Year round living in Maresme's vibrant capital

An Insider’s Guide to Mataró

Mataró is the capital and largest town in Maresme, blending historical richness with modern innovation as well as offering  a vibrant cultural scene, a strong educational and economic base, alongside ample opportunities for recreation and generally to enjoy its beautiful natural environment. It is located close to several natural parks and green spaces, providing great opportunities for hiking and biking.  Mataró is also well-connected by road and rail, with frequent train services to Barcelona and other nearby cities. The C-32 motorway also connects Mataró to Barcelona and the Costa Brava.

Here’s the Maresme Connect insider’s guide to Mataró from its fascinating history to its diverse food options.

History & Economy of Mataró

Basílica de Santa Maria de Mataró

Basílica de Santa Maria de Mataró

Mataró’s history dates back to Roman times when it was known as Iluro and it retains several archaeological sites from this period, including remnants of Roman villas and an ancient road. Then, Iluro was one of the most important cities of Roman Catalonia, until the third century, when the Roman Empire began to decline. The city is built around the iconic Basílica de Santa Maria, originally built on the site of a Roman temple and which later became a Gothic building. The base of the bell tower, designed by the Milanese architect Ercole Torelli in 1675, still survives today.

Mataró soon became a small medieval town, made up of farmers under the rule of the feudal lords of Castell de Mata. The city developed significantly during this period and continued to grow through the Renaissance and into modern times, becoming an important centre for agriculture, trade, and later, industry. It was brought under the authority of Barcelona in the 15th Century when the chains of feudalism were broken. Despite not having a port at that time, cargo boats unloaded their goods on Mataró’s beaches to avoid the taxes and tariffs imposed by the Port of Barcelona. Many Mataró locals decided to go to America to make their fortune, seeing maritime trade as a great opportunity. Some came back very wealthy and used their money to help drive the Industrial Revolution.

The first railway in Spain was built between Barcelona and Mataró in 1851, demonstrating the historical importance of Mataró as a city for trade and exports. The early textile and knitwear factories took advantage of this and Mataró became one of the most important industrial cities in the country at that time. The textile industry was a point of attraction for people looking for work, a trend that caused the transformation of the city’s appearance through the construction of new working-class neighbourhoods.

Today, Mataró has a diverse economy that includes services, commerce, and industry. The city is also becoming increasingly known for technology and innovation.

Property in Mataró

The property market in Mataró is influenced by several factors including its location, economic activity and quality of life. Its proximity to Barcelona (about 30 kilometres away) makes it a desirable location for commuters who work in the city but prefer a more relaxed, coastal living environment. Mataró has a diverse economy with sectors such as manufacturing, services, and tourism contributing to its economic stability. This economic diversity supports a stable property market. Property prices in Mataró reflect the general upward trend in Catalonia and have been rising in recent years.  According to Indomio, the average property price in May 2024 was €1924/m2 . This is competitive compared to Barcelona (averaging at €4063/m2 in 2024) but it varies depending on the neighbourhood and type of property.

Mataró offers a mix of apartments, townhouses and villas. Coastal properties with sea views tend to be more expensive, while properties further inland or in less central areas are more affordable. The Catalan Art Nouveau movement has left a significant architectural legacy in Mataró, as it has in other parts of Catalonia.  While most prominent Modernista buildings in Mataró are public or commercial structures, there are residential properties that also exhibit elements of this architectural style.  These properties may feature decorative facades, wrought iron balconies, stained glass windows, and other characteristic details.There has also been a steady development of new residential projects, including modern apartment complexes and refurbished historical buildings, catering to a range of budgets and preferences.

The rental market is fairly robust, with a significant number of properties available for long-term and short-term rentals, appealing to both locals and expatriates. The average price in May 2024 was 11,25/m2. Overall, the property market in Mataró is buoyant, with a healthy balance of demand and supply. It is an attractive location for those looking to invest in real estate, as well as for individuals and families seeking a good quality of life with the benefits of coastal living and proximity to a major city like Barcelona.

Gastronomy in Mataró

The gastronomic scene in Mataró is vibrant and diverse, reflecting its coastal location and Catalan heritage. Given its coastal location, Mataró offers an abundance of fresh seafood. Dishes featuring fish, shellfish, and other marine delicacies are staples in many restaurants. La Marina is a family-run restaurant is located on the seafront offering great views from the terrace. Another renwoned seafood restaurant located in Mataró’s port is Pez Globo. a gastronomic fusion, with afternoon shows and live music.  If you’re looking for some traditional Spanish tapas, La Marineta is a great option. L’Harmonia is a popular spot that combines Mediterranean and Catalan flavors, known for its excellent seafood and tapas. In many restaurants in the Maresme capital, you can find a variety of traditional Catalan dishes such as “escalivada” (roasted vegetables), “botifarra” (Catalan sausage), “pa amb tomàquet” (bread with tomato), and “fideuà” (a type of seafood paella made with noodles instead of rice).  The town also boasts numerous cafes and wine bars with a good selection of local wines and light bites.

The Mercat de la Plaça de Cuba is the central market is a hub for fresh, local produce. It’s a great place to experience the vibrant food culture of Mataró, with stalls selling fresh seafood, meats, vegetables, fruits, and other local products. The Mercat Municipal de Mataró is another key market in the city, offering a wide range of fresh produce and gourmet products. Mataró hosts various food-related events and festivals throughout the year, celebrating local cuisine and seasonal products. These events often feature cooking demonstrations, tastings and opportunities to meet local producers.

Check out the best lunch spots with terraces in Maresme

Shopping in Mataró

plaza santa anna

Plaza Santa Anna

For shopping, Mataró’s Old Town is a great place to start. In the centre, there are long pedestrian streets, with plenty of shops ranging from local boutiques and independent shops to chain stores and contemporary markets. If you’re looking for a more traditional shopping experience, then Mataró Parc is the place to start, This popular mall offers stores with electronics, home decor, jewellery, toys, a large el Campo supermarket and of numerous fashion stores. There is also an abundance of restaurants on the top floor as well as a cinema. Very close to the shopping centre, there is a large Decathlon sports store (The best time to go to any shopping centre in Spain is Spanish lunchtimes (from 2-4pm) when the stores tend to be much emptier).

The Plaça de Cuba Market has flowers and vegetables for great prices from Tuesday to Saturday in the morning, through to the afternoon. Additionally, on Saturdays, there are smaller markets throughout the city, making it the perfect day to do some authentic Mataró shopping.

Beaches of Mataró

Mataró beach

Paddle Boarding and Kayaking at Platja del Varador

As soon as you exit the train station you will spot the blue waters of the Mediterranean, as well as its vibrant port.  Mataró’s most popular beach Platja del Varador is both lively and family-friendly, with volleyball and football nets set up. There are ambient chiringuitos around to enjoy the day with a cocktail and tapita in hand and feet in the sand.The next closest beach to the city centre is the Platja de Sant Simó. This is the quieter option and makes for a more relaxing beach experience. Just above the beach, there is a small naturalist area.

Activities in Mataró

Human Towers Mataro

Human Towers are a regular part of Mataró’s celebrations

Les Santes is the main festival of Mataró, celebrated in late July in honour of the city’s patron saints, Saint Juliana and Saint Semproniana. The festivities include parades, concerts, fireworks, and traditional Catalan activities like castells (human towers). Mataró boasts several popular museums and cultural centres, including the Mataró Museum and the Ca l’Arenas Art Centre, which host a variety of exhibitions and cultural events

If you want to explore art and architecture, head to the Nau Gaudi Contemporary Art Museum.  This modernist building of a former production plant was the first completed project by Antoni Gaudi, showcasing his innovative approach to design.. After being restored, it now houses an exhibition space where regular shows of local works of art are held.  Casa Coll I Regas is a modernist building designed by the architect Josep Puig i Cadafalc, in 1898, commissioned by businessman Joaquim Coll i Regas. Exponent of the elements of decorativism that characterized the modernist movement, it was declared a Cultural Asset of National Interest in 2000. Other cultural highlights include the Basilica of Santa Maria, a Gothic-style church is one of Mataró’s key landmarks, featuring a Baroque facade and  impressive interiors. The Roman Villa of Torre Llauder is an archaeological site which includes the remains of a Roman villa with impressive mosaics, offering insights into the region’s ancient history

Services in Mataró

Mataró offers excellent amenities including schools, healthcare facilities, shopping centres and cultural attractions. Its quality of life is enhanced by green spaces, recreational facilities, and a vibrant local community.. The main hospital supports both Mataró residents (approx 130,000) and those living in all of Maresme offering a range of state-of-the-art X-ray and radiography services. TecnoCampus is a higher education and technology park that combines university education with business incubation and innovation support. It’s a crucial part of Mataró’s modern identity, fostering entrepreneurship and technological development. For social security and other administrative affairs in Maresme, Mataro’s Sede SegSocial offers online and in-person appointments (it can be a challenge getting an appointment!).