coast of the Costa Dorada, the beautiful city of Reus is frequently ignored by the hordes of Ryanair passengers who fly into the airport that is still entitled Reus Barcelona. Barcelona is a mere 76 miles up the road from the city of Reus!

Reus Plaza de Prim

Plenty of Irish and British tourists use this airport as a cheap way to get to various destinations, such as Salou, Cambrils and a whole host of others. So many of these people completely and blissfully ignore the striking city centre, which has so much to offer.

Stumble upon the city’s buzz and architecture

The first time I visited the city, I didn’t do any research beforehand, on purpose. I randomly wandered the streets, without any expectations, except to find the picturesque square that I had seen in photos online. I stumbled upon parts of a modernist route, and found myself enthralled by the city centre’s buzz and resplendent architecture.

Reus architecture Fortuny statue

Gravitate towards the beautiful main squares

There are two main squares in the city centre, both of them extremely beautiful and striking. I highly recommend getting your bearings in this way. Head towards Plaça de Prim and the other main square, Plaça del Mercadal. As you work your way out from either of these squares, pretty much in any direction, you’re spoilt for choice in terms of gorgeous buildings, boutiques and cafes.

Plaza de Prim Reus

“Doing vermouth” in Reus

Once you have a feel for the character of the city, it’s the perfect time to sample more of its personality, by drinking a local vermouth. “Doing vermouth” in Reus is a long-lived tradition, which can be traced back to the 19th century.

Originally the city was known for its production of brandy back in the 18th century, which was also drunk happily in bars in Paris. From the 19th century onwards vermouth was being produced, and being greatly appreciated by the people who “did Vermouth” in Reus. It’s so much a part of the city’s culture, that it would almost be rude not to sample at least one vermouth while spending time there.

Once you’ve been fortified by one or two local vermouths, it’s either time to see some of the most important architecture of Reus, or just continue on to sample some of the local foodie offerings.

General Joan Prim Statue Reus

Postcard pretty Plaça de Prim

Plaça de Prim was the square that I had seen in photos, before my first visit. I was wondering whether it would be a let down, as the photos were so lovely, but that certainly wasn’t the case.

The square is the quintessential postcard of Reus, with its focal point being the grand statue of General Joan Prim. He was an exceptional, charismatic figure, who could trigger both hatred and admiration. He was quoted to have said: “looking for a democratic monarch in.Europe is like trying to find an atheist in heaven”

In 1843 in his hometown of Reus, he was heckled by a crowd. Standing in the same place where you can see his magnificent statue today, he told the crowd that one day a statue would be erected in that place in his honour. He wasn’t wrong.

Reus statue of General Joan Prim

Ornate grandeur in Plaça del Mercadal

This is the bigger of the two squares, where you’ll find the Reus Town Hall. The square itself, as well as the original Town Hall, can be dated back to the 16th century. This gorgeous square has been the hub of commercial and social activity in the town since those days. The facades of the majority of the buildings, that embrace the periphery of the square, are ornate and beautiful.

As you reach the square, you can’t help but notice that one building stands out as being very different from the rest. This is the Gaudi Centre, which I personally find quite out of place in terms of its design, in this setting.

Reus Plaza de Mercadal Town Hall

Gaudi and the route of the four geniuses

The Gaudi centre and the Gaudí route are both excellent experiences for those who wish to understand as much as possible about the work and life of this amazing man. The Gaudi experience that you can enjoy in Reus is part of a special Catalan initiative, called the Route of the Four Geniuses.

The remaining three geniuses and the towns that they are related to are:

Picasso and Horta de Sant Joan
Joan Miro and Mont-roig del Camp
Pablo Casals and El Vendrell

If you have an interest in exploring some, or all of the rest of this route, make sure to contact one of the related tourist office before your trip.

Gaudi Centre Reus

Reus modernist route

There’s an abundance of wonderful examples of modernist architecture in Reus. During my first visit I chose to stumble upon them, which gave me that fun feeling of discovery for the first time. There is, however, a signposted route that takes you for a gentle stroll around the city, and includes what are considered to be the 26 most important examples of modernist architecture.

Reus modernist route

A sublime shopping experience

Reus has a strong commercial history, and as a visitor today, you can have a super shopping experience in the city centre. It’s not only that there are plenty of gorgeous shops to choose from, but so many of these are located in the city’s historical old quarter. The combination of these pretty, historical streets and tempting shops is sublime.

Reus shopping beautiful streets

Diverse foodie offerings

Much like the shopping experience that you can look forward to in the city, the food offerings are also diverse and plentiful. In the historical quarter, and around the town, you can try the Menu del Dia, which is the set menu that Franco brought in originally for the workers.

Depending on the standard of the restaurant and of course the price range, you can enjoy three courses, with some drinks often included, from anywhere between €10-€20. If you’re visiting during the weekend, sometimes this price may go up slightly, or some restaurants may not offer a Menu del Dia.

The city of Reus also has a good selection of prestigious restaurants. Don’t forget that Reus is set in an area where olive oil is almost like a religion, as is the local wine production….and of course, its savouring!

Reus olive oil

Seaside resorts close by

The two seaside resorts that are closest to the town of Reus are Salou and Cambrils. Salou is home to the famous theme park Port Aventura, and is an especially lively place, although it has some wonderful beaches and other charms. Depending on the time of the year and what you’re looking for from your holiday, this can either be a blessing or a curse. Cambrils, on the other hand, is also busy, but more buzzing then overrun. It has a lovely port area, and plenty of good restaurants to choose from.

Salou Playa Capellans Beach

Last, but certainly not least, is that you should certainly bear in mind that the fabulous city of Tarragona is only around 10 miles away. This also has some fantastic beaches, as well as an amazing amount of heritage, culture and sights…including its Roman town, Tarraco, with the amphitheatre by the sea and much more besides.

Roman Amphitheatre Tarragona

Jackie de Burca is Co-owner of Catalonia Valencia.

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Comments (14)

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  1. Hans says:

    Another brilliant city in the amazing nation that is Spain. Valencia is a place I have heard more and more about in recent years, and I look forward to visiting in the next year or so!

  2. Hi Hans,
    Thank you! Try to incorporate both Reus and Tarragona if you have enough time. Valencia is fabulous, without a doubt. I wasn’t sure whether to include it in this series, purely as it doesn’t really qualify as a secret! :)
    Have a great trip when you go!
    Warm regards
    Jackie

  3. J.R. Duren says:

    Great story on Reus! I’ve yet to go there, but am looking forward to visiting some day. Are there a lot of tourists there, or is it mostly locals?

  4. Hi J.R.
    Thanks for the feedback! :) You should definitely go – the few times I have been there it is buzzing, and I do listen out for accents and languages to get a feel for the tourism there.

    I would say that the vast majority is local or Catalan and Spanish tourism, but I have heard a variety of other nationalities whilst there.

    Thanks
    Jackie

  5. Hi Jackie,
    Thank you for this inspiring post! As an archaeologist, I’m always interested in discovering ‘secret’ (or at least out of the beaten track) places, narrow streets, beautiful heritage houses and forgotten traditional crafts.
    I appreciate Barcelona a lot and Anton Gaudi is my favorite architect, but I would love to savour a trip to Reus, out of the tourist crowd …
    Thanks a lot for your cool suggestions. Olive oil and Vermouths are quite tempting too ;-)
    PS: in Dutch, ‘Reus’ means ‘giant’? I cannot take that out of my head …

  6. Hi Gery,
    I like your site, very nice indeed. :) Reus and if you check earlier in this same series, Tarragona, is another one for you I believe.

    Absolutely loving the fact that Reus is giant in Dutch – fantastic!!

    Good to connect,
    Jackie

  7. Thanks for your introduction to another lovely corner of Spain that was unfamiliar to me. And I have to agree that not sampling a vermouth while here would be most rude! I’m sure there’s many a tasty edible treat that it would be fairly rude not to try as well.

  8. Hi again Jackie,
    I just realized today my hairdresser was from Tarragona. So we talked a lot about Reus (I hardly can pronounce it the way the Catalans do), Plaça de Mercadal and vermouth (totally other pronunciation too). Another reason to fly to Spain soon. Thx, Gery

  9. Thanks Kathryn. Lovely city, that I know you’d enjoy complete with vermouth and foodie offerings! :)

  10. Hi again Gery,
    Funny that your hairdresser is from Tarragona! :) Delighted to hear that you’re even more motivated to come back to Spain, in this instance Catalonia, of course!!
    Pronunciation – tell me about it …my other half is from Portugal and I can’t pronounce his name correctly – a sound that is just out of my repertoire!
    Enjoy the weekend!
    Thanks
    Jackie

  11. Daniel Fernández says:

    First of all I have to say to Jackie de Burca, thanks for that great description of the city because as I can check everytime I go out of home, Reus is a very beautiful city, and has a lot to give to the visitors.
    As a person who lives in Reus, I agree with you in everything but the only information that I’ve missed in the descritpion is that in 21-29 of July (Saint John and Saint Peter) Reus lives its popular holiday, as in 25 of September (Saint Miserichordy, I think that would be the translation of Misericòrdia). You can’t leave the city without living the experience of popular dances, traditions and folklore.
    To finish with extra information (if Jackie allows it :P) each two years in 3 October, Reus lives a great day of humans towers that is also one of the best experience Catalonia can bring to you. The year in the middle in the same day, human towers are made in a enormous competition in Tarragona, with the bests groups of ‘castellers’ that is how people doing human towers are called.
    Asking to Gery, I have heard about a place called ‘La Boella’ next to Reus that has importance in archaeology so maybe you could visit it if you travel to Reus! And don’t forget to taste ‘menjablanc’ and ‘plim’.

  12. Thank you Daniel for your long and useful comment! The feedback of a true ‘native’ is always interesting to read.
    Human towers are very impressive. I’m always afraid someone falls down, but I guess it is part of the game…
    I searched the web to find out what had been discovered on the archaeological site of La Boella. The place used to be inhabited by prehistoric people very long ago (the time of the mammoths ;-)
    Catalunya comes very much in the media right now… Writing a new page of history?
    Gery

  13. Melissa says:

    Great article! Have you been to Murcia? It is a very cool city in the costa calida with a very sunny weather all year long, beaches, delicious mediterranean food and friendly people :)

  14. Hi Melissa,
    I personally haven’t been as yet to Murcia, but Sandy Cadiz-Smith wrote a great guest post for my blog on some of her personal & foodie highlights in the region – http://www.catalonia-valencia.com/murcia-spain-travel-guide-my-magical-murcian-days.html

    It is on my horribly long and ever growing list though :)
    Thanks
    Jackie

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