Top spots for a truly unique Barcelona trip
If you live in Barcelona, you don’t need telling, and if you’re travelling there for the first time it won’t take you long to realise that this city has it all: great food, thriving cultural life and arts scene, endless activities, beaches and mountains… Everything you could possibly imagine. But that’s not all. Once you’ve explored the city itself, there are lots of fantastic outings to be enjoyed close to Barcelona. Yet more reasons to fall in love with the city.
Top 10 places close to Barcelona
There are lots of great places near Barcelona that are perfect for a weekend or weekday outing. Most can be comfortably visited in one day, although some merit an overnight stay. Ready?
Cardona: only 1½ hours from Barcelona by train, Cardona is dominated by its imposing castle, which dates from 886 and is well worth a visit, both for its interior decor and the stunning views over the county of Bages from the top. Within the castle walls you’ll also find the impressive Romanesque church of Sant Vicenç de Cardona. The true highlight, though, is the town’s 100-hectare Salt Mountain. Visit the salt mines for a dramatic experience of nature.
Pont del Diable: it’s not every day you get to visit a Roman bridge dating from 10 BC. It once formed part of the Via Augusta and you don’t need a car to get there today. The FGC Llobregat-Anoia train line takes you right there. Get off at Martorell Vila-Castellbisbal. Watch out once you’re there: legend has it that the bridge was built by the devil himself…
Sitges: this charming coastal town is a must if you’re in Barcelona. White houses run down to its sandy beaches and beautiful seaside church. This town also throws plenty of parties: don’t miss the famous Sitges Carnival, its tapas bars, Corpus Christi celebrations or its world famous International Film Festival.
Pantà de Sau: less than two hours from Barcelona is this beautiful reservoir, which is always full of surprises: depending on the time of year and the water level, you may see the ruined village of Sant Romà de Sau, which sank beneath the water in 1962, when the river was dammed. When the water level is really low, you can even visit it! Although you’re more likely just to spot the top of the church spire, which you can canoe out to, if you want. If you’re not into water sports, there are lots of great walking trails around the reservoir.
Port Aventura: without a doubt the top amusement park in Catalonia and one of the best in the world. Don’t miss the opportunity to spend one or two days at Port Aventura. It’s about 1½ hours from Barcelona, but it’s well worth it! Get an adrenaline rush on the Shambhala, Furius Baco or Dragon Khan rides, have fun with the kids on Sesame Street Aventura, enjoy the dance and magic shows and watch the fireworks over the lake… Port Aventura is the amusement park for you!
Besalú and Girona: if you’re looking for a romantic getaway, head for Besalú, a perfect example of a medieval Catalan town. The old centre is beautiful and easily seen in a couple of hours. Don’t forget to take a photo from its famous bridge, stroll around its cobbled streets and savour some traditional Catalan cuisine in one of its lively restaurants. If you’re still up for sightseeing after lunch, drive over to Girona, only 30 minutes away. Walk around its historic centre and famous Barri Vell, where several scenes from Game of Thrones were shot. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll be amazed to see the Great Sept of Baelor in real life as Girona Cathedral.
Vall de Núria: the perfect place to disconnect and enjoy nature all year round. In winter you can ski and go sledging, and in summer you can go horse riding through the valley, go canoeing or boating on the lake or try your hand at archery; and in autumn you can go mushroom hunting! This is one of the best places for excursions with kids near Barcelona! Vall de Núria has a great fun park with aerial runways, a climbing wall, trampolines and lots more for children to have a whale of a time.
Colonia Güell: if you’ve already seen the Sagrada Família, La Pedrera, Park Güell, Casa Batlló, Casa Vicens and other masterpieces by Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona and are still eager for more, head for Santa Coloma de Cervelló, where you’ll find another gem by Gaudí: la Colònia Güell. This set of Modernista buildings built for textile factory workers includes the famous Crypt, now a Unesco World Heritage Site. It’s only 20 minutes from Barcelona by train: take the FGC (Lines S3, S4, S8 and S9) and get off at Colònia Güell. Have a great day!
Vic: Vic makes a wonderful outing from Barcelona for lovers of Catalan cuisine, especially cured meat. Vic is said to produce the best fuet in the whole of Catalonia! If possible, visit the Medieval Market in Vic. It’s usually held in early December and you’ll find all kinds of food, crafts and more amid a captivating medieval atmosphere. If you miss the market, the Plaça Major, narrow, winding streets, cathedral and Roman temple are impressive sights in themselves.
Montserrat: a unique mountain moulded into weird and wonderful shapes by the wind and rain. Did you know that Montserrat was hidden under the sea for thousands of years? Or that one of its caves revealed the Black Madonna of Montserrat, patron of Catalonia and known as “La Moreneta”? Many pilgrims flock every year to see her and many hikers come to walk the many trails and enjoy the views from the top. Pick a trail at the right level of difficulty for you and discover the joys of the mountain for yourself. Don’t forget to buy a well-deserved Montserrat coca pastry before you leave!