Barcelona is ideally situated in the Catalunya area of Spain. While you could certainly fill your days with the many sights of the city, if you have extra time, these day trips provide a breakfrom the bustle of Barcelona.
Figueres and Girona
For fans of the artist Salvador Dali, Figueres is a must. The artist was born in town and he designed the museum dedicated to his works; the Dalí Theatre and Museum. The Museum was created from the town’s original theatre, the place where Dali’s work was first displayed. It was destroyed in the Spanish Civil War and then turned into the Museum by Dali himself in 1960. The Museum fittingly houses the most extensive collection of Dali’s works in the world as well as pieces that Dali had collected from other artists. The inside is filled with Dali’s surrealist work while the outside is every bit a work of art as well. Dali is even buried below the Museum.
Trains run regularly from Barcelona to Figueres and take about 2 hours. Along the way, the small town of Girona makes an excellent stopover. This charming medieval city is a lovely place to spend an afternoon. Wander past the fortified walls and along the Onyar River, visit the two Gothic cathedrals, and explore the old Jewish quarter.
Vilafranca del Penedès and Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, in the Alt Penedès region just south of Barcelona, are the two major areas for cava production. The local sparkling wine is available at every Barcelona restaurant and café, but it’s worth taking a trip to a winery for some beautiful scenery and a lesson in wine-making. Take the train from Barcelona to St. Sadurní, and visit Codornui, Freixenet or Bodega Torres. You’ll get a tour, learn how the famous sparkling wines are produced, and of course, get to taste a variety or cavas.
Most wineries require advanced reservations and are closed on Sundays, so check before you go. Many also serve lunch, arranged in advance, or you can grab a bite to eat at a café in town. Stopping for a meal in between tastings is always recommended.
Montserrat is a holy sight for Catalans and Catholic visitors around the world. The Montserrat Monastery, perched atop some unusual rock formations 4000 feet in the air, is home to the Black Madonna, a statue believed to be carved by St. Luke in 50AD. The statue is a holy shrine where the faithful come to pray and ask for healing. Monks live at the monastery and perform mass services daily. Most days the basilica also hosts performances by the Montserrat Boys’ Choir, one of Europe’s oldest boys’ choirs. Of course, even the non-religious will enjoy a visit to Montserrat. The scenic views from the hilltop are simply breath-taking and there are plentiful hiking trails nearby.
Trains run from Barcelona to Montserrat nearly every hour and take just over an hour for the journey. When you purchase your combination ticket, you’ll also need to decide how you want to get up the mountain – by cable car or by train. The views during the 5-minute cable car ride are much better, but many still choose the less nerve-wracking train ride, which takes 15 minutes. Either way, you’ll reach the top and be rewarded with a unique experience at this beautiful place.
Sitges is a beach resort town about 35km south of Barcelona. With trains and buses making regular trips from Barcelona to Sitges, it makes a great day trip, or even an overnight break from the city. Barcelona does have its own beaches, but the number certainly doesn’t compare to the 17 that Sitges offers. Called the “St. Tropez of Spain”, it is home to trendy nightclubs, 4-star hotels, fancy dining, and well-heeled tourists who’ve come to soak up the sun.
Sitges celebrates several annual festivals when huge crowds descend on the town. The decadent party of Carnivale is in February or March leading up to Ash Wednesday. In addition, a vintage car rally takes place in March, and the Sitges International Film Festival is held each October.
Written by Katie Hammel for EuropeUpClose.com