The comarca of El Maresme and its coastline includes some of the best beach resorts north of Barcelona. Calella is the best known but the Maresme has some delightful spots both on the coast and inland.
The capital of the Maresme is the industrial town of Mataró but the comarca's real attraction lies in its beach resorts.
The coast south of Mataró, which includes Montgat, El Masnou, Premià, Vilassar and Cabrera is nice enough, but the northern section is a much better holiday destination.
Starting at Sant Andreu de Llavaneres and continuing through Sant Vicenç de Montalt, Caldes d'Estrac, Arenys de Mar, Canet de Mar, Sant Pol de Mar, Calella de Mar, Pineda de Mar, Santa Susana and Malgrat de Mar, the beaches are much cleaner and the towns less industrial.
The inland towns are set in the hills and look down upon the sea, which is not far away.
Towns in the hilly interior, such as Argentona, were holiday resorts for the Barcelona bourgeoisie in the late 19th century, so not surprisingly include some lovely places to stay.
Most visitors to the area will be happy to book a hotel in one of the coastal resorts but if you want to explore the rugged hinterland, it's well worth hiring a car and heading off on your own.
Equally, the whole Costa del Maresme is an excellent option for day trips from Barcelona either by car or train, as the line runs parallel to the coast and all the resorts are maximum an hour away by Rodalies Barcelona local train service.
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The big advantage of the Costa del Maresme south of Mataró is its proximity to Barcelona.
In the days when the Barcelona city beaches were backed by derelict factories and Badalona was scruffy and dirty, the first decent beach from Barcelona was Montgat.
With the cleaning up of the Barcelona coast, it's probably not so necessary to get out of the city.
However, these towns - Vilassar and Premià, in particular - have a definite beach resort of feel to them and are great places for a holiday with the kids.
The comarca capital, Mataró, is quite built up and industrial, although the old town and the area around La Rambla is a great place to stop for something to eat and drink.
One of the high points of the whole of El Maresme is the proliferation of Modernista architecture and Mataró is no exception with a particularly good showing from Josep Puige i Cadafalch.
As soon as you get past Mataró, the coastline improves rapidly.
In fact one of my favourite sections comprises Sant Andreu de Llavaneres, Sant Vicenç de Montalt and Caldes d'Estrac, which are still technically the Baix Maresme but here the beaches are much cleaner and the sands more golden.
It's difficult to find a hotel round here because the area is more geared towards people who have second homes.
As soon as you get to Arenys de Mar, things get a bit more touristy without going too far.
Sant Pol is particularly nice and a very popular place for Barcelona residents to buy a second home.
The big town in the Alt Maresme is Pineda de Mar, whilst Calella is generally considered the Tourist Capital of this section of the Catalan coast.
Beware of tour companies selling you packages on this section of coast labelled Costa Brava, whose rocky beaches and coves don't start until you get to Blanes.
This is the Costa del Maresme, where long sand beaches with a gentle gradient into the water are much more the order of the day.
If you notice many of the towns along the Costa del Maresme, have a 'de Mar' and a 'de Dalt' or 'de Munt' version - Vilassar de Mar and Vilassar de Dalt, Arenys de Mar and Arenys de Munt etc etc.
'De Mar' means 'on Sea' and 'de Dalt' or 'de Munt' means 'upper' or 'higher' so each town has a coastal version or port and a village, which is where the locals live and is more oriented towards agriculture.
To be perfectly honest, I much prefer the inland villages to the ports but most tourists are inevitably attracted to the coast.
On this section of the coast you look down on the Mediterranean which is generally only 10 minutes walk away, and the villages are quiet and cool often with cheap, but excellent, bars and restaurants.
This is where the locals stay, and those of us who live in Barcelona and also know the area well.
Anther inland town that is well worth visiting is the extremely select Argentona, which was a summer resort to the Barcelona upper classes and has some lovely Modernista architecture.
If you are staying in Barcelona, you can also book a Day Trip to Alella, which is a centre of wine production that goes back as far as the Romans and more recently was where the former King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, kept his yacht and one of his many mistresses.
If you understand some Catalan, you can find up to date news about El Maresme on the Consell Comarcal del Maresme Website.
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