4 Easy Day Trips from Barcelona

Are Day Trips from Barcelona Worthwhile?

Check out 4 that are definitely worth getting out of the city.

Today longtime Barcelona resident Julie Sheridan shares her favorite easy day trips from Barcelona. Each one sounds more tempting than the next!

The Mountain-Top Monastery of Montserrat

Montserrat

Gorgeous Montserrat makes the perfect short day trip.

The ‘serrated mountain’ of Montserrat means many things to many people. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s a site of pilgrimage for thousands of visitors a year, who come to queue for a chance to touch the Black Madonna of local legend. In fact, it’s been a sacred spot since the 9th century, when the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared in a hillside grotto. Alongside the Benedictine monastery there’s also a renowned school for choirboys – if you can, try to time your visit for noon, when the Basilica’s choir is usually in full flow.

Even if you’re not a religious sort, Montserrat will take your breath away. I mean, quite literally – its highest peak is over 4000 feet high. And those weirdly shaped crags are just begging to be conquered. Whether you’ve hiked or caught the funicular train to the summit, the views are spectacular. It’s not hard to see why the place has a special significance in Catalan hearts and, luckily, it makes one of the easiest day trips from Barcelona.

  • Getting There: One hour by train from Barcelona’s Espanya Station on a normal suburban train service, with a choice of reaching the Monastery itself by cable car (Aeri de Montserrat) or the Cremallera Funicular (rack train). If you’re driving, there are two car parks – one at the rack train station and the other right beside the Monastery. Alternatively, you could book with an established tour operator, who will take you from Barcelona to Montserrat and back by coach.

Sitges – Site of Sin and Laid-Back Beaches

Sitges Spain

Sitges is another preferred day trip option. 

Every time I’ve been to Sitges, it’s been sunny, even when Barcelona’s skies are a skulking laundered grey. In fact, it’s said that this vivacious town, situated on the Costa Dorada just 35km to the south of Barcelona, enjoys 300 days of sunshine a year.

By day it’s a somnolent seaside resort, with a chilled vibe that attracts tourists and locals alike to its white stucco streets and stretches of pristine beaches. By night, a rambunctious party mood takes over, dominated by the town’s (in)famous and thriving gay scene. Look out in particular for ‘Sin Street’ (Carrer del Pecat), for all sorts of debauched shenanigans.

Sitges also plays host to several high-profile events throughout the Catalan calendar. In February, the town puts on a notorious street carnival, complete with Mardi Gras kings, queens, and floats, before culminating in the burial of an unfortunate sardine. In September, the red carpet gets unfurled as the renowned Sitges Film Festival rolls into town. The great and good from the world of fantasy and horror films mingle with film buffs and, um, lots of zombies.

If you’re in search of a dose of culture to accompany all that hedonism, head for the Museu Cau Ferrat, which is the house-cum-studio of the Catalan Modernista painter Santiago Ruisiñol. A favoured haunt of Picasso and crew, the building’s interior is a temple to the artist’s opium-fuelled vision.

  • Getting There: Your best bet from Barcelona is to catch a RENFE train from Sants Station, which will take just under 40 minutes to arrive at Sitges. Try and grab a seat on the coastal side of the train to really appreciate the gorgeous views along the Costa Dorada.

Roman ruins in Tarragona

Tarragona Spain

A day trip to Tarragona won’t disappoint!

Keep going down the coast from Sitges and about 20 minutes later you’ll be in Tarragona, another favourite with our friends at UNESCO and a popular day trip option for all. Almost three centuries before Christ, this town was already on the map, as the first Roman city to be built outside Italy. Actually, Tarragona’s rich Roman heritage may well be your main reason for visiting.

A good place to start is the Passeig Arqueològic , the half-mile walkway tracking the walls that once enclosed the ancient city. Look out for the statue of the she-wolf, with whelps Romulus and Remus at the teat. From here, head over to the Cathedral, whose Gothic cloister is gorgeous (and which is shut on Sundays, as I discovered much to my chagrin). The Cathedral sits proudly on the site of a Roman temple to Jupiter.

Once you’ve had your fill of the Old Town, you might want to aim for the long, pedestrianised Rambla Nova, which culminates in the cliff-top lookout point known as the ‘Balcony of the Mediterranean’. The sea really does scintillate here. Look to your left as well for a view of the 2nd-century Roman amphitheatre, which sits invitingly near the coast.

For fun, you’ve got Tarragona’s beaches and ‘chiringuito’ beach bars, or head down to the Serrallo part of the port for a fresh seafood lunch al fresco.

  • Getting There: Bus from Barcelona Nord station or a RENFE train from Sants or Passeig de Gràcia stations (journey time just over an hour).

Girona – Into Catalan Hinterland

Girona Spain

Check out incredible Girona on an easy day trip.

For a totally different taste of Catalan culture, head north on a day trip to the pretty city of Girona. Divided in two by the Onyar River, the city is an intriguing mix of modern and medieval, and it’s compact enough that you can take in all the highlights in an afternoon. The cobbled alleyways of the Old City, whose stones hark back centuries, are perfect for losing yourself in for a few hours.

If you want to find out more about the lives of the sizeable Jewish population who lived in their own quarter (known as the Call) before being expelled by the Catholic Monarchs, head to the Museu d’Història dels Jueus on Carrer Força. The Church of Sant Feliu, with its flat-topped belfry and eight spires, is a great photo opp, as it sits like a rook on a chess board, just waiting to be played. Don’t leave the Old City without paying a visit to the Baroque cathedral and admiring its 12th-century Tapestry of Creation inside.

You should  just have time for some window shopping (Girona has a particularly whimsical range of offerings) before you trip over the footbridges of the Onyar, wave goodbye to the pastel- painted façades and board the train back to Barcelona 

  • Getting There: Please don’t do as I did on my first trip to Girona, and get on a Cercanias train. Standing for an hour and half while the train pulls in at every god-forsaken station from here to France, while your neighbour’s caged chicken clucks out the minutes, is not fun. ‘Normal’ trains depart from both Sants and Passeig de Gràcia stations and the journey should take about an hour. Minus poultry.

About the Author: Originally from Scotland, Julie is a copywriter, poet and translator who made the permanent move to Barcelona in spring 2011. Find her blog at www.guirigirlinbarca.com. 

Comments

  1. These are my top picks for day trips from Barcelona too. I especially enjoy Montserrat and Tarragona. The roman ruins at Tarragona are breathtaking, and rarely crowded.

  2. Mark Mazor says:

    Julie, Thank you for information that was exactly what I was looking for. The wife and I will be in Barcelona for 35 days starting on Nov 1st and we were looking for a few day trips just like these. We’re definitely going to see 3 of the 4 you have suggested, skipping Stieges only because the weather is not warm enough for the beach and at night usually my wife and I are usually busy trying to stay awake just to watch some tv. Getting older does that to you. Thanks again, wonderful.

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