There’s much more to Catalonia than just Barcelona! While Las Ramblas and Sagrada Familia are must-sees for first-time visitors, you can find beautiful scenery and a deep history waiting to be explored just a stone’s throw away. Here are our top tips for day trips from Barcelona.
Distance from Barcelona: 35 minutes by train
Girona is a city of contrasts. On one hand, you have the pastel coloured houses and medieval narrow streets of the Barri Vell old quarter. While on the other you have the more open new town with its upmarket shops.
The heavily pedestrianised cobbled streets and relaxed street cafes make for perfect people-watching spots, and at night the city offers something for every mood – from quiet terrace bars to a wide range of clubs open until the small hours.
Distance from Barcelona: 1 hour 10 minutes by train.
If you prefer leisurely beach strolls to gruelling mountain hikes, then Tarragona might be the place for you.
As one of the closest seaside destinations to Barcelona, it’s the perfect day trip for those on a tight schedule. With the UNESCO certified Roman ruins of Tarraco, the Roman amphitheatre overlooking the ocean, and the beach itself all within walking distance of the station, you’re never too far from anything in Tarragona.
Distance from Barcelona: 40 minutes by train.
Sticking with the topic of beaches, Sitges has more than enough to choose from, 17 in fact! With its own microclimate, this cosmopolitan town, which has been referred to as ‘the St. Tropez of Spain’, is usually a safe bet for sun-chasing travellers.
The town is also known for its lively nightlife and annual events including an international film festival, a carnival and a five-day gay pride festival. With such an array of events, there truly is something for everybody here.
Distance from Barcelona: 1 hour 45 minutes by train
Known primarily as the birthplace of Salvador Dali, Figueres has many links to one of Spain’s most famous artists. There’s no greater homage than the Dali Theatre and Museum, his biggest and last great project, where the man himself is buried.
There’s more to Figueres than art though. It’s the closest major town to the French border and is a great base for discovering the history and – for the food and wine lovers – the cuisine of the upper Emporda region!
Delta De L’Ebre
Distance from Barcelona by train: 1 hour 40 minutes by train to L’Ampolla then an hour cycle.
You won’t find lively bars and upmarket shopping plazas here, but for a more peaceful experience, there are few better places than the largest wetlands in Catalonia.
The flat grounds make the Delta De L’Ebre the perfect place to hop on a bike and zip through the seemingly never-ending landscape. Keep an eye out for some of the 350 or so bird species that inhabit the park, including pink flamingos, ibis and herons.
Wildlife aside, the Delta produces almost all of Catalonia’s rice. If you’re expecting the standard paella fare here though you’re in for a surprise; ‘Much More Than Rice’, an initiative led by local Michelin star chef Carme Ruscalleda, has set about proving just how much you can do with the food. Expect the unexpected!
Tossa De Mar
Distance from Barcelona by train: 35 minutes by train to Girona then a 1-hour bus journey.
Christened the ‘blue paradise’ by painter Marc Chagall, this former artist’s retreat was put on the map by Ava Gardner in the 1951 Hollywood movie ‘Pandora and the Flying Dutchman’. So big was the impact of the movie that a statue of Gardner was unveiled in the town in 1998.
The medieval castle walls of La Vila Vella surrounding the old town paints a postcard-perfect picture, and as you’d expect for a coastal town there’s seafood aplenty. Be sure to try out the local speciality ‘simitomba’.
Distance from Barcelona: 1 hour by train (public transport).
Home to the ‘Black Madonna’ shrine, this mountain-top monastery is said to possess some of the world’s strongest healing powers. Folklore has it that the statue was discovered as early as the year 880 by shepherds drawn to the cave by mysterious lights and music. Little did they know what they had stumbled upon.
With stunning views of the Pyrenees, Barcelona and even Majorca on a clear day, Montserrat is ideal for a more active getaway. Many locals make the overnight pilgrimage to catch the sunrise, however, if you don’t fancy an all-nighter then there are plenty of well-marked hiking trails to tackle during the day.
See? We told you there’s a lot more than just Barcelona; we hope this list has given you the urge to get out there and explore the wonders that Catalonia has to offer!