Top 5 Day Trips From Barcelona

Monday, October 29, 2012


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Spending time in Barcelona is an exhilarating experience. The city is a culture lover’s dream, offering countless unique experiences under the Mediterranean sun. However, spending your time solely in Barcelona can leave you yearning to explore the other possibilities in the region. In fact, Catalonia has a wealth of places to visit just a few hours away in all directions. Here are five options to satisfy your wanderlust while in the Catalan capital.

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1) Cadaques

Up the Mediterranean coast just two hours from Barcelona is the untouched and unspoiled sun-bleached fishing village of Cadaques, believed to be the inspiration behind the works of Salvador Dali. The village is surrounded by a national park isolating it from the world outside. Cadaques has a winter wind that blows through its narrow streets known as the “Tramontana” which is believed to be so unrelenting and vicious that it has been known to cause acute madness.

Such was its effect that in the late 1800’s, the population uprooted and left to live in Cuba and other parts of Latin America. Later, the village became a refuge for artists and a popular celebrity beach hangout, attracting such people as Walt Disney and Pablo Picasso. In an even more bizarre twist to the history of this village, a Chinese developer has recently decided to build a replica of Cadaques house-by-house as part of a holiday resort in Xiamen Bay facing Taiwan.

How to Get There

Due to Cadaques´s remoteness, there is no train station. You can take the train from Barcelona to Figueras or Rosas and a bus from there through the winding roads of the national park. Alternatively, a ferry leaves from Rosas just a little way down the coast. You can also walk the nine miles from Rosas with a marked route as the locals used to do in bygone days.

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2) Montserrat and El Penédes

Whether traveling from Barcelona by train or car, the outcrop of Montserrat’s sedimentary rock emerges over the horizon like something out of Lord of the Rings. Montserrat — “Serrated Mountain” in Catalan — was once believed to be the resting place of the Holy Grail, secretly stashed away in the Santa Maria de Montserrat Benedictine Abbey. There are two ways to get to the Abbey from ground level: the Aeri de Montserrat cable car, which provides breathtaking views of the mountain from above; and the Cremallera Funicular. For a 360-degree view of the surrounding area and out into the Penédes wine valley, hike to the the tubular-shaped peak of Sant Jeroni.

The wine region of Penedès expands from the Serralada mountain range to the Mediterranean Sea, and has been a hub of wine production since the 9th Century. The area is also a very important Cava producing region, with 66 separate producers, rivaling that of Champagne from France. Two well-known producers of cava in the region are Frexienet and Cordorniu who have had worldwide success, producing in excess of a million bottles of Cava every year. Both offer tours of the vineyards with wine tastings and food pairings.

How to Get There

Trains from Barcelona (R5) leave every hour stopping at the two Montserrat stations, Aeri Montserrat for the cable car and Montserrat for the Funicular.

Taking a train from Barcelona will take you directly to the village where the bodegas are located within the village of Sant Sadurni d’Anoia.

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3) Sitges

Located on the Costa de Garraf situated just 20 miles from Barcelona, Sitges was traditionally a small remote fishing village between Barcelona and Tarragona known for its perilous cliff roads and natural park that borders it on all sides.

Back in the mid-1800’s it would have been difficult to believe that this sleepy town would be the focal point of the avant-garde revolution and the birthplace of the Spanish counterculture. During the 1960’s, the town became a central area of the European hippie movement and the cultural launching pad to Ibiza.

With its 300 days of sunny days per year, many artists and writers flocked to the village in the late 1800’s to take advantage of the weather. This artistic vibe is still present today with its art fairs and museums dedicated to such inspirational Catalan artists and playwrights as Santiago Rusiñol and Antoni Gaudi (who built a summer residence there).

Sitges is also known as the San Tropez of Spain and the premier gay resort of Europe with its own carnival each year (February 6 – 13).

How to Get There

The town is only a 30-minute train ride from Barcelona with trains leaving every 20 minutes. Otherwise, you can rent a car and take on the perilous cliff roads, at your own risk, of course.

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4) Andorra and the Pyrenees

Renting a car allows you to head north two hours through the Cerdanya valley to Andorra with some of the most spectacular mountain terrain on Barcelona’s doorstep.

Made up of seven valleys, Andorra is a microstate and a principality on the border of Spain and France where residents of the two countries flock to take advantage of this tax-free haven and the clean air. The principality has a large concentration of spas and wellness centers that utilize the pure waters from the mountains. Many residents of Barcelona also flock here during the winter for its famous ski slopes.

The Pyrenees is also a gastronome’s dream for its world-renowned beef, the much-respected l’Alt Urgell soft cheese and for the mushrooms collected in the mountains.

How to Get There

If you don’t feel up to the two-hour drive, take the train to the town of Puigcerdà (Andorra has no train stations), which is only a stone’s throw away from Andorra by bus.

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5) Tarragona

Located just 50 miles from Barcelona, the history of Tarragona is a melting pot of different cultures as a result of being invaded over its long history. Today, the town is a World Heritage Site due to the remaining Roman infrastructure left over from the Roman rule over 2,000 years ago. Known at Tarraco, it was a major commercial port for the Romans.

These days, Tarragona is famous for two things: food and its international firework display competition. The competition is taken very seriously, attracting professional pyrotechnicians from all corners of the globe. The competition consists of both aerial and sub-aquatic displays.

For food lovers, Tarragona is a major fishing area, producing some of Catalonia’s best seafood. Every year the town holds a Tapas festival (April 19 – May 6), which is considered one of the most important gastronomic festivals in Spain, and which showcases some of the most innovative seafood tapas in Spain.

How to Get There

Tarragona is only one hour away by train from the train station in Barcelona.

By Anthony Bain

[Montserrat Train Station by David Weekly/Flickr; Bahía de Cadaqués by Fernando Jiménez/Flickr; Castell de Subirats by Angela Llop/Flickr; Sitges by VRoig/Flickr; Andorra by Jaume Meneses/Flickr; Catedral de Tarragon by Juan V. Vera del Campo/Flickr]


About the Author

Anthony’s intrepid writings and accidental ramblings from deepest darkest Barcelona can be found at his blog The Barcelona Review.

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