Getaways close to Barcelona
Very close to Barcelona, there are hidden villages, towns, routes and landscapes which, once you visit them, you cannot help but think about going back to or recommending them to anyone you know for them to enjoy a great one- or two-day getaway. Which one do you choose?
One of the quintessential getaways around Barcelona is Garraf, a breathtaking area encompassing sea, mountains, culture and leisure located some 40 km southwest of Barcelona. Garraf is known for its stunning beaches, lush vegetation and mountain peaks. The route we suggest begins in Vilanova i la Geltrú, a coastal city with a strong sea tradition, as you will notice on its promenade, as it is full of colonial-style buildings and fishermen's houses, and the Plaça de la Vila, one of the largest arcaded squares in Catalonia, with a marble floor and presided over by palm trees that recall the old name of "Havana xica" (Little Havana), which the town got in the 19th century, at the height of its trade with the Philippines. This square, as the setting of the great casteller (human tower) performances of Vilanova's Bordegassos, is also a focal point for the Carnival of Vilanova i la Geltrú, with over 250 years of history and declared a Heritage Festival of National Interest. As a witness to its history, the city houses the Railway Museum, which boasts the largest collection of steam locomotives in Europe. You can also enjoy a good xató (cod salad with almond sauce), a typical local dish.
To continue on your way and stay overnight, you can go to Sitges, an old fishing village that attracts visitors from all over the world throughout the year. This town hosts many international events, such as the Sitges Carnival in February; the Sitges Pride in June and the International Fantasy Film Festival of Catalonia in October, which earns it its nickname as Catalonia's "Cinema City". Here, you can stay in an array of accommodations, but if you want to enjoy a sustainable stay in lodging that promotes good environmental, social, economic and cultural practices, you will find Hotel Calipolis, which features the Biosphere sustainable tourism certification, an acknowledgement Sitges has also got in 2016. This coastal town is known as the cradle of Modernism, which you can find on the Art Nouveau Route, with the Pere Carreras House or the Casa del Rellotge (Clock House) and, especially, at the Cau Ferrat Museum, which was founded by the artist Santiago Rusiñol as a home workshop for artists of that time and is now an exhibition space for ancient art collections gathered by the artist, hence turning Cau Ferrat into the Temple of Modernism. If you are more inclined to stroll around and discover the city, you will also find the Ruta dels Americanos (Americans' Route), an essential glimpse into its history, which you can round off with a swim at the legendary San Sebastià beach. There are also other museums, such as the Can Llopís Romantic Museum and the well-known Palau Museu Maricel, an artistic and monumental complex made up of a residential area, known as Maricel de Terra, and the museum itself, known as Maricel de Mar, linked by the popular and busy Racó de la Calma.
If you want to discover one of the most popular landmarks in Catalonia, Montserrat is your destination. This iconic mountain, located some 50 km northwest of Barcelona, is known for its Benedictine monastery, the Montserrat Monastery, and its rocky cliffs, which rise to a height of 1,236 meters.
To get there, we suggest you start the route in Cornellà de Llobregat, a city that combines the charm of the streets of its old quarter and a modern shopping area, where you can visit the Chess Museum or the Agbar Water Museum, which shows the history of water management in Catalonia, as well as the Can Mercader Park. Next, we will go to Monistrol de Montserrat, next to the Montserrat Mountain Nature Park, where you will find hostels and restaurants that offer local cuisine, with seasonal and local products, and work with producers and winegrowers in the area.
From here, you can go directly to the Montserrat Monastery. There you will find the Hostal Abast Cisneros, a historical building established in 1563 whose old premises have been turned into accommodation for visitors and pilgrims. This accommodation, apart from featuring the Biosphere label that accredits it as a hostel that is committed to a responsible tourism model as well as to sustainability and the territory, will not disappoint you, as it is a great starting point for many routes of all types and levels with which to enjoy the most spectacular views of the area, especially from the top of Sant Jeroni, which offers a breathtaking view of the mountain and the surrounding area. If you prefer, you may also visit the Montserrat Sanctuary, with the iconic image of the Virgin Mary, "la Moreneta", the patron saint of Catalonia.
If you love nature and are passionate about the world of wine, the Penedès is the place for you. This region with great tourist and natural sights offers all kinds of activities. The route we suggest starts in Vilafranca del Penedès, a city known as the capital of wine, which will be the starting point for a two-day getaway full of history, culture, cuisine and wine tourism in the Penedès.
When you get to Vilafranca, we recommend you visit its historical centre to enjoy its medieval route, which is fully accessible, on which you will be able to see places that explain its medieval importance, as it is a city that linked Christian and Muslim territories in the twelfth century, a fact that has clearly defined its festive and cultural nature. You can start at the city's Tourist Office, where you can take guided tours to discover the medieval origins of the Casa de la Vila, the Royal Palace, where King Peter III the Great died, and Palau Baltà. You can also opt for another of its routes, such as the Art Nouveau route, with a dramatised Art Nouveau visit that will allow you to discover with your family, friends or partner iconic places that bear witness to the economic resurgence of the Alt Penedès region after phylloxera, such as the Miró House, the crypt of the Basilica of Santa Maria and the Freixedas House.
You may also experience first-hand the culture and relevance of wine in the region's history through VINESUM, a museum space dedicated to wine and which explains its strong cultural and tourist involvement, which is suitable for all audiences. To round off the evening, we suggest you enjoy a light meal in one of the many restaurants and culinary venues in the city, where all kinds of cuisine are offered. At the end of the evening, do not miss the rehearsals of one of the city's three major castellers groups, which take place on Friday evenings at the Castellers de Vilafranca premises: the Colla Jove dels Xiquets de Vilafranca and dels Xicots de Vilafranca. If you need to stay overnight, you can find different accommodations on the outskirts, such as rural houses or hotels, and in the city itself, such as the Cal Negri apartments, tourist apartments acknowledged with the Biosphere certification. It should be noted that Vilafranca del Penedès boasts a wide range of festivals, fairs and celebrations, such as Vijazz Vilafranca in July, the legendary great festival at the end of August, full of folklore and tradition, or the Fira del Gall, in mid-December, with its popular Penedès rooster.
On the following day, you can choose any of the eleven routes that take you from Vilafranca to different places, where you can enjoy the vineyard landscape, with the Wine Route or the Penedès 360 bike route as highlights. If you want to delve deeper into the culture of vineyards and their products, head for the municipality of Sant Sadurní d'Anoia, the so-called capital of cava. There, you can visit some of the region's most renowned and historical cavas and learn about the winemaking process, while enjoying a delicious wine pairing or a bike ride along the wine tourism routes and easy-to-navigate natural sites that surround the area. Remember that from late March to early April, the Ordal peach blossom season is also celebrated, a popular festival where you can taste the popular peach tree wine, while enjoying the peaceful nature and the rural landscape.
4. Route through Bages
To enjoy a getaway through the Bages region, we suggest a route that starts in Manresa, where you can visit its historic centre, with an array of heritage sites from different periods, such as the medieval, Baroque and Art Nouveau periods, as well as the Basilica of Santa Maria, known as "la Seu", with its Gothic style and many works inside.
You can then make your way to the Monastery of Sant Benet de Bages, one of the landmark monuments in the region, dating from the 10th century. This space, which is ideal for lovers of architecture and Romanesque art, offers the opportunity to visit the old Benedictine abbey and discover its history through a guided tour of its spaces and gardens, which are imbued with peace and calm. This monastery is part of the Món Sant Benet space, a cultural, tourist and leisure project of great culinary uniqueness, with the cuisine research centre, the Alícia Food and Science Foundation, as well as other services, such as a hotel, a conference centre and several restaurants, one of which features a Michelin star.
After visiting the Monastery of Sant Benet, head north towards Castellnou de Bages. There you will find the Torre del Moro de Castellnou, an 11th-century defensive tower with scenic views from the Pyrenees to Montserrat. Finally, you can spend the night at the Hotel Rural Cal Segudet, located in the same municipality of Castellnou de Bages and accredited with the Biosphere label, where you can unwind and enjoy an unparalleled environment.
We suggest you visit Cardona Castle the next day, which is an impressive medieval fortress from the 9th century and an essential example of Catalonia's historical heritage, which offers stunning views of Catalonia's inland. At the end, you can continue the route to the Cardona Salt Mines, an impressive underground salt cathedral where you can take a guided tour to explore the history of salt and its relevance in the region over the years.
5. From the plain to the sky of Osona
Another of the suggested routes will take you to Vic, the capital of Osona, which is located some 70 kilometres from Barcelona. This city of Roman origin and of great relevance during the medieval period boasts an important historical and cultural heritage. The Historical Centre Tourist Route allows you to discover the most interesting areas, such as the Roman Temple, a structure dating from the 2nd century; the Vicpuntzero space, which offers a fascinating insight into the history of the region through an immersive audiovisual experience; or the well-known Plaça Major, the setting for the city's market and fairs. However, the space you should not miss is the 14th-century Cathedral of Sant Pere, with its striking bell tower and its Gothic-style crypt. Moreover, throughout the year Vic hosts all kinds of fairs and festivals that are closely linked to its territory and will allow you to enjoy an unforgettable visit, such as its monthly flea, craft, painting and drawing or record markets; the exhibition of Catalan cheeses called Lactium; the Vic Live Music Market for professionals from all over the world of music and its fields; the Medieval Market and the now legendary Mercat del Ram de Vic, which is held every year before Easter and hosts all kinds of livestock exhibitions and competitions, agricultural products, leisure activities, cuisine and even balloon rides, which are very common in the area.
After your visit to Vic, do not miss Rupit i Pruit, a charming medieval village in the middle of the Collsacabra, which seems to have popped out of ancient legends and tales. Its historical quarter, made up of cobbled streets, stone houses, the remains of the old castle and a surprising wooden suspension bridge as well as the church of Sant Miquel, have turned it into a responsible, sustainable and quality tourist destination, acknowledged as a Biosphere destination, recognised as a "charming village in Catalonia" by the Catalan Tourism Agency and awarded Best Tourism Village of the World by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation. You can also stay overnight and enjoy accommodations committed to environmental, social and economic sustainability, as acknowledged by the Biosphere certificate, such as the cozy Hostal Estrella, where you can rest close to the natural area of Guilleries-Savassona.
The next day, continue your route to Tavertet, a village located near Rupit that offers stunning views of the surrounding cliffs and mountains, hence providing a breathtaking panoramic view where you can almost touch the sky. You will find the Church of Sant Cristòfol, as well as many activities, from great routes to mountain bike circuits and trails of varying difficulty, which you can round off with a tasting in one of the restaurants in the area before setting off on your return journey.
6. Vallès Occidental
Vallès Occidental is full of places to discover, and one of the best ways to do so is by following the route we suggest. Taking Terrassa as your starting point, you can visit its heritage sites, such as Seu d'Ègara, the old Roman name of the city, which houses the group of churches of Sant Pere, which are more than 2,500 years old, or the MNACTEC, the National Museum of Science and Technology, located in the Vapor Aymerich, Amat i Jover building, an old textile factory and one of the finest industrial architectural works of Catalan Art Nouveau. The city also offers a great culinary range, which you can find inside the Mercat de la Independència. Afterwards, you can take a walk through Vallparadís Park or head to Sant Jordi Park, where you will also find the Masia Freixa, an Art Nouveau building by Lluís Muncunill.
In the city of Terrassa itself, there are many accommodation options, some with Biosphere certification and committed to sustainable tourism, such as the Hotel Don Cándido or the Vallparadís hostel.
The next day, the route continues with a steep hike to the top of La Mola, from where you can enjoy incredible panoramic views and visit the Monastery of Sant Llorenç del Munt. On the way back, you can recharge your batteries at the summit of La Mola, where there is a restaurant before you start your return journey home.
In short, Vallès Occidental offers a wide range of places to discover, both in terms of historical heritage and nature, whereas its cuisine is unique and delicious. If you stay at a Biosphere-certified site, you can enjoy all this in a sustainable and responsible way.
7. The most authentic Maresme
If you are looking for a place to unwind with sea views, a getaway to the Maresme is the best option. For a two-day visit to some of its most authentic places, we suggest a route that will allow you to enjoy incredible beaches, the most delicious local cuisine and breathtaking landscapes.
We advise you to start from Canet de Mar. Specifically, from the Canet de Mar Tourist Office, located in the Lluís Domènech i Montaner House Museum, whose centenary is being celebrated in 2023. From this place, built by Domènech i Montaner himself, the architect of the Hospital de Sant Pau in Barcelona or the Palau de la Música Catalana, among other works, you can find out about the different activities commemorating the centenary, as well as the Art Nouveau routes in this town, featuring the most Art Nouveau sights per square metre, with works by Puig i Cadafalch, Ferrés i Puig or Domènech i Roura, apart from Domènech i Montaner himself. You can also enjoy other routes, such as the Indians route, with a compilation of the most important and impressive houses and pantheons. Whether you are a fan of the series or not, you cannot miss a visit to Santa Florentina Castle, also designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner and turned into the stronghold of the Tarly family.
Afterwards, continue the route to Sant Pol de Mar beach, where you can relax and sunbathe in a picture-perfect setting. Later in the evening, book a table at one of the town's restaurants to enjoy a good dinner of fresh fish and seafood. For accommodation, we suggest you go to Calella, where you will find different options of hotels and apartments that promote sustainable tourism and feature the Biosphere certificate.
On the second day, the route follows the coast towards Barcelona up to Arenys de Mar. In this coastal town, you can visit the port, where you will still find fishing boats. Heading inland, you will find the Municipal Market, the church of Santa Maria d'Arenys and the exhibition hall of the Calisay Cultural Centre, open at weekends. Continuing towards the innermost part of the Maresme, you will go up to Arenys de Munt, a small town with unparalleled charm, where you can enjoy a pleasant stroll through the historical centre.
On the way back, we recommend heading back to Cabrera de Mar, where you can make a stop to take a circular route suitable for the whole family and lasting less than two hours to go up to Burriac Castle. There you can enjoy the views to unwind and relax just before returning home.