After you have visited all the places in the Catalan capital and eaten a few Pintxos it is time for a few easy day trips from Barcelona. From dreamy seaside getaways to alpine forests to cobblestone streets of Girona featured in the popular show Game of Thrones to the hiking or skiing in spectacular Pyrenees mountains, there are plenty of places to explore and go on excursions from Barcelona.
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6 Best Day trips from Barcelona
Visiting the Montserrat Abbey was one of our favorite day trips from Barcelona. Located on what looks like a sawtooth, Montserrat is famous for its gothic shapes, beautiful views and trails – It is said to be the most important mountain in Catalonia. Plan for at least half a day to visit the Basilica and Monastery and a whole day if you want to go on hikes and enjoy some amazing views of the mountains. You can see the Black Madonna, visit the Museum, see the Holy Cave or take the funicular up for some amazing views.
The history of Montserrat is fascinating. When a small group of shepherd children saw a bright light descending from the sky in the Montserrat mountains. They heard angels singing, and the music filled their hearts with joy. They brought their parents and local vicar to the spot. When this cave was explored by the religious leaders of the community, they found an image of the Virgin Mary. And from that moment on the cave became a holy sanctuary for religious pilgrims. Today you can walk to the Holy Grotto to visit. There a few options on getting to Montserrat. See this post for more details on how to get there and tickets to visit Montserrat.
Girona is only 100 Km North East of Barcelona is one of the popular day trips from Barcelona, especially these days after being featured in the famous show Game of Thrones. Girona is in the north-east of Spain and is bordered by France and it is one of the most varied provinces of Spain. It has the well known coastal area of the Costa Brava, that has both sandy beaches and secluded rocky coves. It has great areas for camping, cycling and nice hiking trails. The Pyrenees Mountains are close by where you can ski and snowboard all year round.
Girona has wonderful museums, galleries and Gothic churches, all set around cobbled lanes and medieval walls. The Old Town is on the east bank of the river, with narrow pedestrian streets surrounded by the old city walls. The Rambla, running parallel to the River Onyar, contains many street cafés and restaurants. Girona has a beautiful Historic Jewish quarter that is easy to see on foot. Book this small-group day tour from Barcelona to Girona or take the RENFE trains to Girona which runs every 10 minutes. The journey time is only 38 minutes.
One of the most photographed parts of Girona is River Onyar together with the iconic Eiffel Bridge. The colorful houses located close to the river are photogenic! The Onyar River is just one of four rivers that connect through the city, which is how Girona earned its nickname “City of the Four Rivers”.
Girona Cathedral is so huge, the central part of the structure is actually the widest Gothic nave in the world. Though, these days the cathedral is famous because it was featured in the show ‘Game of Thrones.’ Surprisingly though when we visited Girona doesn’t make an effort to promote its Game of Thrones connection. There were no tours or shops selling GoT trinkets. Girona was used by Game of Thrones in season six for scenes set in King’s Landing, Oldtown and Braavos. If you watch the show you probably recognize the stone alleys that make up the old quarter.
After exploring the cobbled lanes we stopped at a café for lunch, then we were on a mission to find the Rocambolesc Gelateria in Girona – an Ice cream parlor by one of the brothers of “El Celler de Can Roca” (a 3 Michelin star restaurant that is listed as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world)” An Ice cream or Panet from the whimsical Gelateria is a must when in Girona.
Spain is almost entirely surrounded by beautiful coasts kissed by the Mediterranean and the Southern Atlantic. Our favorite excursion from Barcelona was our afternoon at Calella de Palafrugell, which we like to call the Spanish Riviera. IF you can only get out of the city for just one trip – I suggest this day trip from Barcelona. It was not touristy and very relaxing. Click on the link to see our day there!
Calella de Palafrugell is one of three coastal towns belonging to the municipality of Palafrugell in the Province of Girona, Spain, the other two being Llafranc and Tamariu. Calella de Palafrugell is a perfect day trip from Barcelona. While it is popular in the summer season, it does not have the large hotels and mass tourism of other Costa Brava resorts such as Lloret de Mar. It remains a local favorite and a hidden gem. It is better to drive here or do a group tour. If you want to take the train – You can RENFE train to the nearest railway station to Palafrugell which is in Flaçà, 25 km away. From here there are Sarfa buses to Palafrugell.
The medieval town of Pals is located on the Costa Brava, to the east of the city of Girona. Situated on top of a hill, overlooking Platja de Pals. This charming town with its cobbled streets, craft shops, traditional restaurants and bars is a great place to visit in Catalonia. We stopped here on the way to Calella de Palafrugell, so I’m not counting it as a separate day trip from Barcelona.
If you have more time you can head to the Spanish hills for the day to hike the spectacular Pyrenees mountains on a small group excursion from Barcelona. If you didn’t know – the Pyrenees mountain range separates the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of Europe and stretches for more than 430km between Spain and France. There are many hiking trails and dozens of ski resorts can be found on both sides of the Pyrenees. If you love being in nature you can easily spend more than a few days here!
You can venture to the Pyrenees as a day trip from Barcelona. There are trains to Vic every 30 minutes, and it takes only 80 minutes. You can explore the old Roman town of Vic, visit the village of Queralbs. At an altitude of 1,236 meters, this is the last vehicle-accessible village. See the Church of Sant Sadurni de Fustanya which, according to legend, was built by fairies. Then you can take a train up admire the natural beauty of Vall de Nurias at over 2,000 meters high! Once you arrive at the valley you can choose to just admire the view of rolling hills, green fields, and stunning reservoirs or go on easy hikes. You probably need to bring warm clothes and good hiking shoes if you want to go hiking. If you hike higher up the valley through alpine forest to spot marmots and vultures.
If you like Dali, you might also want to do go see his museum in Figueres, we didn’t have time for it. I wish we have a couple of days more for a few more day trips from Barcelona. Both a visit to Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres and the summer home of the famous artist in Cadaques, Spain is on my wishlist. Figueres is easily accessible by hourly RENFE trains that run every hour and it takes 1 hour 45 minutes to get there. It is well known for its stunning architecture, has a nice cafe culture. You can visit the 18th century Castell de Sant Ferran and the famous theatre-turned-museum, Teatre-Museu Dalí. Salvador Dalí converted the theatre himself, and inside is a surreal world of art, sculpture and statutes. Are you a fan of the 20th century’s most complex and controversial artist?
Sitges, the Saint Tropez of Spain
Dubbed the “Saint-Tropez” of Spain, Sitges is a coastal town a short drive away from Barcelona. It boasts stretches of pristine beach and makes for an easy day trip from Barcelona. There are trains leaving Barcelona for Sitges every half hour and the journey time is only 45 minutes. With a year-round mild climate, vibrant nightlife and family-friendly atmosphere, this seaside town is said to have something for everyone. While we have been to Saint Tropez, we are yet to make it to Sitges, Spain! Hopefully next time!!
You can spend days if not weeks in the city and not run out of things to do, but do get outside to explore the coast and the little towns on these easy day trips from Barcelona.
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